key theories in international relations, why they are important, and how if at all they are related to policymaking..

This is the week to learn as much as possible about the key theories in international relations, why they are important, and how if at all they are related to policymaking. Among the three most important for us this week are realism, liberalism, and constructivism, though you may discover many other important theories like dependency theory, Marxist theory, radical theory (These three theories overlap in places as do the others). It is useful this week to gain a grasp of what the theories imply or assume about the behavior of states and sometimes citizens as international actors, and also begin to understand both the usefulness and limits of theory as instruments of policymaking. Whatever sources you use, make use of the Walt article and be able to explain how you believe to what extent theory relates to policymaking. Clearly, knowing the diversity and contested nature of theories will help you answer questions related to other assignments in the course as well as the three-part question below. Whenever possible, be sure to provide examples in supporting your arguments.


In 5-7 double spaced pages in Turabian format, not including additional pages for title and references, answer the following 3 prompts below separately in a single document. You may write more pages if necessary. At least 7 sources must be used and may include the course text, Bible, and scholarly articles.

  • What is the relationship of theory to actual policy? Are theories pre-packaged conceptual tools policymakers then apply to the interpretation of actual events? Expressed differently, is there a 1/1 correspondence between a particular event and a theory that explains it? If so, how do we explain two ‘realist’ (or liberals or constructivists, etc.) policymakers who both call for completely opposite policies in the same case, one opting for military intervention for example, while the other prefers a policy of restraint? What does this say about the relationship between theory and actual policy?
  • Can you identify a particular IR theory that appeals to you as the better explanation of human behavior than others? Or would you say that the existence of multiple theories is an indication that perhaps all of them are plausible as possible interpretations of the same or different human events? Be clear and use examples to make your case.
  • Consider the structure of the US government as reflected in the Constitution (i.e., institutional checks and balances, power-sharing among federal and state authority, etc.) Does this structure reflect a realist, liberal, or some other theory of human behavior? In effect, is the ‘more perfect union’ of 1787 infused with a more realist or more liberal spirit, or maybe a bit of both. Explain the possibilities concisely yet clearly with examples?

key theories in international relations, why they are important, and how if at all they are related to policymaking.



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