Globalisation Influencing The Development Of International Relations Theory Politics Essay

Globalisation is a relatively new, unpredictable process in which raises fundamental issues within international relations. Globalisation is a contested notion and under much controversy. Jeff Haynes (2003) claims ‘there is precious little agreement about what globalisation really means’. [1] This suggests that globalisation is constantly debated and ever changing. Shalmali Guttal (2007) argues globalisation, ‘shaped the world over the past 50-odd years’. [2] The international system has under gone profound changes and has witnessed the end of the war of the ideologies, liberalism and communism. This essay will explain how economic, cultural, social and political changes within globalism have influenced the development of international relations theory with reference to contemporary examples.

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The definition of globalisation is fundamental in order to understand how it has influenced the development of international relations theory. However it is difficult to come to a singular definition as globalisation is a subject which is underpinned by controversy. It has been described that, ‘globalisation is a historical process aˆ¦ that links distant communities and expands the reach of power politics across regions and continents’ [3] , dating as far back as the 19th century with the industrial revolution. Essentially globalisation has in essence, condensed the world which has led to an integrated economy and has diminished geo-political boundaries. It is argued that globalisation is related to neo-liberalism and capitalism which has generated a debate as to whether it promotes wealth or greed as Marxists suggest. On one hand it is said to promote a healthy, booming economy whilst others suggest that the western liberalised countries get richer whilst the third world countries continue to suffer, ‘not capable of delivering on its promises of economic well-being and progress for all’. [4] This becomes apparent when states such as the US and Cambodia are compared. For example, GNP Per Capita in 2002 for Cambodia was $1970 whereas the US was $35244. This highlights the North; south divide caused by globalisation. Globalisation is a multi-dimensional subject which considers cultural, social, economic and political changes. Furthermore according to the United Nations, ‘Extreme poverty remains a daily reality for more than 1 billion people who subsist on less than $1 a day. More than 800 million people have too little to eat to meet their daily energy needs.’ [5] This would argue that globalisation has not helped third world and less developed countries as neo-realism suggested.

Modernisation is paramount to globalisation. With new technology, such as the internet, emails, and mobile devices, and with new means of transportation such as air travel, ‘technologies allow the transfer of goods, services and information almost anywhere quickly and efficiently’. [6] The theory of interconnectedness within the globe has evolved, and with it the added convenience of businesses being able to operate transnationally in order to expand and cut costs. This highlights that international relations theory needs to accommodate to this change as it now involved more people across wider areas. State centric theories have become less relevant with the emergence of globalisation. Non-governmental organisations such as the European Union and Transnational corporations such as Coca cola or Nestle are operating with huge turnovers, ‘By the mid-1990s, 51 of the world’s top 100 entities were transnational companies’ [7] . They are able to influence policy due to the substantial profits which would benefit the economy of states they operate in however this is detrimental to the population working within the companies. This would suggest that state centric theories have become less significant with the development of international relations theory. Realism argues the importance of states-as-actors however, states have lost sovereign control over non-state actors who are able to expand and operate within different countries. This contradicts theories such as realism ‘threatened to put sovereignty at bay’, [8] Vernon (1971) as cited by Jones (2008) in which sovereignty stands at the foundations of the state centric theories. The idea of the nation state is argued to be out-dated, for example with the development of transnational organisations such as the United Nations. This shows that the state has little power within the international system, and would argue against theories such as constructivism having an influence in international relations theory. Therefore globalisation reduces states ability to make domestic decisions. Balance of power has also been influenced by globalisation. The end of the cold war symbolised the end of the bi-polar regime and a greater distribution of world power. Another state centric theory constructivism argues anarchy is what states make of it. This idea is dismissed by neo realists, ‘there may be peace and quiet in the international system. But in anarchy, states are always seeking security; moves in that direction can be misread by other states; that is what the security dilemma is all about’. [9] Neo realists argue that you cannot predict what another states action may be; therefore the idea of security within the state is questioned within constructivism.

However on the other hand, terrorism is reinforcing state centric theories such as realism, for example, ‘aˆ¦a struggle for power among self-interested states and is generally pessimistic about the prospects for eliminating conflict and war’ (Walt, 1998) Despite terrorists being non-state actors, terrorism reflects the revivification of the tradition of international relations theory. For example during the 1980s Libya sponsored terrorist acts, ‘The first and most crucial thing to understand is this. There is no international terrorism without the support of sovereign states’. [10] Globalisation has enhanced the technical capabilities and global grasp of terrorism which had enabled them to work through a global network. This has been helped with the introduction of new technology in which has condensed the globe, making it easier for terrorist groups to operate. Realism is also concerned with primarily states interest. National security issues are the most important, and with such events as 9/11 in America and 7/7 in Britain it shows that even the stronger powers are to some extent under constant threat from terrorism.

The change in international relations theory has seen the spread of Liberalism and western values across the globe. Technology has been used as a tool to promote these western values; for example through means of the media and the internet. Widespread political changes have resulted from the process of Globalisation. For example democracy has been spreading since the mid-1970s which has seen dictatorships across Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America fall to democracy. A domino like effect has triggered a chain reaction in the Middle East, showing that globalisation has promoted Liberalism. Recent developments in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt reflect this profound change in international relations theory reflecting that democratisation of states. Globalisation has promoted democracy which is apparent in these countries opposing the military dictatorship and imposing democracy upon the state. Jeff Haynes highlights an example of democratization influenced by globalisation, the justice and development party in Turkey. Their aim was to promote a liberal market economy and in 2007 was allocated seats. This shows the neo realist foundations of globalisation are appealing to other nation states. Furthermore it shows that are perhaps unhappy with the way their state is authoritarian and want democratic nation.

Interdependence has been a key development within international relations theory. During the process of globalisation, the Westphalian system of territorial states has declined whereas interdependence has developed. This interdependence can be viewed in a negative perspective. Realists believe that states should be self-dependent. This inter-dependence is regarded as inequality and some states having power over states. For example, the oil embargo during the 1970s shows that the oil producing countries were able to coerce those countries which imported the oil and used this as a political tool. Decline of hegemony is suggested to produce disorder, as Realists believe a dominant power is needed in international relations. This is apparent in the introduction of the gold standard; the US took the lead in the international exchange of money.

Within Cynthia Webber’s ‘International relations- a critical introduction’ the view of neo liberalism and historical materialism is featured which contributes an insight into the globalisation debate. Neo liberalism argues that globalisation influences the development of international relations theory in a positive light whereas the materialists argue capitalism is a bad influence on international relations theory. According to Webber, neo liberalism theory would include a harmonious nature of international relations. They also claim that the economies of the states benefit, and in turn democracy between nation states. However the materialists suggest that ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’. [11] This exploitation is key into maintaining a capitalist world-system, which highlights the unequal development within international relations theory. They also argue that relationships between sovereign states are conflictual thus suggesting that international relations theory in this case would parallel realism.

Ian Clark argues that the globalisation has affected international political economy. The idea of the territorial state is rejected as globalisation has removed barriers which have led to questioning of the concept of a national economy. The viability of the state as provider of security of the state change within the global system has witnessed greater freedom to trade, Non-governmental organisations and interconnected world finance. Globalisation has encouraged interdependence which became apparent in the 2008 financial crisis in which banks had to be bailed out by national governments. This crisis saw a magnitude of countries’ economies dramatically deteriorate, all because they had some sort of reliance upon each other. This interconnectedness reflects a change in international relations theory. Suddenly a need for a theory in which accommodates for the interconnected states is required which coincidentally highlights the need for outside regulating bodies to manage this change.

In conclusion, globalisation is a complex debated issue. Nonetheless, a principal phenomenon present in contemporary international relations theory. Globalisation affects the nature of world order, and has influenced the development of international relations theory by offering a different view on the interconnectedness and how this affects different nation states, for example the spread of liberalism which is reflected in the recent upheavals in the political system in the middle east. These changes in international order highlight the relevance of new and old issues for example the changing politics within the Middle East and the oil crisis in the 1970s. Interdependence is also viewed in a negative way; in which realists believe that less contact with states means less conflict. Different theories offer different perspectives on the international system. International relations are constantly changing so theory needs to adapt in order to explain these changes. The extent to which globalisation has influenced the development of international relations theory is much debate. However globalisation seems to demand some new structure and highlights the need for inclusion of the new world order theories in order to explain contemporary international relations.


Governing globalisation- blackwell publishers ltd- Cambridge edited by david held and Anthony mcgrew. 2002

International relations theory- realism, pluralism, globalism and beyond. (3e) Paul r viotti mark v kauppi- Allyn and baco, needham heights 1987

The follies of globalisation theory- Justin Rosenberg verso London 2000