A Review of the Basic Theories of International Relations
Earlier we defined the concept of multipolarity, correlating it with contiguous concepts that it can be compared or contrasted to. In this way, we arrived at a semantic space, within which the object of our theorizing is placed. The concept of multipolarity is thus determined.
We now have to do the same with the basic theories of IR. Having briefly described each of them, we will focus on their fundamental discrepancies with the Theory of the Multipolar World, and this will define the borders not only of the conceptual field, but of the theory itself as well.
The Theory of the Multipolar World implies that we set ourselves the goal not just of studying the phenomenon of multipolarity or the project of multipolarity within one or another existing theory of IR, but that we intend to justify the new theory, deriving from preconditions radically different from those on which generally accepted theories are based. And for this we need to make a brief review, particularly dwelling on those entities that are unacceptable for inclusion into the Theory of the Multipolar World, and those which can contrarily be adopted with some amendments.
Realism and its Limits
One of the two main paradigms that dominates IR is realism . Realism has several varieties: from the classical realism of Hans Morgenthau, E. Carr, and R. Aron, the mature realism of Henry Kissinger, and to the neo-realism of K. Waltz, S. Walt, or R. Gilpin.
The basic postulates of realism are as follows:
- The main actors of international relations are nation-states;
- The sovereignty of nation states implies the absence of any regulatory authority exceeding the boundaries of the state;
- Thereby, there is anarchy (chaos) between different countries in the structure of international relations;
- The behavior of the state on the international arena is subject to the logic of the maximal securing of national interests (liable to rational calculation in each particular situation);
- The authority of a sovereign state is the only entity competent enough to conduct foreign policy, its comprehension, and implementation (ordinary citizens, λ-individuals, by definition, are not competent to judge the field of international relations and are not able to influence the processes occurring in it);
- Security of the state in the face of potential external threat or competition is the main task of the political authority of every country in international relations;
- All states are in a condition of potential war with each other for their own egoistic interests (the war from the potential becomes real only in certain situations of a critical growth of conflict of interests);
- The nature of human society remains changeless, regardless of any historical changes, and is not inclined to change in the future;
- The factual side of the processes in international relations is more important than the normative side;
- The last level of explanation of the structures of international relations and events is the identification of objective facts and regularities that have a material-rational basis.
Realism in IR perceives the Westphalian system as a universal law that existed in the early stages of history, but was perceived and adopted by a majority of the developed European powers only from the XVII century. The realist approach is based on the principle of the absolutization of nation-state sovereignty and the foreground importance of national interests. At the same time, realists view any attempt to create international legal (and other) institutions that claim to regulate processes in international relations on the basis of norms and values of an international (supra-national) character with skepticism. Any attempt to limit the sovereignty of nation-states is seen by realists as "idealism" (E. Carr) and "romanticism" (Carl Schmitt).
Realists are convinced that any association, or on the contrary, disintegration, of the traditional states only leads to the emergence of new nation-states, doomed to reproduce the same regular scheme on a greater or lesser level. This scheme is subjected to the constant unchangeable principles of sovereignty and national interests, and the state under any conditions remains the only full-fledged actor of international relations.
One of the founders of classical realism, Hans Morgenthau, emphasized five basic principles and postulates of this school:
1. Society is ruled by objective laws, not by wishes.
2. The main thing in international affairs is interest, defined in terms of strength and power
3. Interests of states change.
4. The rejection of morality is required in politics.
5. The main issue in international relations is how a certain policy affects the interests and power of the nation.
Identification of these five areas and an analysis of how these issues were answered, including how efficiently they are put into practice, is the main content of IR, as understood by the realists.
Classical realism is limited to a set of these starting points, which it defends and justifies in the face of its main ideological opponents (liberals in IR).
Neo-realism qualitatively complicates this scheme, bringing to it the concept of the "structure" of international relations (K. Waltz). Instead of chaos and anarchy (as in classical realism) in the sphere of international relations, an ever-changing balance of powers is present. This cumulative but multidirectional potential holds the entire global system in place, or in some cases, provokes changes to the structure. Thus, sovereignty in its scope, and consequently, the ability to realize the national interest to some degree, depends not only on the state itself in its face-off with direct opponents and competitors in each particular case, but also on the whole structure of the global balance of powers. This structure, according to the neo-realists, actively influences the content and scope of national sovereignty and even the formulation of national interests. Classical realists begin their analysis with the state-individual level.
Neo-realists begin with the global structure, consisting of the states-individuals that affect their activity. From here, as with classic realists, neo-realists presume that the main principle of the country's policy in international relations is the principle of "self-reliance” (self-help).
Neo-realists in the 1960s-70s theoretically substantiated the bipolar world as being an exemplary structural model for international relations, in that it was based on the balance between the two hegemonies (American and Soviet). Namely, this very structure, rather than the interests of different nation-states, in this case determined the content of the entire foreign policy of the world’s countries. The calculation of national interests (and, accordingly, steps towards their implementation) itself began with the analysis of bipolarity and the localization of each particular country on the map of this bipolar space, with a corresponding geopolitical, economic, ideological, and political mark.
When the bipolar world collapsed in 1991 (what neo-realists did not expect or predict, convinced of the stability of the bipolar structure), several representatives of this school (e.g. R. Gilpin , S. Walt , and M. Rupert ) justified a new model of the global structure corresponding to the unipolar world. Instead of two hegemonies, there came to be the single American hegemon, which since then predetermined the structure of international relations on a global scale.
But in this case as well, neo-realists are convinced that the center of the entire system is spearheaded by national interests. Under the conditions of the unipolar world, these are the national interests of only one country, the U.S., which is in the center of global hegemony and its source. Other countries fit into this asymmetric picture, correlating their own national interests at the regional scale with its global structure.
Representatives of right-wing conservative parties (Republicans in the U.S., Tories in the UK, etc.) tend to gravitate towards the realist approach.
It should be noted that realism is one of the two most popular paradigms in the U.S. in the evaluation and interpretation of events and processes taking place in international politics.
The realist paradigm does not make a choice between the Westphalian Peace (based on the sovereignty of many nation-states), bipolarity, or unipolarity. Various supporters of the realist approach may hold different opinions in this matter, but they all share a set of previously mentioned axiomatic truths and the belief that nation-states (one, two or many) act as the main and superior actors in the field of international relations. Accordingly, sovereignty, national interests, security, and defense are identified as the main criteria for the analysis of any problems associated with IR.
Realists never expand their theories beyond the nation-state or several nation-states since this would contradict their basic setup. Therefore, realists are always skeptical about all international entities and processes, seeing them as limiting national sovereignty through the organization of supranational entities and institutions. Realists do not recognize any concrete political reality in the international sphere pertaining to supra-national (and intra-national) structures of power. Foreign policy is entirely the area of competence for the legal political authorities of the nation-states. International entities or positions of separate segments within the nation-state do not have any weight and can be discounted. It is seen as a simple and concrete fact that political decision-making authorities have to be legally recognized (as a rule, they are the president, prime minister, government, parliament, etc.).
Thereafter, realists are skeptical about globalization, internationalization, and economic integration and constantly argue with those who, by contrast, pay prior attention to these issues.
Liberalism in IR
The main opponents of realists in IR were and are the liberals. From here, the liberal paradigm shares with the realist paradigm a number of basic setups. Like the realists, liberals treat modern Western states as a universal exemplary model which guides their theoretical thought. At the same time, liberals differ from the realists by a variety of principle positions. First of all, unlike realists, liberals believe that human nature, and thereafter, the nature of human society and its political expression in the form of the state, is subject to a qualitative change (assuming it to be for the better).
From this, it follows that political forms of society can evolve and at some point go beyond the boundaries of the state, national egoism, and individualism. This in turn means that, under certain circumstances, it assumes the possibility of cooperation, collaboration, and integration between different states on the basis of "moral" ideals and common values.
In their philosophical foundations, liberals are inspired by the ideas of John Locke about the neutrality of human nature, amenable to improvement through education, while realists base their ideas on the concepts of Hobbes, namely, that people are inherently selfish, aggressive, and evil (hence his famous maxim of “homo homini lupus”).
Unlike the realists, who consider states as the main actors of the processes occurring in the field of international relations, regardless of political regime, structure, and ideological characteristics, liberals, by contrast, question this focus. They ponder what kind of political regime is in one or another State, and depending on whether this regime is liberal and democratic or not, they then deploy their concepts of IR. The decisive factor is whether one or another state was democratic (this includes parliamentarianism, the market, freedom of the press, separation of powers, elections, etc.) or not.
For supporters of the liberal democratic paradigm, relationships of democratic countries with one other imply a completely different structure of interactions than those of non-democratic countries among themselves, or between democratic and non-democratic countries. Liberals believe that developed democracy in domestic policy drastically affects the foreign policy of the state. The whole theory of liberals in IR is built around a major statement: "Democracies don’t fight with each other". This means that democratic regimes relate to one another in the same way that their citizens relate to the country itself: instead of aggression, coercion, violence, hierarchy, etc., relations are based on peaceful competition, recognizing the priority of what is right, the rationalization of interactions, and procedures.
Liberals state that democracy can be repeated at the level of IR. Consequently, this means that the whole sphere of IR is not just a struggle of all against all and obedience to blind egoism, but instead is related to the so-called "Anarchy of Locke" (or "anarchy of Kant" - in the words of A.Wendt), which is a peaceful and open partnership between various countries, even if their national interests are in conflict. This is in contrast to the “anarchy of Hobbes”, which suggests that "the state is the wolf to another state", an immutability of which the realists are convinced.
On this democratic platform, it is possible to create transnational structures which can transform the chaos in the system. In their basic postulates, early liberals (such as the British politician R. Cobden , U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, or the pacifist N. Angell ) oppose realists in the fact that for them, the political regime (specifically, democracy or non-democracy) is crucial in the analysis of international relations. If countries are democratic, then the collection of these countries steadily evolves, moving toward the creation of a supranational system and the emergence of special supranational institutions. Non-democratic countries that enter into the democratization phase will also be included in these institutions.
Therefore, the principle of national egoism and "self-reliance” (self-help) can be overcome in the course of democratization, which could form the basis of civil peace and the integration of different societies, still divided by national boundaries, into a single democratic civil society.
Liberals challenge the main theses of realists. For liberals:
- Nation-states are important, but they are not the only, and in certain situations, not the main actor of international relations;
- There can be a certain supranational entity whose powers will be above the sovereignty of nation-states;
- Anarchy in international relations can be eliminated, or if not, then at least harmonized, pacified, and moderated;
- The behavior of states on the international arena is subject not only to the logic of the maximal implementation of national interests, but universal values as well, which are recognized by all countries (if these countries are democratic);
- The authority of the state is not the only entity responsible for conducting foreign policy, its comprehension, and implementation (ordinary citizens in developed democratic societies do not necessarily have to be λ-individuals, but "skilled individuals", per the expression of James Rosenau , and in this case, can adequately understand the processes of international relations and even partially influence them);
- State security in the face of potential external threat is a concern for the whole society, and the most direct way to achieve it is through the democratization of all the countries of the world (as "democracies do not fight with each other", and search for ways to peacefully resolve tensions and conflicts through compromise);
Democratic states are in a state of relatively stable and guaranteed peace with one another, and the threat of war comes only from non-democratic states and other actors in world politics (e.g. international terrorism);
- The nature of states and the nature of human society constantly changes, improving and perfecting, the rate of freedom increases, democratization processes strengthen, and the level of tolerance and civic responsibility grows (it gives hope for the evolution of the world's entire political system and the gradual abandonment of rigid hierarchic structures and the militarization of international relations);
- The factual side of the process should not obscure the normative side in IR (the power of the ideal, norms, and values are often as important as the power of material technologies and resources);
- The last level of explanation of the structures of international relations and events taking place in these structures is to identify, along with the objective facts and regularities that have a material-rationale basis, normative-idealistic motivations and value factors.
As we see, proponents of the liberal paradigm in IR are opposed to the representatives of realism. The dispute between them is the main content of the development of IR as a scientific discipline.
The development of the classical liberal paradigm is neo-liberalism (sometimes it is defined as a separate paradigm of IR - "transnationalism"). Neoliberals (M. Doyle , J. Rosenau , J. Nye , R.Keohane , etc.) focus on the processes of globalization, the emergence of a single economic, informational, cultural, and social space, and the spread of Western democratic values around the world and their in-depth introduction into the social structure and social life. In the phenomenon of globalization, neo-liberals see the demonstrative confirmation of the correctness of their paradigm, which asserts the need for the creation of supranational structures up to the level of world government.
Neoliberals emphasize that along with states in the modern world, NGOs, networks, and social structures (the civil rights movement, "doctors without borders", international observers at elections, Green Peace, etc.) begin to have a significant, great, and growing influence on the foreign policy processes of states.
The classical neo-liberal theory (the theory of interdependence) was developed by American political scientists J. Nye and R. Keohane . According to this theory, the era of nation-states as the main actors of international relations is a thing of the past, and sovereign states are now just one of the active units, along with industrial (domestic) structures and different social groups, receiving wider availability to the sphere of international relations and increasing their activity at the transnational level. It was John Nye who coined the term “soft power” to emphasize the importance of the factor of ideas, standards, and intellectual methodologies for the success of globalization and democratization on a global scale . Realists often act as supporters of “hard power”. Liberals, in their turn, emphasize the finer, network tools of influence.
Such phenomena as the creation of the European Union, the establishment of the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights, and the Hague Tribunal, according to the neo-liberals, are a prototype of the future world order where certain emergent entities will have authority beyond the national level. The functions of the states will gradually decrease until they will finally be abolished.
The liberal paradigm of IR is extremely widespread and, along with realism, is one of the two main models of interpretation, analysis, and forecasting of international relations processes. In the political sphere, the liberal paradigm is traditionally upheld by representatives of the left-centric and democratic parties, whereas realists are most often conservatives, isolationists, and patriotic forces. In American politics, the liberal paradigm is mostly characteristic of the Democratic Party, prone to such models of foreign policy as non-polarity and multilateralism.
Since the 1990s, the liberal and neo-liberal approach has become increasingly popular in European countries, aided by the formation of the European Union. This is a vivid example of how the liberal concept of trans-nationalism can be implemented. The realist approach (“souverainism”) is traditionally strong in European countries, and their representatives treat European integration with some strong skepticism.
If we limit our discussion only to the sphere of Realpolitik and concrete politics, we will note that the vast majority of discussions on IR that are developed among high-level politicians at prestigious international forums and in wide mass media resources are limited to pseudo-ritualistic clashes between realists and liberals. Representatives of other paradigms at this level are almost absent, or rarely have any type of say. This is similar to the situation before the 1970s, when debates between realists and liberals formed the core content of theoretical reports and discussions in the academic community. However, since the late 1960s and early 1970s, the theoretical field of IR has increasingly become populated with other alternative approaches. Most often, while staying contained to academic discussions and rarely venturing out into the public realm, these alternative paradigms are becoming ever more influential on the theories of IR, and from year to year, modern textbooks in the field are paying more attention to them. Thus, in order to thoroughly get around to the construction of the Theory of the Multipolar World, we need to review these alternative paradigms too.
The English School in IR
The English School holds a special position among the other IR theories. Most often, it is not placed in a separate paradigm because it has a number of features in common with realism and liberalism, although it does represent an original combination of elements inherent to both of these approaches. Nevertheless, it cannot be regarded as a synthesis of both schools in IR, as on a number of its questions, its representatives adhere to fairly original positions, not reducible either to liberalism nor realism.
Founded by Australian Hedley Bull , this school differs from the conventional theories by placing a heightened attention to the sociological analysis of the entire sphere of IR. Bull and his colleagues and followers (M. Wight , J. Vincent , etc.) introduced the concept of the "world society" or "world system" to emphasize that separate states (recognized by representatives of the English school as the main priority actors in area of international relations), taken all together, represent not simply a mechanical agglomerate of egoistically motivated individuals acting only in private interests (as realists claim), but a "society" and social system. This construct predetermines the sociological and (partly) political content of actors’ actions and international events, similar to how society allocates social status and the role of its members, giving each element its social meaning. This is why, according to the representatives of the English school, nation-states require mutual recognition of sovereignty by others as a prerequisite for de-facto sovereignty. Therefore, sovereignty is not only a property of the state, autonomously inherent to it, but at the same time, it is also a product of the social contract at the international level. This means that chaos and anarchy in the international sphere are relative and represent a special type of system which may be rationally studied and deliberately changed.
This moment of the relativity of chaos in the international environment partially brings the representatives of the English School together with classic liberals. Moreover, there are also similarities with some neo-liberal theories, in that there is an insistence on widening the range of actors in IR. At the same time, however, theorists of the English School agree with realists in assessing the significance of hegemony in the general model of international relations and building their analysis on an evaluation of the real force potential of the great powers. This is seen as a key predetermining parameter of the entire system of international relations, which in turn brings the school together with the realists.
This uncertainty in qualification did not cease with time, and until the current day, one or another specialist in IR suggests interpreting the English School’s role and place among the basic paradigms of IR, insisting that its supporters are “idealists of the Cold War era” (J. Mearsheimer ), or going back to more usual inclusion of it into one of the types of realism.
Accent on the sociological component of the analysis of IR is characteristic to the theory of R. Aron, who is undisputedly referred to and viewed as a realist.
The English School has had a significant impact on some post-positivist theories of IR, which we briefly review below. In particular, it shaped the direction of historical sociology and normativism.
Neo-Marxism (Third Paradigm)
The third most popular paradigm of IR (after realism and liberalism) is neo-Marxism. This model of IR analysis is based on an anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois approach, originating in Marxism, and this fact alone explains why it is excluded from the official political discourse that prevails in capitalist countries. A clear cognitive dissonance is presented between the axiomatic of liberal capitalism (the “national” of realists or “transnational” of liberals) and Marxism in the very basic philosophical approach to the estimation of modern society and the major political, economic, and social processes unfolding in it. At the same time, neo-Marxism in IR has a very high degree of elaboration of its concepts and theories and is based on scientific-rational discourse, therefore endowing it with a high degree of scientific material, regardless of whether or not its analytical methodologies are dealt with by Marxists themselves or by supporters of the bourgeois ideology.
Neo-Marxism in IR can theoretically be involved in an ideologically neutral context, including an understanding of the structure of IR from the viewpoint of the ruling liberal class.
To date, a classic example of the neo-Marxist model of IR theory is the world-system theory of I. Wallerstein . From the perspective of Wallerstein, the capitalist system originally evolved as a global phenomenon. The division of European countries into nation-states was only a transitional stage . At all levels and at all stages, the bourgeois class tended to integrate into a single entity across national borders, pulling itself into the core of the international bourgeoisie. It was pushed to do this by the very logic of capital, the principle of free trade, and the search for new and emerging markets. Capitalism is originally and essentially transnational.
This is why globalization and the weakening of borders between states is not unique, but is merely a planetary application of the spatial structure which is initially inherent to the capitalist system.
The bourgeois class is the global class, and in our time, this class attains its spatial-geographical location in the face of the "rich North" (or the "global West" or the "core" of the world-system). The center of the world bourgeoisie becomes the West in a broad sense, and capital and high technologies become concentrated there. The beneficiaries of the main macroeconomic processes unfolding in the world economy are concentrated there. Global political power is thus also logically concentrated there as well. The fact that the nation-states and corresponding administrations continue to exist does not affect the essence of the functioning of the world-system in any way: basic decisions in international relations are made not by governments and the states, but by the world cosmopolitan capitalist elite, composed of representatives of various nations and peoples - from the classic American financiers and European manufacturers to the oil sheiks, the new Russian oligarchs, and the nouveaux riches of the Third World. This is namely the "core", the body of a world government.
At the opposite side of the world-system, in the area of the world periphery of the Third World countries, the global proletariat is concentrated. These are the impoverished segments of the population of poor countries, living in extreme poverty and injustice. The world periphery represents a spatial localization of the world proletariat, "dispossessed of this world". The influence of national and regional political structures on them is still very strong, and in contrast to the world bourgeoisie, including its regional representatives, they still are very weakly aware of their class belonging, and therefore of the need for class solidarity, but with the figuration of globalization into a legal model of world order, more and more segments of the world proletariat are involved in migration processes. Under the pressure of material factors, they are forced to move to new spaces and blend together with the proletarian segments of other ethnic and national groups. During this migratory internationalization, the world proletariat of the Third World becomes aware of its historical role as the revolutionary class of the future . In more developed countries, the proletariat integrate representatives of the lower strata into those of the more developed societies, bringing with them to the proletarian environment a higher level of historical and social self-reflection. Thus, on a global scale, the precondition for world revolution gradually forms in the world-system, which will then finally become possible on the last stages of globalization, when the world capitalist system, reaching the natural environmental and geographical limits of its expansion, enters into a series of stunning economic, financial, and political crises and collapses.
Another important component of the global structure in the neo-Marxist theory is the countries of the semi-periphery. Some of the major powers, having immeasurably more potential than the societies of the Third World, but inferior to the “rich North” region by the main criteria of development, are grouped in this category. Typical examples of such semi-periphery countries are the countries of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). Enormous economic, resource, military-technical, and demographic potential is concentrated in these countries, but as of now, these semi-periphery countries depend on the West for technology, patents, and the very logistics of the organization of society and the economy at various levels – from the political and social to the legal and cultural. Semi-periphery countries form a kind of “second world”. Their bourgeoisie has not yet fully integrated into the global world class and the proletarian masses are not in such a miserable position as those in the countries of the Third World. From the perspective of Wallerstein, the semi-periphery is not an alternative to global capitalism, but a temporary phenomenon. Under the influence of globalization processes, semi-periphery countries will one way or another follow the countries of the “rich North”. This means that the bourgeois elite will sooner or later integrate into the global class and global government, and the processes of migration will lead to mixing of the local proletariat and that of the Third World countries, eventually leading to the internationalization of the proletariat.
As a result, the semi-periphery countries will collapse, and their segments will be fully integrated into the world-system on a class basis: the bourgeoisie will join the “global West”, and the lower classes will collapse into a similar cosmopolitan mass of migrants, rapidly losing their national and cultural characteristics. After the collapse of the semi-periphery, the world-system will become perfect and complete. At that moment, though, the neo-Marxists believe that the global proletariat will revolt and usher in a revolution that destroys the existing system.
Such an analysis of the world-system accurately describes and interprets certain processes in the modern world that many IR specialists are now basing their analysis on or using to describe certain phenomenon. In the field of scientific theoretical research, this approach has firmly established a worthy place among realism and liberalism since the 1960s. Currently, this is described the third paradigm of IR in textbooks, and all specialists in this field are required to learn about it. Nonetheless, as has already been written, references and appeals to this type of analysis are almost completely excluded from political debates or the declarations of politicians and experts when addressing the general public.
We should add that from the perspective of Wallerstein, globalization is an evil, albeit a necessary one. Similarly for Marx himself, capitalism was an evil to be cured, but when compared to the former feudal caste society, it was regarded as a progressive and advanced phenomenon. The case is also similar for neo-Marxism: its proponents call themselves “anti-globalists”, insofar as they are well aware of the bourgeois nature of this process and take their ideological position on the other side of the global bourgeois class that is driving the force of globalization. At the same time, they too consider globalization as an inevitable historically, technologically, and materialistically predetermined and even “advanced” and “progressive” occurrence in comparison with nation-states or the countries of the “semi-periphery”.
The world proletarian revolution is possible only after the victory of globalism, but in no way before it, at least according to the beliefs of modern neo-Marxists. To emphasize this, they prefer to call themselves "alterglobalists", i.e. "Alternative globalists". They act not so much against globalization, as against the world bourgeois elite, and in contrast, the accompanying globalization and internationalization of the world proletariat as an inevitable correlate of globalization is a positive process for them. Related to this is the reluctance of alterglobalists to accept into their ranks those forces which radically act as much against globalization and globalism as they do, but from the standpoint of the preservation of national sovereignty and religious identity. According to alter-globalists, nation-states should be abolished in the space of all three zones of the world-system. In this manner, they follow Marx’s critique of anti-bourgeois movements of the feudal or clerical orientation. In fact, a major part of the Communist Party Manifesto is devoted to the elucidation of what distinguishes communists from non-communists, as well as what constitutes anti-bourgeois tendencies . Similarly, modern alter-globalists, being enemies of the world bourgeoisie, are partially in agreement with it historically - in the face of those "anti-globalist" forces which are considered by neo-Marxists as "reactionary". They are convinced that the proletarian revolution is impossible without the internationalization of the planetary world-class and the establishment of a world government.
Accordingly, the supporters of this paradigm of IR thus see the bourgeois globalization as an historical inevitability that is necessary to advance their cause. Until the full internationalization of the bourgeois class on a global scale takes place, the world’s proletariat will not become an international global power, and thus will not be able to truly realize its historical universal destination. This is not possible without intense global migration and the racial and cultural mixing of dispossessed masses throughout the world – with a parallel loss of the ethnic, cultural, religious, and national identity of all mankind. The global cosmopolitan bourgeoisie must face the global cosmopolitan proletariat – it is the only possible way to make a real proletarian revolution, according to neo-Marxists.
It is easy to distinguish their continuity with the Trotskyist version of Marxism, to which at times the neo-Marxists openly appeal. Trotsky criticized Stalin’s regime namely because of a theory about the possibility of building socialism in one country, put forward by Stalin in 1924 . Trotsky believed, along with Lenin, that the victory of the proletarian revolution in one country is possible, but then the world revolution must begin. If it does not start, socialism will degenerate into bureaucracy and will only prevent this world revolution, not contribute to it. This was the meaning of the Trotskyist critique of the Stalinist system. Neo-Marxists build their theories in IR basing on this same logic, insisting that the proletarian revolution can only be radically international and global. Any attempt to build socialism in one country (or several countries) will put the class contradictions into national context and slow down the sought-for moment of history. Marxists’ relation to the "semi-periphery" thus follows. The fact that class-based internationalization is slowed down and partly artificially blocked by the national authorities’ policies in these countries only inhibits the explicit figuration of the implicit global world-system, and consequently, it only leads to the delay of the historical process.
This fact is described in detail in the books of the theoretical leaders of alter-globalism, A. Negri and Hardt . In their terminology, they call the world-system the "Empire", in the center of which stands the U.S. and the global bourgeois class. They are opposed by "multiplicities" - scattered and dispersed individuals deprived of their social status in the world elite and any social characteristics. These multiplicities are thought of as the revolutionary class of the future, capable of carrying out the global sabotage of the "Empire."
But this can only happen after the "Empire" wins. Thus, the logic of neo-Marxists and alter-globalists in IR is this: let the "Empire" win as soon as possible and let there be a world-system, headed by the world government; only then can the moment of the rebellion of multiplicities come.
Now let's see how neo-Marxists in IR build their polemics with the representatives of other classical paradigms.
In contrast to the realist paradigm, they state that:
- The main actors of international relations are not nation-states, but global classes: the structure of international relations is not organized by governments, but by the logic of capital, acquiring spatial sense in the period of globalization;
hence the concept of sovereignty is very conditional and the anarchy of international relations is ruled by the laws of capital: instead of chaos, we should talk about the logic of capital;
- National interests are only a partial area in the general process of the calculation of benefits, as the acquisition of capital is dealt with, it consequently depends on the structure in place: thus, national interests are ultimately the interests of the bourgeois class of this society;
- Not the actual and legal rulers, but financial and industrial groups, that is, the bourgeoisie as a class, make the key foreign policy decisions in any state, and the political rulers only formalize and legalize this will: the bourgeois class is in charge of foreign policy;
- Calls for security and mobilization of "national feelings" are a propagandist information strategy of the bourgeoisie designed to divert the proletariat from class struggle and to prevent the growth of international self-consciousness and class solidarity with workers in other countries;
- National contradictions aside, the global bourgeoisie collude with one another in order to usurp power from the leaders of the nation-states, thus predetermining the logic of IR developmental processes;
- The major war endlessly being waged (secretly or openly) is the class struggle: it has an international character, and ethnic conflicts and contradictions only distract the proletariat from revolution and lead it away from the implementation of its historic mission;
- The nature of states and the nature of human society is constantly evolving, which results in the exacerbation of contradictions between the level of development of the productive forces and the relations of production, and this constitutes the essence of historical progress. Class contradictions aggravate, reach a global scale, lead to a crisis, and then bring about the world proletarian revolution, after which states wither away and human society moves towards communism;
- The factual side of the processes in international relations is more important than the normative side, if one interprets the factual side by the methods of Marxist class analysis: the main facts will be the facts of the specificity of the class struggle;
- The final level of explanation of the structures of international relations and events taking place in these structures is the identification of objective historical facts and regularities that have a class and ideological basis.
Neo-Marxists put forward the follow theses against liberals in IR, partly complementing and partly refuting them:
- international relations have a class nature, and democratic regimes more fully correspond to the structure of the bourgeois-capitalist system and more openly reveal class contradictions;
- the logic of capitalism is above the national interests of states, hence the creation of the world government on a democratic (i.e. bourgeois) basis is indeed possible and even necessary, and it is historically predetermined (according to liberals);
- anarchy in international relations is a facade: following the logic of global capital and the global bourgeois class, at a certain point it can be overcome and replaced by the formal institutionalization of a supranational entity (neo-Marxists agree with liberals in this);
- the behavior of states in the international arena is subject not only to the logic of the maximal guaranteeing of national interests, but also the historical necessity of the development of the capitalist world-system, which is most clearly manifested in the bourgeois democracies, but not so clear in other political regimes: the nation-state only hides this logic (the nation-state is thus a capitalist bluff);
- processes of class struggle are deployed in international relations, which is why this whole area is a zone of confrontation between the two supranational, transnational forces - the world bourgeoisie and the world proletariat: they are the main actors of IR;
- the security of the state is a bourgeois myth, conniving the freedom of the ruling bourgeoisie to exploit the proletariat with impunity: the main danger comes from capital, and struggling against it, including through direct revolutionary action, is the historical mission of the dispossessed;
- “democracies don’t fight each other" only because the ruling bourgeoisie in them is well aware that it can most effectively exploit the proletariat only by class coordination on the international level;
- a class war is hidden under the cover of a democratic world, and it is constantly exported by democracies to the Third World. Here the democratization of politics and the liberalization of the economy becomes the means for establishing a system of bourgeois dictatorship in the interests of global capital: the war against the non-democracies is an action, directed by the logic of capital seeking to reach planetary borders. International terrorism is an artificial bogeyman to frighten the masses and justify the capitalists’ interventions and their direct aggression;
- the history of mankind and society develops dialectically and progressively, not linearly, but cyclically: each next stage of development takes society to a new level, but herewith class contradictions are not mitigated, but rather aggravated: history has a conflicting nature, and is organized through a series of wars and revolutions until the class nature of these processes can no longer be recognized on a global scale (only the victory of socialist revolution and construction of world Communism will save humanity from states, wars, misery, exploitation, and violence);
- the factual side of the processes in international relations and the normative side comprise two aspects of class relations that are expressed materially and designed ideologically. Democracy most clearly formalizes the real picture of material relations in society through bourgeois ideology, which should be exposed and criticized from the proletarian point of view on the basis of alternative Marxist ideology that interprets the same material and economic regularities in a completely different political way. That is to say, there is not one IR discipline, but two – IR by the eyes of bourgeoisie, which is embodied in realism and liberalism, and IR by the eyes of proletariat, which is embodied in the neo-Marxist theories of IR;
- the last level of explanation of the structures of international relations and events taking place within them is the identification of the class sense, the logic of development, and the crises of global capital.
If you compare the neo-Marxist objections to realists and liberals, you may notice the following pattern: neo-Marxists have more in common with liberals than with realists, and it is exactly liberals, and especially neo-liberals, whose theories neo-Marxists see as a more truthful reflection of the globalist tendencies that come closest to the description of the world-system, although they interpret this world-system from their own class position: from the face of the world bourgeois class. Realists, according to Marxists, defend the reality of "yesterday”, and by permanent address to the nation-states, only obscure the class nature of the basic processes in international relations and postpone the understanding of its class nature.
Despite the fact that the communist theories, and especially practice, in the western world are essentially "demonized", representatives of the neo-Marxist paradigm of IR in the academic community are prestigious and authoritative.