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Structural Realism Theory and the Developing world Essay

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Updated: Dec 25th, 2019

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The previous decade has witnessed some investigations assessing the applicability of available International Relations (IR) models to, and complaining about the abandonment of the rising economies, and especially of third world (Africa) in particular, in International Relations theory.

This essay tries to go past this well-substantiated disapproval, and in its place questions what International Relations theory is supposed to undertake to tackle the problems in the developing world, inquire how academic contributions from Africa may perhaps supplement our perception of International Relations.

Conversely, it attempts to understand how the occurrences in Africa and the research produced by Africans can add up to a superior indulgence to International Relations. The focal point is to employ the works of Arlene Tickner (2003a, p. 300), on the emerging economies as instruments of International Relations facts as opposed to objects of International Relations inquiries.

And on surveying MacLean’s assertion that ‘‘Africa’s practices… provide insights for the development of IR theory and policy far beyond the continent’’ (MacLean , 2001, p. 150). The insinuation is thus not that the total field of International Relations that has been naive to Africa and the confrontations that it facades (Brown, 2006), but relatively subsists to the periphery of the discipline.

Wherever there have been efforts aimed at taking Africa into the crinkle, it has been performed from the viewpoint of ‘what capability should the Western International Relations do to slot in Africa’ instead of ‘what can scholars discover from the African experience’. When someone reflects on the wish in native acquaintance from Africa and all of the rising economies relative to sections such as normal medicine or eastern creed and sculpture, it turns out to be clear that it is not a narrative suggestion that comprehend from the non- Western humanity can manipulate the west.

Unfortunately this curiosity on how available (Western) information might be developed by aboriginal facts and performances has not unmitigated to the inquiry of IR. Majority of researchers meticulously observe modest worth in developing an endeavor to learn from teachings from the outside edge. The suggestion that academicians in the hub of the field, principally in the US and UK, are the inventors of premise, while scholars in the far away countries, Africa and most of the developing world, are simply clients of the hypothesis; has been prevalent in the field.

Regrettably, as Mallavarapu (2005) argues that this outlook is not merely apprehended in the nucleus. Academicians from the emerging economies ‘‘have been complicit in viewing themselves as mere recipients of a discourse shaped elsewhere’’ (Mallavarapu, 2005, p. 1). This implies one impediment in the examination of feasible African contributions to International Relations theory.

Evidently, there are many additional limitations, equally in external, such as the entrance observance rules so rampant in the field, and internal (constituting deficiency of assets and the outlook that theorizing is too expensive in the milieu of Africa, where pressing tribulations have need of critical strategy answers). Bilgin (2008) questions the ubiquitous postulations of divergence linking Western and non Western studies to global politics on the basis that Western and non- Western practices and their elucidations have turned out to be so intertwined that non- Western traditions of philosophy regarding to responsibility towards global politics are “not forever free from Western models and theories’’ (p. 6).


Realism is one of the international relations theories, apart from idealism and Marxism, emerging towards the beginning of the beginning of the Second World War and maturing during and after the World War 2. The theory emerged after the idealists failed to explain why the Second World War occurred and yet there was a league of nations based on collective security and international law.

The founders of the theory started by criticizing the conceptualization of man by idealists, idealists were based on utopia. Intrinsically, man is unscathed, selfish, enjoys when others suffer and is motivated by personal interests. The realists assume that man uses another man to fulfill his interests since man is self-centered. Whenever people cooperate, they aim at achieving something at the end implying that cooperation is aimed at acquiring self-goals.

States are also guided by the principle of using other states to obtain selfish interests. States focus more on achieving national interests rather than fulfilling collective international objectives. The international system is perceived as a jungle whereby each state is hostile to each other and always dodging each other.

The international system is anarchical in nature where power holding is determined by prevailing economic and political influence. The most powerful states dictate whatever they feel is suitable to other powerless states. The international system is likened to Hobbestian state of nature where life was short lived and states are always in conflicts.

There is no a leviathan, which is in charge of arbitration and setting standards to be followed by other parties. Absence of a leviathan creates a vacuum that is filled by the mighty ones hence dominating global opinions and decision-making mechanisms. There is no common power in the international system instead some states force their way into leadership positions.

The members of the international system, just like the members of the state of nature are driven by instincts. Life in the anarchical international system is brutish, short lived and solitary because there is no common power. At the national level, realists believe that states enter into contracts to form a leviathan unlike in the international system. Kenneth Waltz in his book published in 1979 adjusted realism, which was mainly structural. This means that he reduced everything to the structure.

Choices made by states in the international system are influenced by international system. The theorist focused on the status of the international system by claiming that only polarity influences the behavior of states in the international system. Change in a states leadership does not affect its foreign policies. The issue of superpower affected the behavior of many states during the cold war.

States were aligning with either the capitalist West or the communist east. The two super powers struggled to consolidate support from other states mainly to achieve their interests. States on the other hand calculated the benefits they could get from either side before associating with the super powers. The two super powers at the time asserted themselves in terms of ideologies where the United States wanted to construct an Americana world while the Soviet Union was proposing for collectivization of resources.

Neo-realism and Developing Countries

It is undisputable that Western International Relations was original in the discipline as an insecure intellectual subject trying to comprehend and hypothesize as regards to the vibrant global politics. There is no great suspicion that the major thoughts in the subject are intensely ingrained in the particularities and peculiarities of western olden times, the augment of the West to global power and the erection of its own opinionated system onto the whole earth.

Put jointly, these two specifics denote that non-Western efforts to build up philosophy about International Relations, just like current capitalists, automatically have to create their ways in setting previously deeply habituated by past expansion. This fact is not disputed by any one, even though intellectual International Relations is now an international affair though incredibly unequally disseminated, still in the West, it remains extraordinarily subjugated to Western philosophy.

At the same time as this state of affairs is not inherently bewildering, it is obliging to examine carefully the motives behind this. A few clarifications give little or no scope or basis for curative intervention. Others recommend that the issue of Western supremacy be expected to be transitory (Amitav and Barry, 2005, p. 293)

This elucidation is not on the subject of whether Western International Relations Theory has set up the entire accurate courses to reality. Since Western International Relations Theory has been approved by the authority of Western rule in the previous few centuries, it has obtained an international dominion grade that functions mainly mechanically in the brains of others, and in spite of whether the hypothesis is accurate or not.

At this point, an individual would want to be keen on describing the logical effects of Western imperialism and the achievement of the influential in impressing their own thoughts against the wits and performances of the non-Western humanity. As illustrated above, the method of decolonization left in its wake a world modified, at times poorly, according to the European condition and its disordered society structure of global affairs.

The cost of autonomy was that local leaders agree to this configuration and a first-class case can be made that they did not merely do so in force, but were captivated and made their own entire deposits of important Western thoughts regarding to the performance of political financial system. In addition, it includes autonomous, territoriality and patriotism (Amitav and Barry, 294).

Additional Western thoughts such as egalitarianism, the economy and human rights have had an extra competition, hardly worldwide, response, but nevertheless, have befall prevalent and high-ranking outside the West. Third-World leaders have employed the important rudiments of Westphalia dominion and even lengthened its scale.

For instance, the principle of non-involvement, an important auxiliary rule of Westphalia independence, is being dynamically challenged in the West. It has undergone some attrition except in the Third World, where it has stayed put strongly. In reality, the fall of laissez faire in the West has facilitated its rise in the developing World (Tilly, 1990).

The conceptualization of what makes the African state of affairs exclusive includes a number of ideas that the states attach to political and monetary structures causing resulting to immense dysfunction. Given that Africa and other developing countries are never the beneficiaries of lofty amounts of overseas straight savings relative to other rising regions, majority of links of states to the fiscal system scuttle through official worldwide monetary institutions and expansion-focused nongovernmental institutions (NGOs).

Consequently, the malfunction comes from the organizational state of affairs in the course of which funds go into and go out of the continent (Lavelle, 2001). The genesis of the institutional conditions can be established in postcolonial rules that, in the dearth of any actual option material support, utilized state influence as a reserve to consolidate their own power (Boone, 1992).

Even Moss’s Adventure Capitalism, the most economic in orientation of the four books reviewed, views stock markets as a counteractive means to existing paths in the course of which overseas wealth enters African economies. For that reason, to start a more persistent investigation into the political principles of the developing countries, over and above personality countries, analysts must tackle extensive monetary conditions (Lavelle, 2005, p. 367).

Analysis and Criticisms of Neo-Realism

A good number of global relations assumptions are inductively consequential from the European familiarity of the ancient times of about four centuries, for the period of which Europe was the nexus and initiator of war, inventions and affluence. According to Waltz (1979), “The theory of international politics is written in terms of the great powers of an era. It would be… ridiculous to construct a theory of international politics based on Malaysia and Costa Rica…. a general theory of international politics is necessarily based on the great powers” (p. 73).

When international relations scholars concentrated on other sections of the sphere, it was to examine themes assumed minor such as developing world safety or the actions of diminutive states. In view of that, worldwide relations research has paid attention to elucidating the European practice. For instance, the roots of World Wars l and ll, over and above the Cold War and U.S.-Soviet affairs.

Even though this is tranquilly factual, other fractions of the globe have turned out to be more and more important. Therefore, awareness of European relationships is no longer enough for a dutiful international relations generalist (Kang, 2003, p. 57). Besides, establishing hypothesis that comes out from variant of realist assumption is habitually the theme of intense contest.

Scrupulously attempts to rule out guesses that relate to developing countries can be exceedingly exasperating. The main intense argument of the cynical forecast as regards to developing countries raises the concern of a revisionist third world. Subsequent to two decades of speedy trade and industry growth, developing countries seems perched to turning to great supremacy over again.

As a result, for Richard Betts, the problem happens to “… get rich or not?” In favor of realists, the reaction ought to be no, because a rich third world would topple any balance of power (Betts, 1997, p. 55). Anxiety over a revisionist and threatened third world has simply enlarged in the last decade, as its financial structure keeps on growing and its forces and scientific potentialities additionally growing.

Questions are being posed on whether developing countries such as the Asian tigers have territorial and imperialistic aggression (Dunn & Shaw, 2001). The data so far postulates that even though developing countries have great defensive quarrels with numerous countries, they have neither revisionist nor majestic intentions. In fact, most third world countries have expressed authentic interests to join the global society, possibly superlatively captured in their substantial attempts to be converted into members of the World Trade Organization (Friedrichs, 2004).

The Neo-realists fail to open up a black box because they focus on international system while inclined to systemic variables. They largely ignore domestic variables such as the constitution and the nature of government. They fail to open up the state, which is detrimental to understanding the behavior of a state in the international system.

The theory underestimates the role of morality and ethics in the interactions among states. For instance, humanitarian assistance is given to troubled countries even if they are enemies (Smith, 2009). The theorists hold that sovereign states are never interested with the interests of others.


To be stylish and inclusive, assumption strives to be prudent yet prudence enables disparity by providing the chances to the more dominant to prohibit and occlude the welfare and knowledge of those who have fewer voices. Admitting the intricacy in human interactions by having a smaller amount theory and more perspectives unlocks up opportunities for adjustment and edition that consent for the emerging countries to go into the world of thoughts, perceptions and lastly the theory that would help them solve the problems at hand (Ayoob, 2002, p. 48).

For that reason, the integration of Africa into more commonly pertinent examinations of global political occurrence should do more than simply affix it to the environmental range of case studies existing. It should press on an ongoing search of the innumerable associations that gather around states and the organization of the world system (Lavelle, 2005, p. 376).


Amitav, A. & Buzan, B. (2005) Why is there no non-Western international relations theory? Department of Politics, Bristol: University of Bristol.

Ayoob, M (2002). Inequality and Theorizing in International Relations: The Case for Subaltern Realism, International Studies Association. Blackwell Publishing.

Betts, R ,“Wealth, Power, and Instability: East Asia and the United States after the Cold War,” International Security, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Winter 1993/94), p. 60;

Bilgin, P. (2008) Thinking past ‘Western’ IR?, Third World Quarterly, 29(1) 5–23.

Brown, W. (2006) Africa in international relations: a comment on IR theory, anarchy and statehood, Review of International Studies, 32, 119–143.

Dunn, K. & Shaw, T. (2001) Africa’s Challenge to International Relations Theory, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Friedrichs, J. (2004) European Approaches to International Relations Theory. London: Routledge.

Kang, D. & Chan-oong, D. (2003) 1965-International Security, Getting Asia Wrong. The Need for New Analytical Frameworks, MIT Press. 27(4), 57-85.

Lavelle, K. (2005) Moving in from the periphery: Africa and the study of international political economy, Review of International Political Economy, 12(2), 364-379.

MacLean, S.J. (2001) Challenging Westphalia: issues of sovereignty and identity in Southern Africa, in KC Dunn & TM Shaw (ed), Africa’s challenge to international relations theory. New York, Palgrave Publishers Ltd.

Mallavarapu, S. (2005) International Relations in India: Bringing Theory Back Home, Hyderabad, India: Orient Longman, pp. 17–38.

Smith, K. (2009) Has Africa Got Anything to Say? African Contributions to the Theoretical Development of International Relations, The Round Table, 98(402), 269 — 284.

Tickner, A. (2003a) Seeing IR differently: notes from the Third World, Millennium, 32(2), 295–324.

Tilly, C. (1990) Coercion, Capital and European States AD 990–1990. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Waltz, K. (1979) Theory of International Politics. Reading Mass: Addison-Wesley, p. 73.

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