Theory of Statism in International Politics

In political science, statism is the doctrine that the political authority of the state is legitimate to some degree. This may include economic and social policy, especially in regard to taxation and the means of production. In international relations, Realists believe in the state as being the main actor in international politics with sovereignty as its distinguished element. Here in this article, you will learn about the “theory of Statism” in International Politics.

Theory of Statism in International Politics

The sovereign state is all-powerful and associated with force. According to Max Webber, “State is the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. ”

Within a territorial space, sovereignty means that the state has the supreme authority to make and enforce laws. There is an unwritten contract between the state and the individual which forms the basis of the state.

To the realists, it is necessary first to establish power domestically. In this respect, every state is a power state when once power has been organized all other aspects of social life such as art or culture would automatically get their roots firmly established. The individual gives their support to the state when security is guaranteed to them.

Realists argue that once there is order operating domestically, the problem of security and order is solved. If there is a sovereign authority at home, the individual need not worry about his welfare and security as it is the responsibility of the state which operates under an organized system of law, police protection, prisons, and other coercive measures.

This enables members of the society living inside the state to lead happy and progressive life. But outside the state, in relations with other sovereign states, there are always dangers, threats, and insecurities that keep on hovering over the state which poses a great danger to the existence of the state: the realists put the responsibility for this insecure and dangerous environments on the absence of a sovereign on the international realm.

Realists further clarify that in anarchy, states indulge in a tug-of-war with each other for security, markets, spheres of influence, and pre-dominance. This competition is often seen as more for one actor and less for the other.

This international legal aspect of sovereignty functions as a no-trespass sign’ placed on the borders between states. But realists say that in practice, nonintervention does not apply in relations between great powers and their less powerful neighbors.

According to some scholars, international politics is the struggle for power, but what do the realists mean by their amalgamation of politics with power? Hans J. Morgenthau offers the definition of power as “man’s control over the minds and actions of other men.” Power is a relational concept that means power cannot be exercised in a vacuum but in relation to another object. Power is a relative concept.

Where calculations have to be made not only about one’s power and strength but about others’ capabilities as well. But the task of assessing others’ power is very difficult and complex.

The liberal realists interpret power as prestige which means the ability to get what you want without threat or use of force but through diplomatic control and supremacy. E.H. Carr equated military force with power.

“Simply asserting the states seek power provides an answer to crucial equations. Why do states struggle for power? Why is the accumulation of power always the immediate aim? Surely, power is a means to an end rather than an end in itself.”

Survival in International Politics

Survival is the foremost object in international politics, which means that the state actors must place the protection of their ideology, national interest, and national image as the most vital object of their foreign policies.

The ultimate concern of every state is security. Survival, therefore, is a prerequisite to accomplishing all other goals, whether it is meant to overcome others or simply achieve independence.

Waltz and Joseph Grieco, the two defensive realists say that states have security as their main concern and, therefore, look for an adequate amount of power to safeguard their own survival. It means that states and defensive actors should strive to accumulate that much power only which can protect their own security and must not seek that much power which may endanger their own security.

On the other hand, offensive realists such as John Mearsheimer claims that the only objective of states is to acquire a commanding position in the international system. According to this view, states are always like and willing to grab power. In order to do so, the states would even go to the extent of changing the existing distribution of power even if such an action may endanger their own security.

The defensive realists plead that the existence of status quo powers decreases the intensity of power tussles. While offensive realists argue that the tug of war to power is always intense because the moderate states and the ambitious leaders are always ready to take risks.

With the object of enhancing their status in the international system, Niccolo Machiavelli produced his masterpiece of literature called “The Prince” in which he impressed upon the world leaders to maintain their hold on power.

Machiavelli derived the motto of power from his own experience as a diplomat and as a student of history. He admired the Roman Empire that annihilated all its enemies through conquest and imperial domination.

Machiavelli believed that ‘Prince or Sovereign’ must be prepared to go back on their promises if it is in their interest, and occupy neighboring states before they attack them. However, Machiavelli’s recommendations have some difficulties in relation to contemporary international politics. It demonstrates the moral ruination of Realism which stimulated a scathing criticism of the theory.

Theory of Self-Help in International Politics

Kenneth waltz wrote an excellent account of international politics “Theory of International Politics”. In which he expounded a more lucid understanding of the international system within which the state coexists. Unlike many other realists, Waltz explained that international politics was not rare because of the regularity of war and conflict since it was also found in domestic politics.

The main difference between domestic and international order lies in their structure. In domestic politics, citizens do not have to defend themselves as it is the responsibility of the state.

The international system lacks higher and more effective authority to prevent and neutralize it. Therefore, security can only be achieved through self-help. When there is no controlling authority to protect and secure the interests of the state, self-help is the only way to shield against insecurity. In an anarchic structure, self-help is essentially the principle of action.

The uncertain and dwindling state of security is known as the security dilemma in international politics. Security dilemma crops up when military preparations of one state cause anguish amongst other states about the intentions and objectives of such an action.

Whether these preparations are for defensive purposes or they are for offensive purposes. Since this kind of situation creates an in concluded uncertainly in the minds of others about the aim of this action, it gives rise to an enigmatic scenario known as a security dilemma.

This scenario means that one state’s yearning for security is seen as a source of insecurity for another and often projects others’ intentions in a negative context.

Therefore, the military expansion of a state compels the neighboring state to match it by expanding its own military capability. Unfortunately, this scramble for military preparedness in no way guarantees more security than before the state undertook steps to enhance its own security.

It is important to note that the security dilemma also rises from the declared structure of the international system rather than the aggressive motives or intentions of states.

While the structure of the international system must be seen as a fundamental precondition for the security dilemma. Its intensity is a consequence both of the inherently violent nature of military capabilities and the degree to which states perceive others as threats rather than allies.

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