Explain The Meaning And Significance Of The Realist Concept Of The Balance Of Power

2326 words - 9 pages

Changes, which occurred at both a domestic and international level, during the 1960's and 1970's, have been attributed mostly for the rise of the pluralist school of thought, and brought the relevance of the realist paradigm into question. Events such as the easing of tensions in Europe to the student antiwar protests in America have promoted the pluralist theory.The assumptions, which the pluralists see as key to their theory, are evident in the world today, and so have appeared to force the theory of international politics, a discipline that is dominated by realism, to be rethought to include a pluralist dimension.To understand how 'real' world events put the realist paradigm into doubt, and increased the relevance of the pluralist school of thought, we must first understand the actors, concepts and assumptions of the pluralist theory, and how they challenge realist thought, and then show how events have provided evidence of the relevance of the pluralist paradigm in the world of international politics.The pluralist image comprises of different assumptions. The first of which, is that nonstate actors are important and cannot be ignored. International organisations such as the United Nations (UN) are independent actors in their own right, and organisations such as the UN have considerable influence in agenda setting for nations. Multinational corporations (MNC's) and environmental organisations are examples of Nongovernmental Organisations (NGO's) and are influential in determining some states foreign policy, and hold some sway within some governments. This image the pluralists offer is in contrast to what the realist see. Realists regard the state as the principal and most important actors. As they see the world of international relations as a system of states and all other actors such as the NGO's mentioned are not of great importance.The second assumption of the pluralists is that the state is not a unitary actor. This is that it does not always represent one opinion and speak with one voice, as the realists argue. A state is composed of many individual bureaucracies, interest groups and individuals all of whom attempt to influence the foreign policy of a state. So as realists see states as unitary actors, metaphorically single minded in determination, the pluralist's regard the state as one that formulates a foreign policy that is representative of all groups involved and affected, or in some cases ignores certain groups within a state.The third assumption challenges the realists on states. Realists believe states are rational actors. The make up of a states government is not unitary as pluralist's see it a mixture and clashes of opinion, when it comes to foreign policy making. This then leads to bargaining and compromise in order to formulate a policy. So in theory, the outcome of a states foreign policy, is likely to favour groups that have more influence than others and so the outcome is not always rational, but reflective of a certain...

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