When exploring the relationships between nations, a number of conceptual models exist. Each model purports to explain and predict the interactions between international actors. Three of these schools of thought were initially enumerated in The Dividing Discipline: Hegemony and Diversity in International Theory. (K. J. Holsti, 1985) These schools were the “Classical Paradigm”, “Theory of Global Society”, and the “Neo-Marxist” conceptual models. This paper will explore each of Kalevi Holsti’s three schools of thought and the unique advantages and disadvantages of each. Through the exploration of each, this paper will determine which model provides the most accurate conceptual framework for understanding and interpreting the current reality of international relations.
The first school of thought that we will explore is the “Classical Paradigm” also known as “Realism”. Proponents of this school argue that its assumptions can be found as early as in the accounts of Thucydides nearly three millennia ago. (Nye 13) When examining Realism there are number of important factors to note. First Realists consider their perspective to be empirical rather than normative. Hans Morgenthau, one of the most influential figures in the realist school as established by recent polling amongst International Relations Experts (Maliniak, Oakes, & Tierny, 2007) stated, “Politics is…governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature.” (Morgenthau, 1967)
The Classical Paradigm is a somewhat, pessimistic conceptual model primarily associated with Europe, has as a fundamental tenet that humanity is deeply flawed, combative and competitive. The quintessential character of the Classical Paradigm can be expressed through Thomas Hobbes statement in section 14 of the preface of De Cive (Hobbes).
“I show in the first place that the state of men without civil society (which state may be called the state of nature) is nothing but a war of all against all; and that in that war, all have a right to all things.”
This quote both encapsulates the primary problematic of realism: “War, Peace, and Security” and expresses the Classical Paradigm’s primary perception that the “World is a Dangerous Place.” The primary actor, the Nation-State is the source of both danger and security in the international sphere. One of the arrows in the quiver of many realists is the Balance of Power. The confluence of Hobbes and modern classical realists continues as some realists have begun to explore Hegemony Stability Theory as an alternate explanation of international power dynamics. Hegemonic Stability Theory continues Hobbes’ argument in Leviathan regarding the need for a Leviathan (see Hegemony) to ensure stability in the international arena .
The classical realist paradigm is one of the most influential schools of thought in International Relations. (Nye 4) Realist perspectives have a number of strengths that may explain why that is the case. Perhaps realisms most significant...