International Relations Theory


InternationalRelations Theory

Understandingof international relations is an important aspect since it helps inadding knowledge concerning the changing economic, cultural, andpolitical relations in the international scene. In understandinginternational relations, different theoretical perspectives have beenused. These theoretical perspectives usually differ because of theforces that drive them. The aim of this paper is to compareinternational relations theory through using two readings. Thereadings to be used are: Kenneth Walt`s StructuralRealism after the Cold Warand Andrew Moravcsik`s TakingPreferences Seriously: a Liberal Theory of International Politics.

InTakingPreferences Seriously: a Liberal Theory of International Politics,Moravcsik supports liberalism as a theoretical approach tointernational politics and lays out key assumptions and how thisapproach varies from the existing theories. On the other hand, inStructuralRealism after the Cold War, KennethWaltz supports realism as a theoretical approach that provides anunderstanding to international politics. He argues that internationalinstitutions, interdependency, and democracy do not constitutestructural changes that led to transformation of the post-Cold Warworld.

Fromthe two readings, a comparison can be made in the way the two authorspresent their ideas. According to Moravcsik, design of statepreferences tends to matter most in global politics (Moravcsik,1997). However, this is not the idea presented by Waltz. According toWaltz, design of capabilities matters most when it comes to globalpolitics. Therefore, presenting a difference in their ideas of whatmatters most in the global politics, provides an aspect that comparesthe perspectives of the two authors.

Accordingto Moravcsik, basic actors in the international politics entailprivate groups and individuals that are on the standard risk-averseand rational and classify combined action in an attempt to upholddifferentiated concerns under the constraints that become imposed byconflicting values, material shortage, and disparities in societyinfluence (Moravcsik, 1997). Besides, Moravcsik argues that nationsrepresent a compartment of domestic society in acting to the worldpolitics. In this case, Moravcsik sees a nation as an institutionrepresenting some subjects, but not like an actor. According to him,individuals usually rely on the state so as to attain goals whichprivate action is not capable of achieving efficiently. He furtherargues that institutions that are representative and actionsdetermine, not just the social alliances represented in a givenforeign policy, but also establish how the social coalitions becomerepresented. These arguments presented by Moravcsik indicate thatnations do not automatically engage in maximizing preset andhomogenous formations of sovereignty, security, or affluence.However, this is not the case according to the point of view ofWaltz. According to Waltz’s perspective, states can engageautomatically in preset and homogenous formations of sovereignty,security, or affluence (Waltz, 2000). Waltz argues that the statesusually do not tend to act in an attempt to solve preferencespresented by private individuals or groups, but tend to act based onthe preference presented by powerful domestic groups. States willalways tend to look for the preferences that powerful groups, in anation, have presented and pursue them accordingly. This clearlycompares the perspectives of the two readings where therepresentative institutions have practices that determine whichsocial coalitions, and how the social coalitions are represented in acertain foreign policy.

Accordingto Waltz, results attained rarely match with the objectives ofactors therefore, there is no compelling generalization that can bedepicted from the assessment of objectives that is, variation inmeans matters most, but not conclusions (Waltz, 2000). However, fromthe point of view of Moravcsik, what states engage in is primarilydetermined by what states want. The preferences of state mayreplicate outlines of international societal interaction and candiffer in response to revolutionizing global social context.Activities reflected by a single nation do not just reflect thepreferences of the nation, but represent the design of preferences ofall nations. According to Moravcsik, liberalism can be in a positionto explain foreign policy objectives of different individual nationsand the general outcomes of global interactions (Moravcsik, 1997).Furthermore, Moravcsik does not agree with Waltz’s opinion thatnation inclinations should be considered as if they are conflictualin nature. According to Moravcsik, in opposing this opinion, theconfiguration of mutually dependent state preferences is the one thatdetermines state behavior. Moravcsik is of the opinion that behaviorof state usually reflects various outlines of state inclinations.Every nation tries to realize its distinguishing inclinations underchangeable constraints that are imposed by inclinations of othernations.

Inaddition, Waltz argues that the sovereignty of states, universallydistinguished global institution, barely stands in a battle of strongnation and chooses to intercede in the war of a weak nation. However,Moravcsik argues that multicausal liberalism can help in explainingthe ambitious schemes for cooperation such as collective security andcan also be used in explaining the policy outcomes of realists suchas bipolar conflict and balancing of power. The balancing of powermay be used to defend the liberalist opinion concerning theinvolvement of international institutions in wars involving weaknations. Besides, from the argument presented by Moravcsik, where heindicates that states usually engage in behavior that is agreed uponby other states, but not merely by a single state, may compare withthe opinion of Waltz since he indicates that commonly recognizedglobal institution barely stands in a battle of a strong nation anddecides to mediate in the war of a weak nation.


Waltzand Moravcsik have presented different opinions concerning theinternational relations. According to Moravcsik, the pattern of stateinclinations tends to matter most in global politics. However, thisis not the idea presented by Waltz. According to Waltz, theconfiguration of capabilities matters most when it comes to worldpolitics. Besides, according to Waltz, results attained rarely matchwith the objectives of actors which indicate that there is no validgeneralization that can be depicted from the assessment ofobjectives that is, variation in means matters most, but notendings. However, from the point of view of Moravcsik, what statesengage in is primarily determined by what states want. Although thereare some differing opinions represented in the two readings based onthe international relations theory, it is not possible to categorizeone reading as being a representative of the entire truth concerningthe issues of international relations because every reading haspresented the theoretical perspectives of liberals and realists,which cannot be said to be true or false. Both opinions should berespected as they help in the building of the international relationstheory. These ideas are critical for building strong theoreticalperspectives in the future.


Moravcsik,A. (1997). Taking Preferences Seriously: A Liberal Theory ofInternational Politics. InternationalOrganization51, 4 pp 513-53.

Waltz,N.K. (2000). Structural Realism after the Cold War. InternationalSecurity,Vol. 25, No. 1, pp 5-41.