Importance of interdisciplinary approach

1. Interdisciplinary Approach in IR

This paper will analyze the importance of interdisciplinary approach in IR. The complexity of international relations has made it necessary to promote interdisciplinary approach and question the relevance of positivistic science while introducing a set of parameters not previously considered (regimes, social and cultural factors and actors, non-state entities)

In my view due to the absence of interdisciplinary approach in IR, theorists were failed to predict major events in history such as the End of Cold War. Methodologies of various international theories did not help in predicting the end of cold war. The third debate between positivist and post positivist give rise the importance of interdisciplinary approach to better understand the world around us. The third debate widened the epistemology of IR. And it allows for more complex understanding on international system. The emergence of transnational’s and globalization and its impact on states introduced interdisciplinary approach in IR. Globalization and the interdependency between economics and politics best describes the interdisciplinary nature of international relations. Although politics and economics have been studied separately for analytic purposes and as academic disciplines, and although each has its own paradigms, theories, and methodologies, it has long been recognized that economic factors shape political decisions, just as political factors may have a decisive influence on economic choices

The realists, the famous school of international relations depict on the assumption that the state system is anarchic, realism depicts a world characterized by security competition and war (Mearshiemer 2002, 93). They also believe that it is possible to create a scientific base, and therefore, they try to be prudent. Critical theorist Cox (1981) questioned the emergence of existing world. The emergence of existing norms and institutions and how it can be changed. All these theories failed to describe scientifically from where state priorities come from and the reason for their change. These approaches have failed to understand or predict major changes in international relations or politics.

However, I argue that constructivist scholars to some extent have followed the interdisciplinary approach in IR, such as Fearon and Wendt (2002) tried to bridge a gap between constructivism and rationalism. According to them ontological differences between rationalism and constructivist should be ignored in the study of International Relations. Fearon and Wendt said that there are two areas of convergence that are not taken into account. Both the two theories mostly give parallel, or at least harmonizing, description of international politics, as they are focusing on the same reality. Moreover, even they asks different questions, there are evidences that , other school answer s the question which is asked by opposite school.

Therefore I argue that interdisciplinary approach is essential to understand the changing nature and priorities of states. Interdisciplinary approach can help international relations theorists to reach an understanding over the methodology of international relations. Thus, the Interdisciplinary approach can be used to bridge the gap between rationalist and constructivist, and define the systematic changes of international relations. In recent years, I believe that, constructivists have spent time in researching exploring meta-theoretical and ontological similarities between ‘rational’ and ‘constructivist’ approaches, therefore constructivist have tried to establish interdisciplinary approach.

2. Comparison Between Constructivist and Rationalist

Constructivist and rationalist theories of International Relations often generate opposing propositions and both schools provide empirical evidence to support their claim. However, in this paper I argue that IR scholars should not reject one theory for another. There is a scope in both the theories for bridging the gap. Constructivism, according to Fearon and Wendt 2002 there are no measureable differences between these two approaches. In the first part of the paper I will focus on their differences and later I will argue these differences can be bridged as mentioned by Fearon and Wendt (2002)

The visible gap between these two approaches is over ontology, specifically related to the role of international agents and actors. Therefore it can be said that the major difference is on ontological assumptions. Constructivism adds a social dimension that is missing from rationalist approaches. What is rational is seen as a function of legitimacy, defined by shared values and norms within institutions or other social structures rather than purely individual interests.

Constructivist stress on a social ontology. Social Constructivism, their ontology gives attention to both social and material realities. Constructivist epistemology gives importance to qualitative and interpretative of seeking evidence. Constructivist focuses more on how structures and agents correlate with each other. Constructivism presents a social dimension which is absent in rationalist theories. Constructivist does not view international relations as a struggle for power. In contrast they emphasize more on the relevance of norms and identities in international relations. Constructivists believe that norms established over a period of time thus, they are deep rooted in international system. In contrast Rationalism believes on individualist ontology they believe on materialism and rigid facts, for rationalist norms, ideas, social element of international relations have no or less value. Similarly rationalist epistemology mainly focuses on the role of actors. Thus, for them state is the most important unit. Thus, they both view international system differently constructivist focus on social dimension and rationalist focus on material dimension of international system.

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Another major difference between these two theories is in empirical terms as a difference about the emerging issues in the world. However Fearon and Wendt (2002) argue that it is not a significant difference .I will discuss this in the later part of the paper.

According to Wendt constructivists proclaims that agents are not an independent actors but they work in relation with social settings. Thus, state interests are not independent variables but they came into being as a result of social settings in which state exists, and thus they are endogenous to states. Another disagreement between rationalist and constructivist is over the role of ideas, both school of thoughts believe that ideas matter but differ on their importance and relevance in international relations. For Rationalists there is a difference between ideas and aspirations. Constructivist treats their descriptive role of ideas in more causal terms than constitutive terms.

For Constructivist ideas and norms matter and the importance of ideas and norms cannot be overlooked. For realist ideas are matter but they view them in relation with distribution of power. Their comparison is interesting because they view society from different lenses rationalism through bottom-up and rationalism through top-down approach.

However, Fearon and Wendt argue that the differences between these two schools can be bridged. Both the schools are concerned about same issues though they view these issues differently such as theory of war and peace (Wendt), role of internationals norms (Checkel T).

Nevertheless, Fearon and Wendt argue that there are areas of possible junction that are inadequately addressed. Therefore, we can say that these schools are researching the same deep rooted realities. Fearon and Wendt further believe that both schools sometimes answers the questions that is asked by another school such as agent and structure question. Other theorists also echoed the same proposition as Fearon and Wendt. Adler (1998) mentioned that taking the middle ground is the base to the constructivist development. Guzzini (2000) argues that constructivism’s achievement is somewhat based on its hypothetical place in the middle ground.

Constructivist theories does not offer new research areas, but often rationalist and constructivist inquire into the same empirical dimensions as rationalist approaches openly categorize interactions as bargaining procedure. During interactions, actors use their power positions to the bargaining power of other actors to achieve maximizes their interests. Constructivist approaches believe that interactions are done through exchange of arguments.

Challenges to Constructivist.

There is a criticism on constructivist that they have a tendency to choose a single, descriptive logic of social action and they apply it to all social settings.

It is a challenge for constructivist to define the boundaries as critics ask that whether constructivism is a theory of international relations or as a theory of philosophy, or it should be regarded as a bridge building theory between different approaches.

Challenges to Rationalist

Sindal (2001) argued that “the intellectual, data collection, and methodological challenges of linking constructivism and rationalism, …more recently an important set of critique grouped loosely under constructivist emphasize certain problems and set aside other issues by assumptions. Rational choice found deficient in explaining who the key actors are, in explaining their interest, origin and or in explaining how these change.”

The second challenge according to Sindal, that rational approach is not offering anything new, instead they tells us what we already aware of.

The third challenge is that rationalist techniques are (Sindal 2001, 73) “falsely triumphed over substance”

The fourth challenge is their weakness in empirical terms; their theories are not tested on strong empirical grounds.(Sindal 2001)

The fifth challenge for rationalist is that they give importance to some issues, while leave others issues over assumptions. (Sindal 2001).

The last challenge for rationalist is that, rationalist to some extent failed in pointing out major actors of IR, their interests and their origin and how these major actors changes.

Role of IOs and Constructivist and Rationalist Perception

Traditional international relations international relations (IR) theories such, realist,, rationalist and neo-functionalist theorists, such as realists, neo-functionalists or regime theorists, consider international organizations (IOs) as secondary tools with which to accomplish state goals. Therefore, traditional IR theorists give attention mostly towards the establishment of an IO and inter-state collaboration. As a result, I argue that previously filed of IO’s was an “under-studied field of IR.

Constructivist approaches (Barnett and Finnemore 1999; Coleman and Barnett 2004; Alter 2004) overcome this problem; Michael Barnett and Martha Finnemore counter traditional theory and provide a base for evaluating IOs as parttially independent actors. Barnett and Finnemore argue that IO is a powerful actor and In particular, they argue that IOs have significant autonomy and they gain their power through different ways not necessarily form the limited resources given to them by. Therefore I believe that their analysis regarding IO, acquires an important position in international relations theory. I argue that their analysis helps us in studying role of IOs in International Relations. IOs have gained much importance in IR. Therefore their analysis of the failure of IOs is also important. However, apart from their strengths in studying IOs their weakness lies in the fact that their primary focus is on IOs and they ignore the role of states in influencing IOs.

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Therefore, after analyzing the weakness and strength of constructivist and rationalist, I argue that middle-ground approach between rationalist and constructivist might help in better understanding the role of IOs and the influence of states on IOs. The “bridge-building” effort, as Alexander Wendt (2001) suggested, add greater amount of depth to each perspective.

In the first part of this paper, I will discuss the similarities and dissimilarities between Constructivist and Rationalist. Barnett and Finnemore (1999) argued that rationalist theories view IO, staff as egoistic and self centered individuals who want to maximize their interest and hidden goals. Therefore, Finnemore argues that Rationalist and neo liberal institutionalist ignore the role of IOs and give attention to states only.

Therefore, rationalist does not view IOs as independent actors whose interests are shaped by outside environment in which the exists. There are very few rationalist scholars who understand the importance of IO-state relationship (Milner, 1997). Therefore according to Checkel (1998) rationalist view does not provide a deeper analysis “the possibility that the effects of institutions reach deeper, to the level of interests and identity” (Checkel 1998).

Therefore it can be said that constructivist theorists gives a more clear picture of IOs their interest, capabilities, organizational structure and its social implications on world. Constructivist and rationalist, both agree that the aim of IO staff is to survive but constructivist view survival not in terms of advancing their own interests but the interest and mandate of IOs. According to Coleman and Barnett (2004) the aim is to produce suitable policies through the adaptation of existing rules and new tasks, thus it gives IOs more space to be more capable and effective in their mandate. Therefore it is clear that constructivist focus on social context, however this point of view is unable to point out the circumstances under which IO staff realize their individual preferences.

This paper merges rationalist and constructivist approaches to discover the conditions that enable IO officials to exercise their power. Therefore, in this paper I tried to show that constructivist describes the reasons of IO preferences; on the other hand rationalist describes the power of IOs to achieve their preferences.

Therefore, I believe that realist and neo-liberalist did not offer complete set of reasons behind IO actions. The cooperation among states may foster as a result of norms being established in these institutions. Constructivist approach deals with these issues like preference formation but it is unclear on some aspects of social context. Therefore I argue that both constructivist and rationalist approach should fused together in order to better understand IO dependence and independence.

3. Philosophy of Science and International Relations

The debate is still going on the status of international relations that whether it is a science or not. The debate has divided international relation scholars into two camps. The question whether IR is a science or not is still unresolved as scholars are not sure that the basis of IR is scientific. However many attempts have been by made by scholars establish IR as a science. In this article I will argue that scholars should continue their debate on the utility of Philosophy of Social Science in international politics or IR. As debate is always healthy and give rise to various theories that can better help in understanding the role of POS in IR or politics. Scholars and theorists should focus on what changes philosophy of science can offer by incorporating it in the field of international relations. Indeed IR scholars have tried to bridge a gap between science and IR to build the sound foundation of IR.

I argue that building of solid foundation of IR on scientific basis is necessary to prove that IR theories can be tested scientifically. Scientific foundation of IR is necessary to show the validity of IR theories in real world. However, scholars who were inclined towards scientific foundation of IR have divided theories of IR into two categories “positivist” and “post-positivist”. Positivist theories have their foundations in the methods of the natural sciences by focusing on the impact of material forces. Positivist focus in international relations is on areas such as state relations, size of military forces, balance of powers etc.

The positivist scholar Kenneth Waltz (1979) have argued that instrumentalism is an attempt to make IR more scientific and that he has found a more solid social scientific base for realist. He However, in present era the most prominent advocates of philosophy of social science are Colin Wight and Alexander Wendt. Both of them belongs to post-positivist camp and have tried to build a foundation of IR on philosophy of Social science that is acceptable to other camps such as positivist. However, the debate between positivist and post-positivist has not yielded any result so far thus; it is still unclear what should be the relation of science with IR. The first attempts were made by behaviouralist to make IR more scientific as Wight argues that before behaviouralist, scholars were not concerned about the relationship of science with IR. Behaviorist argued that there should be systematic study of IR based on evidence; therefore they reject the traditional historical theories of IR.

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In supporting the case for the scientific study of international relations, Alexander Wendt’s model of scientific realism conserved many residue of the positivist model of science.Wendt established a middle way between the positivist and post-positivist struggle. Scientific Realism therefore has tried to protect both positivist and anti-positivist theories in opposition to the efforts made by foundationalist to leave them out. It thus tries to create a room for a sort of inter-disciplinary dialogue in the discipline; they tried to make this debate as problem solving. Arguably there are, which is why constructivism has been contentious among philosophers of social science. The first thing that can be noted is that because of its focus on analysis of inter-subjective normative frameworks, a strong emphasis emerges among (especially moderate) social constructivists on tracing the contours of existing ‘normative consensus’ in society, or in social sciences.

To conclude, I would like to say that scholars should make an effort to understand POS in relation with Politics and IR, which I think now badly understood. Therefore as I mentioned earlier that debate should not be closed and we should not discard POS as BS but we should continue the debate to understand complexities of POS in order to better understand IR. And to answer the question why should we study POS and continue the debate of POS and its relationship with IR is that POS lies in the foundation of IR, I believe that without understanding POS we cannot understand dynamics of International politics or IR.


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