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Application of International Relations Theories in Asia and Africa

by Marcin Grabowski (Volume editor) Tomasz Pugacewicz (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 342 Pages

Summary

This book discusses the applicability of Western International Relations (IR) theories to Asia and Africa and the rise of non-Western IR theories (especially in Asia), with case studies focused on the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Sub-Saharan African regions. Theoretically grounded studies of Asia and Africa are still in high demand, as International Relations scholarship on and in those regions seems underdeveloped in this regard. This is the case both in the application of Western theories in research on Asia and Africa, but especially IR theory-building by scholars in both regions. The book is driven by the question, whether we need specific Asia and Africa-oriented IR theories to describe, explain and predict developments in regional international relations or can we apply or adapt the so-called Western IR theories.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • 1. Can We Apply Western IR Theories in Asia and Africa?
  • Theoretical Developments
  • 2. Western IR Theories: Analytical Patterns
  • 3. Ways of Application of Western IR Theories in Asia and Africa
  • 4. International Relations Theory Development in Asia
  • Asia-Pacific Problems
  • 5. Japanese Security Policy in Transition – In a Perspective of the “Normalization” Debate
  • 6. People’s Republic of China Naval Military Buildup: Constructivist and Neorealist Explanations
  • 7. China’s Trade Policy: Realist and Liberal Approaches
  • Conflicts and Collaboration in the Middle East
  • 8. The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf: A Study of Arab Regionalism and Integration
  • 9. The Influence of Religion on American Policy toward Israel: Is FPA a Useful Tool for Analysis?
  • 10. Analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Using Realist and Constructivist International Relations Theories: “Operation Protective Edge” Case
  • 11. A New Perspective on the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: Marxist IR, Dependency Theory and the Myth of a “Humanitarian Intervention”
  • African Challenges
  • 12. Why They Participate? Theories of International Relations and the Contribution of Sub-Saharan African States to Peace Operations
  • 13. The Long Road to (In)dependence: Decolonization of Francophone Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa Analyzed through the Lens of Dependency and Neorealist Theory
  • Notes about the Authors
  • Index

Preface

Theories of international relations are mostly a concept connected with the modern scholarly discipline International Relations (IR) symbolically created with the establishment of the first Chair of International Politics at the University of Aberystwyth in 1919, and developed especially at American universities, as well as European and to some extent Australian ones. Hence contemporary mainstream IR theories were created in the so-called Western world. As the role of non-Western international relations (especially in Asia and Africa) has been rising, the issue of the applicability of those theories appeared. It was accompanied by a surge in the creation of non-Western IR theories. Both problems – the applicability of the Western IR theories to non-Western regions and the rise of non-Western IR theories – are taken into account in this volume, but the case studies presented are focused on the applicability of Western IR theories to Asian and African settings.

This volume is mostly the result of our collaboration with young researchers (young Ph.D. holders, Ph.D. candidates, independent researchers and graduate students), we worked with between 2013 and 2016. As we have been focusing our research to a large extent on non-European settings, many of our collaborators were asking, if it were possible to apply the Western IR theories we were acquainted with to those regions. In this volume, we try to answer this question by applying different Western international relations theories to studies of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

As editors, we are obligated to clarify some basic concepts applied in this volume. Firstly, we distinguish between ‘International Relations’ (capital letters, abbreviated as “IR”) as a scholarly discipline and ‘international relations’ (small letters) as social processes occurring at international level (e.g. “Asian international relations”).

Secondly, when we write about International Relations research on Asia without regard to the country (or region) of origin, we are just going to write about “IR”. When we write only about scholars from Asia working on international relations research (“International Relations”), we are going to stress this (e.g. “International Relations (IR) studies in Asia” etc.). By the “Asian International Relations” (“Asian IR”) we understand International Relations research on Asia (developed both in Asia and the West) and, similarly, by “African International Relations” we understand studies on African international relations developed around the world. However, we do realize that the term ‘Asian International ←7 | 8→Relations’, quite commonly used to describe research on international relations associated with Asia, is relatively often misguiding. As Amitav Acharya wrote “The definition of who or what is ‘Asian’ IR is problematic”.1 Even this prominent researcher was unable to propose and use one definition of ‘Asian IR’ coherently. On the one hand, Acharya wrote that he “would call for including any scholar anywhere working on Asian international issues as part of the Asian IR community” suggesting that he meant by ‘Asian IR’ scientific research (‘International Relations’) on Asia developed in and outside this region.2 On the other hand, phrases such as “writings on Asian IR”, “theorizing about Asian IR” and “work on Asian IR” repeat regularly in Acharya’s paper, implying that he mostly understands “Asian IR” as international developments (“international relations”) in Asia.3 There also scholars such as Muthiah Alagappa or Robert Kelly who, by “Asian IR” understand scholars working only in Asia in the field of international relations studies (i.e. ‘International Relations’).4 Additionally, L. H. M. Ling and ←8 | 9→Boyu Chen point out, that the term “Asian” could be applied not only to research on Asia or developed in Asia but also emerging from Asia.5

Additionally, as our research is focused on international relations, we avoided the use of the term ‘Asian studies’ as inaccurate because it refers not only to scholarship on international processes but also on domestic political, economic, societal and cultural issues.

Finally, even when we observe the birth of IR theories developed in the non-Western world, we still refer to the theoretical concepts created in the so-called West as mainstream because they still dominate the worldwide research on international relations.

The publication of this volume would not be possible without the support of many people involved in the project. First and foremost, we would like to express our gratitude to all the authors as they showed enormous patience while adding reviewers’ and editors’ comments and suggestions. Secondly, we are grateful for the organizational and financial support from the Peter Lang editors, especially Magdalena Kalita, and the Faculty of International and Political Studies of the JU, especially Vice-Dean Andrzej Porębski and Malgorzata Jasek. We would also like to express our gratitude to Agnieszka Batko, Iga Kleszczynska and Jakub Stefanowski for supporting us in the editorial process, as well as the to the proof-reader of the text, Michael Doherty. Finally, we are thankful to our wives for their support and consideration as the project consumed much more private time than we envisaged at the beginning.

Marcin Grabowski, Tomasz Pugacewicz

References

Acharya, Amitav: “‘Theorising the International Relations of Asia: Necessity or Indulgence?’ Some Reflections.” Pacific Review 30 (6), 2017, pp. 816–828.

Alagappa, Muthiah: “International Relations Studies in Asia: Distinctive Trajectories.” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 11 (2), 2011, pp, 193–230.

Jong, Kun: “Theorizing East Asian International Relations in Korea.” Asian Perspective 32 (1), 2008, pp. 193–216.

←9 | 10→

Kelly, Robert: “The International Relations Discipline and the Rise of Asia”. Duck of Minerva, 2012. Retrieved on 15.07.2018 from: http://duckofminerva.com/2012/11/the-international-relations-discipline-and-the-rise-of-asia.html.

Kim, Min Hyung: “East Asia International Relations and International Relations Theory: Where Does a Poor Fit Exist, and What to Do about It.” Journal of Asian and African Studies. 2018. Retrieved on 15.07.2018 from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0021909618777269.

Ling, L.H.M./Chen, Boyu: “International Relations and the Rise of Asia: A New ‘Moral Imagination’ for World Politics?” In: Gofas, Andreas/Hamati-Ataya, Inanna/Onuf, Nicholas (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of the History, Philosophy and Sociology of International Relations. SAGE: Los Angeles 2018.

←10 | 11→

1 Acharya, Amitav: “‘Theorising the International Relations of Asia: Necessity or Indulgence?’ Some Reflections.” Pacific Review 30 (6), 2017, p. 817. Cf. “We coin the term Asian IR even though it is far from coherent or widely recognized as such”. Ling, L.H.M./Chen, Boyu: “International Relations and the Rise of Asia: A New ‘Moral Imagination’ for World Politics?” In: Gofas, Andreas/Hamati-Ataya, Inanna/Onuf, Nicholas (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of the History, Philosophy and Sociology of International Relations. SAGE: Los Angeles 2018, pp. 134–135.

2 Acharya, Amitav: “‘Theorising the International Relations of Asia: Necessity or Indulgence?’ Some Reflections.” Pacific Review 30 (6), 2017, p. 818. Similarly: Acharya, Amitav: “Thinking Theoretically about Asian IR.” In: Shambaugh, David/Yahuda, Michael (eds.): International Relations of Asia. Rowman and Littlefield: Lanham 2014, pp. 59–83.

3 Acharya, Amitav: “‘Theorising the International Relations of Asia: Necessity or Indulgence?’ Some Reflections.” Pacific Review 30 (6), 2017, pp. 816, 817, 818, 819, 820, 821, 822, 824, 825. Similarly: Choi, Jong Kun: “Theorizing East Asian International Relations in Korea.” Asian Perspective 32 (1), 2008, pp. 193–216; Kim, Min Hyung: “East Asia International Relations and International Relations Theory: Where Does a Poor Fit Exist, and What to Do about It.” Journal of Asian and African Studies. 2018. Retrieved on 15.07.2018 from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0021909618777269.

4 Alagappa, Muthiah: “International Relations Studies in Asia: Distinctive Trajectories.” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 11 (2), 2011, pp. 193–230; Kelly, Robert: “The International Relations Discipline and the Rise of Asia”. Duck of Minerva, 2012. Retrieved on 15.07.2018 from: http://duckofminerva.com/2012/11/the-international-relations-discipline-and-the-rise-of-asia.html. Similarly on “indigenous Asian IR”: Tan, See Seng: “Southeast Asia: Theory and Praxis in International Relations,” In: Tickner, Arlene B./Waever, Ole (eds.): International Relations Scholarship around the World, Routledge: Abingdon, Oxon and New York, 2009, p. 123.

5 Ling, L.H.M./Chen, Boyu: “International Relations and the Rise of Asia: A New ‘Moral Imagination’ for World Politics?” In: Gofas, Andreas/Hamati-Ataya, Inanna/Onuf, Nicholas (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of the History, Philosophy and Sociology of International Relations. SAGE: Los Angeles 2018, p. 134.

Marcin Grabowski, Tomasz Pugacewicz

1. Can We Apply Western IR Theories in Asia and Africa?

Despite the growing body of literature analyzing international relations outside Europe, or even outside the ‘Western World’, theoretically grounded studies of Asia and Africa are still in high demand, as International Relations (IR) scholarship on and in those regions seems underdeveloped. This is the case both in application of Western theories in research on Asia and Africa, but especially IR theory-building in both regions. This book aims to at least partially fill the gap in the existing literature by applying existing mainstream IR theories to selected case studies of the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Sub-Saharan African regions.

Asia and Africa cases have been selected for a number of reasons. Asia is currently the most substantial region in terms of its economic potential, population, military buildup or simply becoming the center of gravity in the world. African countries, in turn, are gaining more attention due to growing populations, economies, but also numerous conflicts, especially non-state ones. Africa has also been developing links with Asian states (and applying Asian development models), and the great power competition, especially visible between China and the US, has become an important driving force in African politics and development. These dynamics naturally generate the need to consider linking the sets of events to accurate theoretical approaches.

International Relations theory is a kind of matrix or a tool used for better understanding phenomena in international relations. Therefore, as the Asia-Pacific region, followed by Africa, has become more important in global international relations, a number of questions arise. Whether we need specific Asia and Africa-oriented IR theories to describe, explain and predict developments in regional international relations or we can apply or adapt the so-called Western IR theories is probably the crucial one.

The main research question, driving this publication was, whether we can apply ‘Western’ IR theories in Asia and Africa, following the assumptions of Amitav Acharya and Barry Buzan in the book Non-Western International Relations Theory: Perspectives on and beyond Asia. Despite growing theoretical awareness, especially in East Asia (as IR scholarship in Asia has been developing rather well, especially in the 21st century), and to a lesser extent in Africa (as this ←11 | 12→continent definitely lags behind), Western theoretical perspectives still seem to have highest explanatory power, hence can be applied in those regions as well.

If Western IR theories are suitable for understanding international relations in Asia and Africa, then the next question arises, whether we should apply one theoretical paradigm or analytical eclecticism would be a better approach. Therefore, the basic goal of this set of essays is an attempt to view different international relations processes via the prism of one or two of the so-called Western theories. In most case study essays from our book, authors applied two theoretical paradigms at the same time, as following normally contradictory assumptions provides a broader analytical perspective.

IR Theory in Africa and Asia

In 1998 the book International Relations Theory and the Third World edited by Stephanie Neuman was published. The basic assumption of the book was the irrelevance of IR theories which had been dominant in the 1990s (realist, neorealist and neoliberal) to the so-called Third World due to the Cold War logic of IR scholarship. Therefore, a set of ill-fitting concepts were exemplified, like anarchy not fitting to less developed countries (they are still in a hierarchical system), the idea of the international system itself (as those countries have a kind of alternative system, different from the one mostly theorized about since beginning of the Cold War), rational choice theory (actually not fully relevant in the Western world either), different concepts of the state and sovereignty (with numerous interventions by great powers) and finally, a different concept of alliances (usually weak or somehow enforced by external actors).1 Even though the described approach seemed correct almost twenty years ago, many developing countries, especially in Asia (to a lesser extent in Africa), have changed and the concepts described above as ill-fitting can be applied to these regions as well.

Challenges to IR theory development in Asia and Africa were then addressed in numerous publications in the early 21st century. One should focus on Africa’s Challenge to International Relations Theory edited by Kevin Dunn and Timothy Shaw. This collection of essays addresses various issues concurrently with the book edited by S. Neuman. A crucial difference, one may observe, is an attempt to overcome a kind of exclusion of African IR from global IR thinking, especially IR theorizing. Meanwhile, K. Dunn shows the inadequacy of existing dominant ←12 | 13→IR theories, of neo-realism (referring to K. Waltz’s statement of basing IR theory on great powers), classical realism (referring to H. Morgenthau’s idea of Africa as an empty space before World War II) and neoliberalism (focusing mostly on replicating the Western model of economic and political development). Moreover, structuralist theories, usually associated with development in Africa, like Marxism, dependency theory or world-systems theory, are also rooted in the Westphalian state system and analyzing African reality through the Western prism of ‘periphery’.2

Additionally, authors in the above-mentioned volume aimed at adjusting basic concepts of IR, like sovereignty, power, states and nations, to the specificity of African international relations and politics, showing that Africa is meaningful for global policy and IR theorizing should also take it into account.3 Despite the abovementioned, realism or neo-realism has still been the dominant paradigm in analyzing African international relations but to some extent approaches, like theories of new wars, are more appropriate to be applied. Even if we refer to regional integration, the neorealist approach may have high explanatory power.4

An expectancy to adjust IR theories to Africa has been visible especially since the beginning of the 21st century, as Africa has become an ever more important element of global policy, including Chinese expansion and Sino-American competition on the continent. Many IR researchersrs around the globe propose wider inclusion of African experiences or scholars, as it may support creation of new IR theories, being better analytical matrixes for international relations in Africa.5 Others, however, postulate modifications or exclusion of given theories, ←13 | 14→not necessarily explaining African international relations, like neo-realism, and arguing that most IR theories actually fit to African international relations.6

Authors of this volume definitely support the thesis of applicability and adaptability of the Western IR theories to Africa, even though understanding the need for broader inclusion of African experiences and scholars into the process of modifications of those theories. Economic development in Africa, followed by or preceded by political development in many African countries, makes those theories even more useful.7

Nevertheless, IR theory development in Africa has been almost non-existent, and some scholars blame the West for deliberate marginalization of IR researchers from Africa on the basis of colonialism or racism, especially in the past, referring to five categories:

exclusion as punishment – in a reference to the knowledge-as-power approach,

representation and positionality – peripheral views play no role in knowledge formation,

standardization – Africans view politics differently than the mainstream hence do not necessarily fit the standard,

imperialism and colonialism – resulting in deprecating the African corpus of knowledge, hence making it impossible to encompass them in Western IR theories and finally,

silencing – removing shameful practices of the past by an abstract approach).

These hamper the development of theoretical reflection on international relations in Africa.8 This has definitely been only one of the reasons for the ←14 | 15→underdevelopment of African IR theory, but we should have those issues in mind as well.

Broader analysis of non-Western IR theory was published in the book Non-Western International Relations Theory: Perspectives on and beyond Asia (2010) edited by Amitav Acharya and Barry Buzan.9 It begins with a famous essay, Why is there no Non-Western International Relations Theory? authored by A. Acharya and B. Buzan. The authors refer to the problem of the lack of IR theory in Asia, but also issues connected with the incompatibility of the Western, especially the American, positivist approach to IR theory with Asian approaches, and challenges with applying Western theories to non-Westphalian systems (e.g. Chinese tributary system, Sinocentric world order and Confucian culture). Therefore the most important Asian players do not fit into realist or liberal categories in IR theory, as China is trying not to be perceived as a threat to the global system, and Japan as a ‘normal’ great power. Acharya and Buzan classifies South Korea and Japan as fitting better into the realist paradigm, with Southeast Asia being difficult to be analyzed, no matter what paradigm is applied.10

The situation described above has been changing recently with growing IR scholarship in Asia, and an attempt to find proper approaches to applying Western IR theories, but also previewing Asian attempts at IR theorizing will be made in this volume. This dual approach is legitimized especially in the case of Asia, as states in Asia become more Western-like in their political and economic development; hence application of existing Western IR theories is justified analytically. At the same time, development of IR theorizing in Asia allows us to expect new tools, better adapted to local conditions. In the case of Africa, we may expect similar developments with a certain delay, compared with Asia.

Theoretical Development

The first part of this book is focused on the theoretical background of the analysis in reference to case studies evaluated later. Marcin Grabowski and Tomasz Pugacewicz provide a brief overview of selected mainstream theoretical ←15 | 16→paradigms applied by other authors in this volume. They focus on the historical development, the main assumptions and selected theories within those paradigms, as well as their applicability in studies on non-Western international relations. We can find discussion of realism (including classical realism, structural realism, neoclassical realism, strategic realism and brief references to theories like hegemonic stability theory or power transition theory), social constructivism, liberalism (with sociological liberalism, republican liberalism, institutional liberalism and interdependence), rationalism (or the English School) and finally critical theories (or neo-Marxist ones). Brief reference is also made to analytic eclecticism and foreign policy analysis (FPA).

Chapter 3 in this volume, authored by Marcin Grabowski and Tomasz Pugacewicz, refers to IR theory and attempts to show how those Western IR theories were adapted in scholarship on Asia and Africa. Again, the usefulness of realism, the most widespread paradigm in Asia, and to a limited extent in Africa (due to the fact that nation-states are less powerful in Africa than in other continents) is analyzed. Constructivism has been quite promising in both Asian IR (with growing importance in the 21st century, especially in China), but also quite valuable in African IR, as construction of African identity, to a large extent in a reference to ethnicity and nationalism is sometimes described as a core for Pan-African IR theory building. In terms of liberalism, institutional liberalism connected with regionalism and regional integration seems most useful in the case of both Asia and Africa, even though regional institutions are rather weak in comparison with their Western counterparts. The English School is used as an analytical paradigm in the region, but mostly in East Asia, even though a set of obstacles may be observed. Finally, critical or Marxist theories were used extensively in the past in peripheral (as non-mainstream) theorizing, but we may still find many examples when those theories are used to explain underdevelopment, especially in Africa.11

←16 | 17→

This chapter is followed by Marcin Grabowski’s analysis of International Relations scholarship development in the Asia-Pacific, including its Asian ancient philosophical roots, and historical development, as well as a reference to developments of theories in different Asian subregions. Deep analysis of Chinese IR scholarship portrays it as the most developed and theoretical one, also due to the fact that theory reception and development has been visible in China, especially after the end of the Cold War due to human and financial resources. Generally Northeast Asia has more achievements in this regard, as not only in China, but also in Japan and South Korea, we can observe development of theoretically grounded research, a growing number of study programs, scholarly journals focused on theoretical issues and finally attempts (not necessarily successful) at creation of homegrown theories. Both Southeast Asia and South Asia definitely lag behind, and despite some political leaders that influenced IR theory development in those regions, the quality of theory driven research is relatively poor, with almost no influential indigenous theorizing (even though we have attempts like the Singapore School based on the concept of Asian Values). As African IR theorizing still lags behind, we have decided to present the development of IR theorizing only in Asia.

Biographical notes

Marcin Grabowski (Volume editor) Tomasz Pugacewicz (Volume editor)

Marcin Grabowski is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Political Science and International Relations of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. His research interests focus on the Asia-Pacific Rim, American and Chinese foreign policies, theories of IR and the International Economics. Tomasz Pugacewicz is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Political Science and International Relations of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. His research interests focus on Foreign Policy Analysis, U.S. and Polish foreign policy decision making as well as history of International Relations in the U.S. and Poland.

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