As an individual that has never taken any International Relations Theory course, I’m often surprised at the array of “lenses” I have been introduced in POLI367B in such a short period of time. Poli260, I believe, was taught through a realist lens that emphasized the international system as an anarchic system where an international ‘911’ does not exist. The rise of contradicting International Relations theories is one that poses a threat to I.R. as a science. As discussed in lecture, I believe Holsti was rational in his fear that emerging contemporary theories can threaten the unity of IR. In contrast, I also sympathize with the position that each “lens” is valuable to the school of I.R., and when combined, can allow us to have a deeper understanding of our international system.
My main motive as a third year Political Science major to take Dr. Crawford’s class was due to the immensely positive reviews I had heard of his teaching style. Furthermore, I believe knowledge of IR theory can be applied to our world – that is changing ever so rapidly. Whilst reading the first few chapters of our textbook, I immediately felt the strong divergence between the liberal and realist perspective on our international system. Although my ideas and beliefs are constantly transforming, my current viewpoint is that realism promotes truth. As a class last week, it has been established that no unshifting paradigm exists in the field of IR, however, realism looks at the facts, and how the world simply is. Although Kantian political theory and the idea of a cosmopolitan citizen is very appealing to most students at UBC – myself included… before I took a better look at our world – the simple reality persists that your state grants you your rights and freedoms. Liberalism justifies war only if it was an endeavour of human rights or “peacekeeping”, however, students should be weary of projects that claim to ‘make the world a better place’ because the intent and reality differ greatly.
Another perspective shared in lecture is Smith’s ideology that “there is always more than one story to tell.” Theories such as postmodernism emphasize these stories, and claim that our reality of the world is partly constructed by the viewer. However, I believe the constructivist and postmodernist way of thought can be a quite dangerous one – primarily because they appeal more to our feelings rather than facts. As students at a primarily liberal (leftist) institution, we often have concepts such as empathy and social justice shoved down our throats. In the noble pursuit of world peace, we often forget that empathy hinders our ability to think rationally and fairly. Hence the need for a realist perspective on international issues such as war or conflict.
Overall, I am extremely excited to take this course with Professor Crawford. I look forward on building on my international relations theory knowledge and learning from my peers as well.