In the last few decades, especially since the end of the Cold War, neorealism has been criticized from numerous sources in the field of international relations theory (Krause & Williams, 1996, p. 229). Together, this criticism has shown that neorealism is not suited to explain the behavior of states in the international system and the causes of interstate conflicts, which damages the legitimacy of realism as a whole. This paper acknowledges the current lack of legitimacy in realism, but claims that Mohammed Ayoob’s subaltern realism, a post-colonial, postpositivist, neoclassical perspective / theory, has rehabilitation potential for realism as a mainstream IR paradigm. This is because it is able to explain the behavior of a majority of states within the international system and the causes of a majority of interstate conflicts, an assertion this paper seeks to prove.
In order to achieve this, this paper will adhere to the following structure: first, the criteria by which a theory can be judged as successful will be established before neorealism is criticized to show why it does not meet these criteria. This criticism will take a post-colonial approach, focusing on the problem of western centrism in IR and its implications for neorealism. Then the subaltern realism of Ayoob is sketched. Here, its main principles are explained, showing how it differs from neorealism and how it atones for its mistakes, while also highlighting the fundamental role that classic realistic thinking plays in Ayoob’s formulation of the theory (Ayoob, 1998, p. 39- 41)). Finally, both neorealism and subaltern realism will be applied to a case study of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to show why the prior is impractical, unhelpful and successful, and to demonstrate that he is realism within the IR theory can rehabilitate.
How can we judge an IR theory as successful or unsuccessful?
In order to facilitate discussions about the failures of neorealism and the strengths of subaltern realism, it is first important to understand what makes an IR theory “successful” or “unsuccessful”. It should be noted here that, as Robert Cox noted, there is “no theory of universal validity” in the field of IR (Seethi, 2018). Stephen Walt responds and explains that “no single approach can capture the complexity of contemporary world politics” (Walt, 1998, p. 30). In other words, because of their enormous size and complexity, no theory or perspective can explain all the actions of all states in the international system at all times.
With this in mind, IR theories must aim to offer “majority validity” instead. To support this, Ayoob argues that, in order for a theory or perspective to be credible, it must explain the two most important questions in the field: why the majority of states behave as they do in the international system, and the causes of a large part of the interstate conflicts that occur therein (Ayoob, 2002, pp. 28, 33). If this succeeds, a theory provides “a substantive theory on its (IR) most important topic of all: war and peace” and is therefore useful for political decision-makers to prevent and improve conflicts (Mann, 1996, p. 221) .
Therefore, in order for an IR theory to be successful and of practical use to policy makers, it must adequately explain the behavior of a majority of states in international systems and the reasons why the majority of interstate conflicts arise. This article argues that neorealism is unsuccessful because it does not meet these criteria, while subaltern realism is successful because it does.
Why neorealism fails
Having set out the criteria that an IR theory must meet in order to be considered credible and practically useful, this paper argues that neorealism does not meet them. To do this, neorealism is sketched and then criticized to show that the theory, being western-centered and positivist, is incapable of capturing the actions of a majority of states in the international system and much of the conflicts that arise to explain between them.
Neorealism was formulated in particular by Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer after the Second World War. The theory represents a departure from the thinking of classical realism and argues that state behavior is motivated by the desire to increase its power in order to achieve security in the anarchic international system, while the earlier realistic doctrine saw states as maximizers of power (Dunne & Schmidt, 2017, p. 108). Waltz articulated this and stated that “the ultimate concern of states is not power, but security” (Waltz, 1989, p. 40). The theory, also known as structural realism, takes an empirical, positivistic approach and is interested in the “distribution of skills” among actors as this affects the structure of the system (Lobell, 2010, p. 1). This leads neorealism to its main argument – that the international system is most stable when its structure is bipolar in nature, as it was during the Cold War, since there is a balance of power between the two actors. A multipolar system like the one that existed before World War II is, according to neorealism, less stable and prone to conflict, as states tend to forge alliances with other states in order to achieve security advantages over rivals (Waltz, 1964, pp. 882-885). Neorealism can therefore be viewed as a positivist, nomothetical theory, meaning that it aims to identify universal scientific laws that govern state behavior, this rigid approach causing problems that will be further elaborated in a later part of this review ( Narizny, 2017) p. 160). This positivist approach leads to the fact that all states are viewed as power maximizers, with a bipolar international system being preferred over a multipolar one, since it sees the prior as more stable.
After the neorealism has been surveyed, a criticism can now be carried out. Having already mentioned that the main overarching criticism of this criticism is that the theory is too westernized, it should be noted that this problem applies to the entire mainstream IR theory, with the “mainstream IR theory “Relates largely to realism and liberalism and their various iterations. Stanley Hoffman, noting that the field is “an American social science … the study of American foreign policy was the study of the international system,” shows the dominance of the West in the study of IR and shows the inability to look beyond the West when it comes to formulation theory (Hoffman, 1977, pp. 41-42). Ayoob also identifies this problem. He describes a “monopoly over theoretical knowledge” that exists in IR theory in favor of states in the West (Ayoob, 2002, p. 29). This means that theories are formulated using data recorded by a minority of states in the international system, which states are well developed with (mostly) orderly domestic situations (Ayoob, 1998, p. 39). Obtaining evidence from a “restricted universe” is a key factor in the fact that current IR paradigms cannot explain the behavior of a majority of the states in the international system, since these states are usually very different from those on which these theories are based (Ayoob) 1998, p. 42). This analysis of the intellectual foundations of IR identifies the problem of western centrism which mainstream paradigms suffer from, which results in their being unable to meet the criteria set out in Section 1 and therefore unsuccessful. However, since the aim of this paper is not to criticize the current IR paradigms, the next task will be to show how this problem manifests itself specifically in the case of neorealism.
The problem of western centrism affects neorealism in several ways. First, the theory overlooks the vast majority of interstate conflicts that arise in the international system because they occur in the Third World outside of its intellectual boundaries. Kalevi Holsti’s research illustrates this by calculating that 159 of the 164 conflicts between 1945 and 1995 took place in the Third World (Holsti, 1996, p. 22, cited in: Ayoob, 1998, pp. 38-39). . In contrast, the conflict between the great powers has decreased dramatically since World War II, with no direct conflicts occurring during the same period (Roser, 2016). Neorealism, because of its close alignment with the West, ignores these Third World conflicts and the factors that cause them, falsely leading to the claim that the bipolar system was stable during the Cold War because there was no direct conflict between the great powers . This false claim shows why neorealism does not meet the criteria for a successful IR theory, as it overlooks the vast majority of interstate conflicts and the lack of stability in the developing world and makes it impossible to account for much of those conflicts or behavior declare a majority of the states in the international system.
Another negative effect that the problem of Western centrism has on neorealism is that the theory promotes a definition of security that applies only to the great power states, which means that it “understands the diverse and multidimensional nature of the security problem as cannot be explained confronted with the majority of actors in the international system ”(Ayoob, 1997, p. 121). As a result, neorealism assumes that states do not have to contend with internal threats and that they are coherent socio-political entities whose survival threats emanate from other states due to the anarchic nature of the international system (Clempson, 2011). . In reality, however, the majority of states in the international system are more concerned with internal than external threats (Ayoob, 1998, p. 33). UCDP data shows this, showing that between 1946 and 2018 the vast majority of armed conflicts occurring worldwide were internal in nature. In fact, 30 out of 37 armed conflicts in 2018 were internal, only one of which was interstate (Petersson et al., 2019).
In addition, interstate conflicts often started internally during this period before they were internationalized because other states provided assistance to one side of an internal conflict, which further demonstrates the importance of internal security for the motivation of state behavior (Themnér & Wallensteen, 2011, P. 528). . The claim of neorealism that external security is the most important motivating factor for the behavior of the state in the international system is therefore wrong, because due to its western-oriented focus it overlooks the fact that the majority of states in the international system are not coherent socio-political units . and that they are more concerned with internal than external threats. The theory is therefore unable to explain the behavior of a majority of states in the international system because it does not recognize the importance of domestic variables for influencing behavior and therefore cannot meet the criteria mentioned in Section 1.
By examining the nature of Third World states, further light can be shed on how the problem of Western centrism affects neorealism. Third world states are usually at a very early stage of state building, similar to “Florence in the 15th century and England in the 17th century” (Ayoob, 1998, p. 41). Regimes are therefore less able to achieve and maintain sovereignty, which explains why these states cannot be treated like the legitimate developed Western states when theorising in the IR. Developing countries are often at a very early stage of state-building due to the strong expansion of the international system due to decolonization after the Second World War, which makes them susceptible to internal disturbances and negative external influences (Ayoob, 1998), p. 32). Due to its western orientation, neorealism ignores decolonization and the resulting early stages of state building that prevail in the Third World when determining the causes of conflict. Mearsheimer’s view that all states must have power in relation to other states in order to maintain their position in the global hierarchy illustrates this, since he assumes that all states are domestically ordered well enough to actively participate in a larger international one To pursue influence (Mearsheimer, 1995, p. 34). Since the developing world makes up the majority of states in the international system, this further shows that the theory cannot meet the criteria for a successful IR theory.
At this stage of criticism, the question of how the problem of Western centrism negatively affects neorealism received great attention. This could logically lead to the question of why the theory cannot simply adapt to explain the breakdown of the bipolar system and decolonization. Examining the answer to this question will reveal the weaknesses of the positivist approach of neorealism. Neorealism can be viewed as positivistic because it was formulated empirically at a time when the IR discipline wanted to create “a scientific research program that was as objective and universal as possible” (Pellerin, 2012, p. 60). However, Robert Cox states that “all theories have perspective. Perspectives arise from a position in time and space. “(Cox, 1996, p. 87). Neorealism’s quest for objectivity is therefore ultimately unsuccessful, as it is a product of the time it was created in the Cold War and is based on data obtained from a “restricted universe”. This scientific approach makes him ignore its historical context (Ayoob, 1998, p. 42, Alawi, 2014, p. 60). The approach therefore also renders it unable to adapt to the expansion of the international system, which means that the majority of states fail to recognize it and cannot explain their behavior or the causes of conflicts between them (Ayoob, 2002, p. 30- ). 31).
This approach can be further criticized by comparing it to the classic English School approach. The English school rejected positivism, which means that it did not apply natural science methods to the social sciences in order to adapt to include the expansion of the international system in their perspective (Wight, 1966). Ayoob Hedley Bull notes here, who described IR theorizing as a “scientifically imperfect perceptual process, which is primarily characterized by the explicit dependence on the exercise of judgment” (Bull, 1969, p. 20, cited in: Ayoob, 2002, P. 20). 31). This approach is therefore aware of its historical context and the associated restrictions and can adapt itself through this “judgment exercise” (Bull, 1969, p. 20, cited in: Ayoob, 2002, p. 31). Bull differs from Waltz and argues that there is an expanding international society made up of common norms, values and institutions as opposed to an international system created by “contact between states and the effects of one state on another” (Hoffman, 1986) p. 185). For Bull, a change is taking place in international society due to the development of culture in societies that create different or common ideas about the goals of coexistence and cooperation of the state, a view that can be applied to all states. Waltz, on the other hand, saw the change in the structure of the international system as the result of changes in the distribution of state power, which led to the system moving from multipolar to bipolar (or vice versa), an analysis that is only potentially applicable to developed states ( Hoffman, 1986, p. 185). The English School’s approach reveals the disadvantages of neorealism’s rigid scientific approach, which makes it impossible for it to adjust to include most of the international system in its analysis, and shows why theory becomes the criteria for successful theorization in IR not fulfilled. In addition, the potential for adaptation of the classical approach, which is used by subaltern realism, is shown here.
This criticism has argued that, because of the problem of Western centrism and its positivist approach, neorealism cannot explain the actions of a majority of states in the international system and the causes of a majority of interstate conflicts. This problem limits the theory as it assumes that the problems faced by states in the developed world are the same in all states, since it is believed that all states have orderly domestic situations where in reality the antithesis prevails . Neorealism therefore has an outdated view of security and the motivating factors for state behavior in the international system. His positivist approach makes it impossible for him to extend his intellectual parameters beyond a minority of developed countries. The theory does not meet the criteria for a successful theorization in IR theory and thus shows why realism requires rehabilitation within IR theory.
What is subaltern realism and why is it successful?
After showing how neorealism fails as an IR theory, this section outlines subaltern realism and shows why it is successful as an IR theory. To achieve this, an examination of the Ayoob literature is first carried out. It can be seen here that the term “subaltern” is used because it refers to the less powerful part of a society that tends to make up the majority of its population (Ayoob, 1998, p. 45). It should be noted immediately that Ayoob, like Bull, uses the above-mentioned classic approach and refers to the basic work by Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes (Ayoob, 1998, pp. 39-41). Of central importance here is the period in which you wrote, when states in Europe were not coherent socio-political units and the leaders had to try to find the right balance between power and legitimacy. Ayoob points out that most states in today’s international system are “at the same stage of historical development as Florence in the 15th century and England in the 17th century,” but agrees with the realistic notion that the system is anarchic and state is -centric (Ayoob, 1998, pp. 41-43).
Subaltern realism does not therefore regard all states as highly developed, functioning entities like neorealism and is therefore much better suited to explain the actions of a majority of states in the international system. This is because it is recognized that the main role of these actors is state-building, not the acquisition of power in relation to other rival states, where state-building is a domestic task with an external aspect, as favorable regional balance of power benefits the state’s corporations make (Ayoob, 1998, p. 43).
Having recognized this, subaltern realism makes four important statements on theorization in relation to third world states. The first of these is that “questions of national order and international order are inextricably linked, especially in the area of conflict and conflict resolution” (Ayoob, 1998, p. 44). Here developing countries are vulnerable to the policies of the great powers and their institutions because of their early state-building phase. The structural adjustment policies of the great powers show this, forcing Third World countries to try to achieve Western levels of development in just decades, while the funding of proxy wars remains a major cause of internal and external conflicts in the Third World (Ayoob, 1998, p . 45, Themner & Wallensteen, 2011, p. 528). This shows the influence of the international order on third world states. Ayoob then asserts that variables at the national level must be given analytical priority when explaining a large part of the conflicts in the international system, as they are the main cause of such conflicts, but that external variables must also be taken into account due to their destabilizing effect on the domestic order (Ayoob, 1998, p. 45). The 2011 Libyan Revolution can be cited as an example of domestic unrest being a major cause of interstate conflict, as growing unrest in the state led Great Britain, the US and France to intervene militarily in order to remove Colonel Muammar Gaddafi from the Power (BBC, 2011, Yonamine, 2011, pp. 1-2). Steven David also prioritizes internal disruptions because they cause humanitarian disasters and impede access to natural resources. Both can be causes of external interventions, which supports Ayoob’s claim (Steven, 1998, p. 77).
Finally, Ayoob notes that the relationship between internal and external variables explains the relationship between internal and interstate conflicts (Ayoob, 1998, p. 45). For example, states could try to help the diaspora in the internal conflict of another state with which they were separated due to colonial borders, which leads to it becoming interstate. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is an example of this, as will be shown later in this paper (Council on Foreign Relations, 2020).
These assumptions show the stark contrast between the approaches of subaltern realism and neorealism, with the prior emphasis on the importance of variables at the national level in triggering interstate conflicts, a far better understanding of the nature of a majority of states in the international system and the causes of the conflict between them as their focus on power distribution and external security.
Based on this, Ayoob outlines five variables that should be investigated in predicting, explaining and preventing conflicts. The first variable is the level of state formation by the participating states. The less developed they are, the more likely internal conflicts and disturbances become (Ayoob, 1998, p.45). Second, the ethnic composition of a state is because the less coherent and unique the population’s perception of nationalism, especially when compared to that of the government, the greater the likelihood of internal conflict (Ayoob, 1998, p. 46). Next comes disputed area, as if it were between states or groups, then it is more likely that internal and external conflicts arise (Ayoob, 1998, p.46). The involvement of the great power is also a variable, as rivalries between these states can lead to internal conflicts in third world states. In economic terms, this exacerbates the problem of the international division of labor, since these developing countries are economically dependent on the global north, which in turn affects their behavior in national and international systems (Ayoob, 1998, p. 46). Finally, Ayoob also determines international norms as a variable, as if they allow the dissolution of a state, then this is more likely, as was the case in 1991 with the USSR (Ayoob, 1998, p. 46).
These variables enable the IR theorist to predict and explain internal disturbances, which is a major cause of interstate conflict in the international system. This further shows how subaltern realism better understands the factors influencing the behavior of Third World states in the international system, compared to neorealism, which overlooks them due to its narrow focus on the global north.
Despite these strengths, Ayoob’s theory is not without criticism, as his view of security shows. He states that “Security … is defined in terms of internal and external weaknesses that threaten or possibly weaken or weaken state structures … the more a state and / or a regime … fall towards (s) the invulnerable end of the vulnerable -invulnerable continuum, the safer it is. “(Ayoob, 1997, p. 130). Critics argue that this is indeed a Western view of security, which assumes that state security is always legitimate and always seeks to improve the security of the entire population, not just a ruling elite. Turki Mahmoud Alawi, for example, argues that Ayoob “rejects the view that the state actually imposes an illegitimate form of security on the population” (Alawi, 2014, p. 61). This is short-sighted, however, as Ayoob recognizes that states with authoritarian regimes that use security to subdue their populations normally fall within the vulnerable area of the “vulnerable-invulnerable continuum” (Ayoob, 1997, pp. 130-131). Subaltern realism is therefore aware of the harmful effect that repressive state security has on both the internal order within a state and on the legitimacy of the regime itself. However, the theory could be improved here if the delegitimization effect that this has internationally was outlined, as this can often lead to external interference. Ayoob’s definition of security is therefore imperfect and yet overall solid. The flexible classical basis of the theory enables this definition to be easily extended to an international dimension.
In summary, subaltern realism is a postcolonial realistic IR perspective / theory that incorporates the developing third world states, the majority of states in the international system, into its analysis of state behavior and interstate conflicts. She sees the challenges that states face and the factors that motivate their behavior to be different from those of neorealism, and argues convincingly that the desire for internal order is a stronger motivating factor for state behavior in the international system than the need for Power over other states because the majority of states are in the early stages of state building. In addition, by identifying internal disruptions as the main cause of interstate conflict, subaltern realism encourages a more modern concept of security compared to neorealism, which views security as an external problem. Finally, using the classic realistic, postpositivist approach, subaltern realism is not tied to the rigid empiricism from which neorealism suffers, but is aware of the historical time span over which it was formulated and can adapt as a result. Subaltern realism therefore meets the criteria for a successful IR theory, since it can explain the behavior of a majority of states in the international system and the causes of a majority of interstate conflicts and is therefore suitable for policy making.
Neorealism and subaltern realism in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
After a critique of neorealism and subaltern realism has shown that the latter is more credible as an IR theory, since it meets the criteria for a successful IR theory set out in Section 1, this conclusion is now tested using a case study from Nagorno-Karabakh -Conflict. This conflict was chosen because it is an ethnic conflict that shows how domestic disturbances can cause interstate conflicts (Yamskov, 1991, pp. 636-637). To conduct this case study, the history of the conflict is briefly outlined before applying neorealism to show how the theory overlooks the root causes of conflict and fails to provide a convincing explanation of the conflict, making it unsuitable for achieving conflict improvement . Im Anschluss daran wird dasselbe mit dem subalternen Realismus geschehen, um die Schlussfolgerungen der Abschnitte 2 und 3 zu stützen.
Berg-Karabach ist eine armenische Region mit ethnischer Mehrheit in Aserbaidschan, über die seit 1988 nach der Unabhängigkeit der beiden Staaten von der Sowjetunion ein direkter Konflikt mit Armenien aufgetreten ist, nachdem die beiden Staaten 1920 nach ihrer Unabhängigkeit von den Osmanen einen Konflikt zwischen den beiden Staaten über die Region geführt hatten Empire (Harutyunyan, 2017, S. 69). Aufgrund eines Waffenstillstands nach einem Sieg der ethnischen Armenier und der Gründung der Republik Artsakh in der Region im Jahr 1991 wurde der Konflikt als „eingefroren“ bezeichnet, während die Organisation für Sicherheit und Zusammenarbeit im Jahr 2000 Friedensgespräche geführt hat Europa (OSZE Minsk) (Rat für auswärtige Beziehungen, 2020). Trotz dieses Konflikts ist es in den letzten Jahren häufig vorgekommen (Harutyunyan, 2017, S. 70, Council on Foreign Relations, 2020, BBC, 2016). Andere Staaten haben sich ebenfalls in den Konflikt verwickelt, nämlich Russland, das armenische Streitkräfte versorgt, und die Türkei, die Aserbaidschan unterstützt, indem sie 1993 ihre Grenze zu Armenien schließen (Harutyunyan, 2017, S. 70-71). Dies gibt daher einen kurzen Überblick über die Geschichte des Konflikts und seinen aktuellen Status.
Nachdem dies geschehen ist, wird der Neorealismus nun auf den Konflikt angewendet, um die Argumentation des Papiers zu unterstützen. Der Neorealismus würde bei der Erklärung des Konflikts behaupten, Armenien habe für die Unabhängigkeit der Region Berg-Karabka gekämpft, um zu versuchen, seine Macht durch territorialen Gewinn zu stärken. Auf diese Weise wird seine Sicherheit gegenüber Aserbaidschan und anderen feindlichen Nachbarn wie der Türkei gestärkt. Neorealisten würden auch die Verteilung der Fähigkeiten zwischen den beiden Staaten untersuchen und dabei Aserbaidschans größere natürliche Ressourcen, insbesondere Erdgas, zur Kenntnis nehmen. Sie würden daher behaupten, dass die Beteiligung Armeniens an dem Konflikt ein Versuch ist, ihren wirtschaftlichen Nachteil zu verringern.
Diese Interpretation ist jedoch fehlerhaft, da sie wichtige historische Faktoren ignoriert und auch davon ausgeht, dass Armenien und Aserbaidschan nach denselben Wünschen und Interessen handeln, die die entwickelten Staaten der Ersten Welt haben. Da der Neorealismus ahistorisch ist, ist er sich der Bedeutung des Kolonialismus für die Auslösung des Konflikts nicht bewusst. Die Sowjetunion hat das Autonome Gebiet Berg-Karabach in der Sowjetrepublik Aserbaidschan geschaffen, obwohl es eine mehrheitlich armenische Bevölkerung hat, und kennt auch den vorherigen Konflikt zwischen den beiden nicht die beiden Staaten in der Region (Harutyunyan, 2017, S. 70). Infolgedessen wird auch der ethnische Aspekt des Konflikts ignoriert, ein wesentlicher innerstaatlicher Faktor. Diese Interpretation zeigt, wie der Neorealismus alle Staaten als entwickelt behandelt, weil er Beweise aus einem „eingeschränkten Universum“ zieht, wodurch er die Feinheiten und Nuancen von Staaten der Dritten Welt ignoriert und nicht in der Lage ist, die in Abschnitt 1 dargelegten Kriterien zu erfüllen oder zu helfen Konfliktverbesserung erreichen (Ayoob, 1998, S. 42).
Der subalterne Realismus ist weitaus nützlicher, wenn es um den Berg-Karabach-Konflikt geht. Im Gegensatz zum Neorealismus ist es sich der historischen Ursachen und des ethnischen Aspekts des Konflikts bewusst, wobei die Region Opfer von „kolonial gestalteten Grenzen… ist, die den vorkolonialen Affinitäten der Bevölkerung und den gemeinsamen Mythen und Loyalitäten wenig Beachtung schenken“. (Ayoob, 1998, S. 42). Die Beteiligung Armeniens an dem Konflikt erklärt sich daher aus seinem Wunsch, der Sezessionsbewegung in Berg-Karabach zu helfen, und zeigt, wie innerstaatliche Faktoren zu zwischenstaatlichen Konflikten führen können. Furthermore, the theory also notes the involvement of more powerful states, notably Russia and Turkey, and the exacerbating effect they have had through funding the conflict and through Turkey closing their border with Armenia (Harutyunyan, 2017, pp. 70-71). Finally, Subaltern Realism also draws attention to the early stage of state-building of both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Having been confronted with this task upon gaining independence both states have naturally sought to achieve territorial and national integrity in the aftermath of a long colonial history, with this being a leading cause of conflict between the two.
This case study therefore shows how Subaltern Realism is able to provide a far more convincing explanation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict than Neorealism. The explanation given is keenly aware of both the nature and history of Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are not the highly developed units that Neorealism presumes them to be, with Neorealism also being ignorant of the colonially drawn borders that are a key cause of ethnic conflict here. It is for these reasons also that Subaltern Realism is more suited for prescribing strategies for conflict alleviation. Through this case study it can be seen that Subaltern Realism’s understanding of Third World states and the factors that motivates their behaviour in the international system is key in allowing it to provide a deeper, more convincing explanation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict than Neorealism, showing how the theory is able to fulfil the criteria set out in section 1 whilst supporting the conclusion of sections 1 and 2.
This paper has aimed to argue that Mohamed Ayoob’s Subaltern Realism possesses rehabilitative potential for Realism within IR theory due to it fixing the flaws of Neorealism by being able to explain the behaviour of a majority of states in the international system and the causes of conflict between them. These criteria are key for successful theorising in IR and have therefore been used as a method of testing the credibility of both Neorealism and Subaltern Realism. In order to show how Neorealism fails to satisfy these criteria and show why Realism requires rehabilitation the theory has been critiqued from a post-colonial perspective, showing how the problem of western centrism affects it. Here it can be seen that this causes it to draw evidence from a small minority of developed states, leaving it unable to account for Third World states entering the system as a result of decolonisation. As these states form the vast majority of those in the international system Neorealism is therefore unable to satisfy the test criteria. The theory’s central argument, that the bipolar system of the Cold War was stable in nature, is erroneous as a result as it ignores the lack of order amongst less developed states during the period. In addition to this the theory’s positivist approach was also criticised due to it preventing Neorealism from expanding its analysis to include states in the Third World.
Subaltern Realism has then been analysed in order to show how it is able to satisfy the criteria for successful IR theorising. Through examining the features of Subaltern Realism it has been shown that the theory incorporates Third World states into a neo-classical realist analytical framework, noting that states in the Third World are at an early stage of state-building and are prone to domestic disorder, with this being a key cause of interstate conflict. Furthermore, the theory is also keenly aware of the history of developing states, giving it strong explanatory potential in relation to interstate conflict. Following this examination both theories have been applied to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, showing how Subaltern Realism provides a more useful and credible analysis of the conflict than Neorealism, showing how the latter theory’s western-centric nature hinders its practical viability.
This allows this paper to draw three final conclusions. Firstly, that Neorealism is unsuitable for use as an IR theory and possesses little explanatory ability for a majority of the world. Secondly, that Subaltern Realism is both convincing and credible as an IR theory and that it represents a superior alternative to Neorealism. Thirdly, and most significantly, that Realism requires rehabilitation due to the failings of Neorealism, and that this can be achieved through the application Ayoob’s theory of Subaltern Realism.
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Written at: University of Birmingham
Written for: Dr. George Kyris
Date written: 9/2020
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