IR Theories: Strengths and Weaknesses

After viewing the text “Perspectives help us decide what the primary cause of an event is” (Nau, 2014). Intrinsic in description are three principal perspectives; the realist, liberal, and identity perspectives.

As we look over the strength of the realist perspective. In the text it is stated that “The realist perspective focuses on conflict and war, not because people adopting this perspective favor war or believe war is necessary but because they hope by studying war to avoid it in the future” (Nau, 2014). I believe this to be one of the strengths as by studying war, you can therefore be better equipped to prevent it and if not successful, then you will be prepared to win it. I believe that the weakness of the realist perspective is the assumption that it does not allow for the possibility of the parties actually choosing to working together in the future. This makes the assumption that there is only one way in which the perspective would work.

The liberal perspective “is interested in the problem of cooperation” (Nau, 2014). That interest shows that as a result of a focus on cooperation between parties, they are able to rise above and avoid violence associated with conflicts throughout the world. However, conversely the same attributes which creates the strength of this perspective, can cause exposure to weaknesses. For example, as a result of cooperation as an emphasis, we realize that there is a rise in interdependence between societies, industries, and economies. These relationships have in turn led to globalization, which can eventually raise risk from security threats. This risk, is what I believe can be described as a weakness.

Identity perspective is reliant on the conceptualization of ideas as they relate to the identity of the players. I believe that focusing on the ideas which form the identity of a government and key power brokers on the global stage, enables one to better navigate the nuances associated with finding the a mutually beneficial outcome for all parties involved. I think the weakness of this issue can be seen as the dependence on the supporting factors for each of these identities.

In evaluating each of the perspectives which we discussed, I would think that the realist is the most accurate and comprehensive of the three. I base this on the numerous areas which are covered by this perspective. Running the gambit of concepts from anarchy to balance of power, shows that this perspective has the breath to consider a wider range of variables than the other perspectives.

Nau, Henry R. Perspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions, and Ideas, 4th Edition. CQ Press, 04/2014.