From the First World War to the terror attacks against majorWestern countries today, conflicts have always been the key feature of theinternational system.
As a result, the international system is argued to beconflictual and hierarchical by different International Relation theories.Marxists believe it is capitalism which is deeply integrated with economic andsocial-political system that cause conflicts. It categorises people intoclasses and it is doomed to be overturned and replaced by communism. Liberalstake a different approach, suggesting that there is no higher authority abovesovereign states which result in the conflictual phenomena. This essay, byadopting both Marxist and Liberal approach, argues that world politics isinherently conflictual and hierarchical. This essay will first examine thedivision of classes of people argued by Karl Marx, then it will evaluate thealienating and exploiting characteristic of capitalism.
Followed by theexplanation of Gramsci’s Culture Hegemony, this essay will evaluate liberals’argument of the anarchical international system. After all, this essayconcludes world politics is conflictual and hierarchical. MainEssay: The internationalsystem is argued to be conflictual and hierarchical. Indeed, the world today depictsthe picture that we live in a conflictual international system where conflicts,warfare, tensions and terror attacks happen frequently.
Therefore, it isimportant to evaluate the inherent characteristic of global politics. From a Marxistperspective, capitalism encourages class division, alienation, exploitation andwill eventually stimulate social conflicts and provoke social revolution.Consequentially, Marxists argue that political reform and the transformation tocommunism is both necessary and inevitable (Marx and Engels, 1848). Besides,world politics is also argued to be hierarchical and conflictual because of itsanarchical feature. Neo-liberal scholars argue that because there is no higherauthority above all nation-states in the international system, the world isinherently anarchical. However, liberals suggest peace can be maintained throughinstitutions and cooperation between states. Overall, this essay argues thatworld politics is innately conflictual and hierarchical and there are tworeasons behind it. One is the problem of capitalism which dominates the globalpolitical system.
The other is the lack of higher authority and trusts betweensovereign states. This essay will use Marxism and liberalism to justify myargument. Capitalismis the major reason that world politics is inherently conflictual.
Influencedby liberal cosmopolitanism, Marx and Engels believed that global economicinterdependence and worldwide capitalised governments will eventually provokethe conflictual relationship between waged workers and bourgeoises. As aresult, social transformation and the overturn of capitalist class will occur(Teschke, 2008). There are three key problems of capitalism that willeventually cause its own end. Firstly, capitalism divides society intodifferent classes, it categorises people into those who own the means ofproduction and those who do not (Marx and Engel, 1848). This unique capitalist social relation, arguedby Rupert (2003), contributes to uneven social power between classes.
Thecapitalist class owns means of production as their private property and theworking class can only sell their labour for survival. Thus, capitalismhighlights the division of labour and it is inherently hierarchical.Besides, capitalismalso alienates the working-class people. Under the capitalist system, the working-classpeople are alienated from the results of their labour. When workers produce objects,they cannot have control or ownership of it, instead, the objects created byworkers are owned by capitalists (Marx, 1932). Moreover, capitalism alsoalienates workers from the process of production.
Workers not only have nocontrol over the products they created, they also cannot control their workingenvironment and. They are forced to sell their labour only to survive yet donot feel content or achieve satisfaction from their work. Thirdly, workers arealienated from their own species being. Marx, inspired by Hegel, believed that aman is called man is because of his relationship to himself and his environment.Men are driven by history, but he can also gain self-consciousness and changethe history and political environment around him. Man can create his ownhistory and emancipation is possible. (Buecker, 2003). However, under capitalism,our ability is submerged.
Therefore, with the loss of control over products andcreativity, workers also lose their humanity. Eventually, it is argued thatcapitalism alienates a man from others. Workers are seen as commodities thatcan be traded for profits (Cox, 1998). Hence, due to the alienatingcharacteristic of capitalism, Marx believes that it is innately problematic andconflictual.Furthermore,capitalism exploits workers and generates inequality in the society. Marx’slabour theory of value explains this exploitative phenomenon. Marxdistinguished between use value and exchange value, however, in capitalist societybourgeoisies only concentrated on exchange value and ignore the use value. Theprice of commodities is not determined by the time and effort used to produceit but depends on the pleasure of the user.
In addition, the surplus valueinitially created by workers are taken away and became profits of thebourgeoises (Brewer, 2002). Hence workers are further exploited as they aredeprived of the value they generated. Also, Capitalism stimulates inequalityand widen the inequality gap between the rich and the poor which lead toconflicts and social changes. Wallerstein (1974) illustrates the worldcapitalist system as layers of stratification. He stated that the world economycategorises states into three types: the core, the semi-periphery and theperiphery. The growing economy and industrialisation require further expansionof states in search of raw materials. The periphery states are major suppliersof raw materials to the core states and the semi-periphery states act as amiddle ground, being both the exploiter and exploited. With furtherglobalisation, inequality deeply widens between these states and the strugglefor raw materials eventually cause conflicts.
For example, it is argued that onemajor reason that the US intervened in the Persian Gulf War is the pursuit ofoil. The US has become increasingly dependent on oil, containing 25% of theworld oil consumption (Aarts, 1992). Furthermore, the capitalists’ pursuit ofmaterials also leads to imperialism and colonialism.
Such as British Empire andits colonisation of India, Ghana, Egypt, Zimbabwe and a number of countries inAfrica and Asian for raw material and new market. Thus, capitalism is the mainsource of conflicts over raw material and the cause of colonisation andimperialism. Admittedlythere are certain problems with Marxism and capitalism did generate economicgrowth in certain countries, boost production of commodities, and encouragemarket competition. Marxism is flawed because of its false prediction ofpolitical transformations in the industrialised states. Marx believed thepolitical revolution will occur in highly capitalised society such as Britain,instead, revolutions occurred in Russia, a rural and relatively underdevelopedstate (Burchill, 2009). Furthermore, Walt criticised that Marxists ignored theimportance of geopolitics, nationalism and war but focused tremendously oneconomic based and superstructure. He argued that nationalism was a moreimportant feature of society than working class and during the First World Warthe working-class people found more in common with their national capitalistsrather than foreign workers (Burchill, 2009).
Moreover, today’s socialstructure changed dramatically, and it is more complex with the growing andempowering middle class, rather than simplified identification of bourgeoisesand proletariats. To explainthe inconsistency of the empirical evidence and Marx’s predictions, Gramscideveloped the theory of hegemony to explain the reason capitalism still existswith no challenges from major western countries despite its problematiccharacteristic. Instead of economic-concentrated, Gramsci argued that politicalleadership is based on a misleading consent that favours the ruling class(Bates, 1975). He suggested the society is constituted of both civil andpolitical sector and the ruling class dominates both. By manipulating theideas, beliefs, values and perceptions of the society, the ruling classeventually mislead the public and gains the consent to continue its domination.
The capitalist class created a cultural hegemony and its ideas and valuesbecome the common sense so that working class thought they were pursuing theirinterests while in reality, they were serving the interests of the elites byaccepting and enduring the status quo. For example, western states offer greatwelfare system such as free education or healthcare so that their citizensconceive to the capitalist system. Therefore, he calls for the construction ofintellectual-moral bloc so that the majority can enjoy intellectual progressrather than a small number of elites and from there the division between leadersand those to be led can disappear (Rupert, 2003). In such way, an emancipatoryculture can be built which can lead to social movement. Anotherreason that world politics is hierarchical and problematic is that there is nohigher authority above states in international society. Neo-liberalism suggeststhat the world is anarchical because there is no ruling state above nationstates (Axelrod and Keohane, 1985).
Also, Mearsheimer (1995) argued that statesalways prioritise their survival and national interests, therefore it isunlikely for states to trust each other and cooperation between states are notsustainable. Hence, the international system will always be conflictual astoday’s ally can be tomorrow’s enemy. Liberal suggests that even under theanarchical international system, conflicts can be pacified, and peace can bemaintained mainly through international institutions and economicinterdependence. It is argued that because of the concern of trusts amongstates as realists argued, international institutions and regimes are importantas they provide more information and tranquillity to actors, regulate andmonitor states’ behaviours, raise the costs of cheating and enforce punishment,and reduce transactions costs (Milner, 1992). For instance, the EuropeanEconomic Community greatly reduces transaction costs with its member states andthe Single Market promotes free trade (European Union, 2017). Also, the KyotoProtocol in 1997 bound 37 states and the EU members to reduce greenhouse gas upto 5% (United Nations, 2017), and the Paris agreement which 171 members joinedall show cooperative behaviours to combat climate change and achieve mutualbenefits. Furthermore, the establishment of the United Nations and the EuropeanUnion all present that cooperation is feasible and important to prevent furtherdevastating warfare and peacekeeping, as well as humanitarian interventionscontribute to the alleviation of conflicts and human suffering. In addition, International regimes also boostthe worry of the shadow of the future where states’ current decision-makingwill influence and have consequences in the future.
International regimes canpunish those who cheat or defect, reminding states their current behaviour willimpact themselves in the future (Axelrod and Keohane, 1985). For example, thebreach of international law, regulations or rules might lead to economic andpolitical sanctions from other nation states. The United Nations SecurityCouncil passed four rounds of sanctions against Iran for its failure to complywith the Non-Proliferation Treaty (BBC, 2010). Also, in 2017 the UNSC led bythe US imposed further sanctions on North Korea, punishing the state for itscontinuous aggressive missile testing behaviour (Gaouette and Joseph, 2017).Hence, with the help of international institutions to monitor and regulate,states face consequences for non-compliance and they make it easier for statesto cooperate with fewer concerns of cheating and rules-breaking. Admittedlythere are concerns over the unequal distribution of gains among states.
Grieco (1988)asserted that states would prioritise their relative gains rather than absolutegains, and states might refuse to cooperate or embrace limited commitment ifother states are achieving greater relative gains. States might avoidcooperation and worry that unequal distribution of benefits will generategreater potentiality for some states to be future powerful enemies. Forinstance, the US president signed the executive order to withdraw America fromthe Trans-Pacific Partnership, claiming it hurts US interests and costsAmerican jobs (Bradner, 2017).
Trump (White House, 2017) also withdrew the US fromParis Agreement, arguing that the agreement and its restrictions on energy areunfair and harmful to American business and workers while benefiting countriessuch as China and India. Nonetheless, Keohane (1984) argued that relativeconcern is not the major concern of states, instead, states intend to maximisetheir absolute gains regardless of the relative gains of others.Toconclude, this essay has examined that the world politics is both conflictualand hierarchical from Marxists and liberal perspectives. Marxists argue thatinternational system widely adopts the ideology of capitalism which dividespeople into different classes, alienates workers from their products, labour,self-essence and other people and exploits the working-class to benefit the rulingclass. Capitalism is essentially conflict-prone, and it will eventuallystimulate social revolution to human emancipation. Liberals, on the other hand,believe that there is an absence of ruling authority beyond states, therefore,the international system is always involved with tensions and conflicts.
Statesalways emphasize their self-interests and survival, but internationalinstitution and cooperation can mitigate conflicts and promote peace. Althoughrealists argue that the problem of cheating and relative gains will minimisethe possibility of cooperation, it is asserted that states focus on theabsolute gains and cheating can be deterred when international institutionsfunction to monitor and punish states with future consequences. Overall, thisessay has examined with both Marxist and Liberal international theories thatworld politics is inherently conflictual and hierarchical. (word count: 1999) BibliographyAarts, P.(1992). Democracy, Oil and the Gulf War. ThirdWorld Quarterly. Vol.
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