Is realism still relevant in international relations

International security

On the relevance of the theories of international relations today

In 2016, political scientist Daniel Drezner raised a question in an opinion piece for the "Washington Post" that is being asked more and more frequently by representatives of the political science sub-discipline of international relations: "Where have all the big international relations theories gone?" ] It is indeed remarkable that the major IB theory debates have now disappeared from the journals and conference programs. In 2014 the TRIP (Teaching, Research and International Policy) survey showed that the proportion of non-paradigmatic research within the IB increased from 30 percent in 1980 to over 50 percent in 2014. [2] In recent years, the International Studies Association, the largest international professional organization dealing with international politics, has set up a new theory section and founded journals such as "International Theory". Nevertheless, one of the most frequently heard complaints is "that the IB no longer have any major theoretical debates" and only get lost in the "small and small of the respective analysis models". [3]

For a long time, the IB in particular was characterized by the sequence of "great debates". [4] In the decades after the Second World War, real "paradigm wars" shook the sub-discipline in the competition for the best explanatory model for world events. And after the end of the East-West conflict, from Francis Fukuyama's proclamation of the "end of history" to Samuel Huntington's counter-thesis of the "clash of civilizations", a number of speculative theories about how the world would develop politically in the future tumbled. As Drezner also describes, the new millennium with "9/11", the return of China to the world stage or the "democratic rollback" [5] and the advance of autocrats brought about similar cuts and upheavals as previous decades. But theoretical approaches to explain these developments have calmed down.

Now it could be that this is part of a larger trend in the social sciences where theories and ideas are losing their relevance or are being replaced by data. Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of "Wired" magazine, proclaimed the "end of theory" years ago in view of the data revolution: "Forget taxonomy, ontology and psychology! Who knows why people behave this way and not differently? If we if you only have enough data, they speak for themselves. "[6] But it is not that simple, because research shows that the demand for theoretical ideas in the field of foreign policy is increasing.

So while the turning away from the great theoretical drafts is praised by many representatives of the field as a positive development - the theoretical foundation anyway only promoted the guild's lack of practicality [8] - others see the end of the great theories in the IB with concern and want it counteract this by developing more and better theories. [9] The IB guild at least agrees that the market of theories of international politics in the 21st century has little new to offer. In this article, I therefore address the question of why the great theories seem to have lost their importance before I outline possible strategies for revitalizing the IB theories with a view to the Middle East and Gulf regions. First of all, however, the general need for and usefulness of theories must be visualized.