Introduction to Global Politics
eBook - ePub

Introduction to Global Politics

Richard W. Mansbach, Ellen B Pirro

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eBook - ePub

Introduction to Global Politics

Richard W. Mansbach, Ellen B Pirro

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Über dieses Buch

The fully updated third edition of Introduction to Global Politics continues to provide a vital resource for students looking to explain global politics using an historical approach, firmly linking history with the events of today. By integrating theory and political practice at individual, state, and global levels, students are introduced to key developments in global politics, helping them make sense of major trends that are shaping our world.

Retaining the successful format of previous editions, this is a highly illustrated textbook with informative and interactive boxed material throughout. Chapter opening timelines contextualize the material that follows, and definitions of key terms are provided in a glossary at the end of the book. Every chapter ends with student activities, cultural materials, and annotated suggestions for further reading.

Key updates for this edition:

  • New material on key topical issues such as Islam's relationship with the West, Islamic State, BRICS and other emerging economies, the continuing effects of the Arab Spring, and R2P.

  • Coverage of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and North Korea's continued development of its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

  • Analysis of new technologies for warfighting – such as drones, IEDs and cyber technologies – as well as technologies for countering terrorism and conducting unconventional wars.

  • Updated examples from around the globe in every chapter.

Stimulating and provocative both for students and for instructors, Introduction to Global Politics, 3rd Edition, is essential reading for students of political science, global politics, and international relations.

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Part I
Thinking theoretically about global politics



1. Theoretical approaches to global politics

1 Theoretical approaches to global politics

In the years before World War Two, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain believed that he could prevent war by appeasing Adolf Hitler, allowing the German leader to unite all Germans in the Third Reich. Only then, Chamberlain theorized, would Hitler be satisfied and cease making additional demands that threatened European peace. He had met with Hitler on September 30, 1938 when the British and French leaders had capitulated to Hitler’s demand that the German-populated region of Czechoslovakia be immediately ceded to Germany. At their meeting, the two had signed an agreement not to fight a war. On his return Chamberlain read a statement to a crowd in front the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street. “My good friends,” he announced, “this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time.” Chamberlain’s theory proved entirely wrong. Far from satisfying Hitler, his policy had whetted the Führer’s appetite. Those who believe in “realist” theory that we will describe shortly vigorously criticized Chamberlain. Winston Churchill, a realist who recognized Chamberlain’s error, declared, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, influenced by Chamberlain’s disastrous appeasement policy, decided to invade Iraq in 2003 and oust that country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, who had “invaded and brutally occupied a small neighbour” in 1990.1 Bush also claimed that among the reasons for invading Iraq was transforming that country into a democracy in which Iraqis would enjoy freedom and human rights. Intervention to spread democracy was a defining trait of those like Vice President Dick Cheney, who were neoconservatives or “neocons.” Bush and his advisers believed, as did many liberals, that democratic societies were peaceful and that the overthrow of Saddam would lead to the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East, thereby bringing peace to the region. Genuine and durable democracy, however, requires more than political parties and elections. It also requires the rule of law, a spirit of tolerance of different views, and willingness to compromise – attributes alien to Iraqi political life.
Figure 1.1 Neville Chamberlain waving the agreement he had signed with Hitler
Both Chamberlain and Bush used theory to make sense of the world they faced. Chamberlain’s theory was that Hitler was a “normal” politician and that appeasing him would bring peace. Bush’s was that appeasement whetted the appetite of dictators and that democracy would bring with it peace.

What is theory and why do we need it?

In what follows, we address the problem of how to explain and understand global politics. No one can look at everything at once without being overwhelmed. By focusing only on key factors and looking for patterns, however, an observer can gain clarity. Theorizing fits individual events and cases into larger patterns, allowing us to generalize about global politics. Thus, when theorists look at individual events, they ask, in the words of two international relations specialists, “Of what is this an instance?”2 Theory simplifies the messy complexity of global reality by pointing only to factors that theorists believe are important. Thus, it simplifies reality and is sometimes called “strategic simplification.”
This section begins by explaining three purposes of theory – explanation, prediction, and prescription – and three types of theory – empirical, interpretive, and normative. The section concludes by considering how theory is constructed and tested.
Most theory in international relations involves explaining and/or predicting actors’ behavior. Explanatory theory consists of abstract, simplified, and general claims that answer “why” and “how” questions such as “why do wars begin?” or “how do collective identities shape our behavior?” Theory is built on assumptions – implicit or explicit statements that are taken to be true without logical scrutiny or empirical testing – that lead theorists to emphasize particular features of global politics. For example, in comparing Chamberlain and Bush, analysts assume that individuals’ beliefs, personalities, and values explain outcomes. Others, as we will see, assume that states are the only relevant actors in global politics, and that observers should focus on interstate behavior.
Explanatory theory identifies causes of events and often involves leaps of imagination, triggered by observations of reality. This process is known as induction – deriving general principles from specific observed facts or instances. It may also involve a reverse process known as deduction – applying general principles to explain individual cases. A notable example of inductive explanatory theory involving a leap of imagination is the theory of gravity. According to legend, observing an apple fall from a tree inspired Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity. His leap of imagination was that the force that brought the apple to the ground (gravity) might be the same force that kept the moon in its orbit around the earth. We can also use the theory of gravity deductively. For example, Newton’s general proposition about gravity can be applied to the sun, moon, and other planets, as well as why we fall to the ground after jumping out a window. In global politics, some scholars have observed that democratic states tend not to go to war to with other democracies, and have used induction to develop theories to explain this apparent “democratic peace.” By contrast, others begin with the general proposition that democracies are peace loving and use deduction by applying it to specific cases. Thus, because democracies do not fight one another, Britain and Australia, both democracies, are likely to resolve disputes peacefully.
Predictive theory forecasts what will happen under specified circumstances. Much theory in global politics is predictive. Although explanatory theories may permit predictions, it may not always be used for this purpose, and predictive theory need not explain. The ancient Greeks developed theories to explain the movement of the tides and its connection to what we call gravity, but with this knowledge they did not observe real tides sufficiently to predict the exactly when high and low tide would occur. By contrast, the Babylonians assumed that tides depended on the whims of the gods – an explanatory theory that was false – but, by carefully observing tidal changes, they could accurately predict them.
Like many social scientists, insurance companies rely on predictive theory based on statistical inference. They infer from frequent observations the probability or likelihood of a general proposition. Without doing so, they could not stay in business. Thus, by looking at the records of numerous automobile drivers, insurance companies infer general propositions – for example, that accidents are more likely to occur in large cities and drivers under the age of 18 are more likely to get into accidents than are their elders – and they adjust premiums accordingly. Similarly, in global politics, scholars look at large numbers of wars to infer whether alliances, arms races, and/or non-democratic states predict the outbreak of war.
Keep in mind that generalizing from cases does not prove general claims. Simply because an observer finds a strong correlation (the statistical degree to which factors are related and change together) between arms races and war does not mean that arms races and war always occur together because additional cases may violate the generalization. Nor does it prove that arms races explain or cause war because both may result from other factors of which we are unaware. Thus, theorists continuously move back and forth between specific observations and general propositions.
Theorists can also use explanatory and predictive theory for prescription. Prescription recommends adopting particular policies to achieve objectives. Here ought or should indicate the correct course of action if one wishes to achieve a particular end. An example of prescription would be, “If Germany wishes to prevent the loss of jobs in its automobile industry to China, Berlin should place tariffs on imported automobiles.” This statement proposes that low tariffs (a form of tax) on imported automobiles are correlated with a loss of German jobs in the automobile industry (a testable claim). It then recommends or prescribes, given the correlation, imposing tariffs.


Explaining why something happens involves identifying a “cause” and a “result.” Usually theorists distinguish between two types of causes: necessary and sufficient. If some factor must take place for a particular result to occur, then it is a necessary cause. Although the presence of that factor does not assure the result, the presence of the result necessarily means that the causal factor was present. For example, if wars erupted only following arms races, then arms races are a necessary cause of war. Although arms races may occur without war ensuing, wars never occur without arms races preceding them. However, if the presence of some factor always guarantees a particular result, that factor is a sufficient cause. If arms races are a sufficient cause of war, then, their occurrence assures that war will ensue regardless of other factors.
Interpretive analysis is less interested in identifying causes and seeks to understand the meaning that actors ascribe to actions and events. It begins by exploring how participants interpret or give meaning to what they see, focusing on understanding why and how “actors define … issues and the alternatives, what they believe … about the situation and each other, what they aim … to achieve, and how.”3 It posits that actors’ expectations about the intentions and actions of others may shape such processes. Many factors may explain these expectations, including prevailing norms and institutions or the experiences and personalities of the actors involved.
Explanatory and predictive theories are both examples of empirical theory because we derived them from facts (data) that we assume are external to the observer and we perceive either directly or indirectly to determine what “is.” Examples of empirical propositions are, “Suicide bombers are used by terrorists because they are weaker than their foes” and “suicide bombings will lead governments to increase security forces.” Such claims are empirical because they are based on facts that scholars collect and organize about suicide bombings and their consequences. Moreover, other scholars can test or replicate these propositions by collecting their own data. The birth of empirical theory is associated with the European Enlightenment and the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century scientific revolution that involved Galileo, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton. Empirical theory can explain, predict, and/or prescribe.
Scholars are also interested in assessing whether actors’ behavior is “right” (moral) or “wrong” (immoral), and whether actors ought to act as they do. Answers to such questions constitute normative theory. Such theory takes the form of a claim, rather than a proposition. We cannot test normative theory using objective facts because it is based on subjective beliefs, logic, and values. A normative claim might involve the morality of using suicide bombers for political ends. Most observers believe that suicide bombers who kill innocent people are always wrong, while some extremists believe it is justified in some circumstances. Numbers and statistics rarely sway people to change deeply held ethical views.
Table 1.1 Types of theory and their purpose(s)
Type of theory Purpose
Empirical theory Explanation, prediction, and/or prescription
Interpretive theory Understanding and meaning
Normative theory Ethical assessment
Scholars use certain procedures to build and test theory. These constitute methodology. Theory and methodology are sometime confused, but the two are actually quite different. Theory answers questions of whether things will happen and why they do so, but methodology describes the ways to evaluate and test theories. What methodology should a scholar use to judge a theory about the automobile industry and tariffs? How would she determine that imposing tariffs would save jobs? One methodology might involve using statistical inference (see above) to make pre...


  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright Page
  5. Table of Contents
  6. Preface
  7. A visual tour of Introduction to Global Politics
  8. Prologue
  9. Part I Thinking theoretically about global politics
  10. Part II The past as prologue to the present
  11. Part III Living dangerously in a dangerous world
  12. Part IV Global issues
  13. Part V And tomorrow?
  14. Notes
  15. Glossary
  16. List of illustrations
  17. Acknowledgements and permissions
  18. Index
Zitierstile für Introduction to Global Politics

APA 6 Citation

Mansbach, R., & Pirro, E. (2017). Introduction to Global Politics (3rd ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2017)

Chicago Citation

Mansbach, Richard, and Ellen Pirro. (2017) 2017. Introduction to Global Politics. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis.

Harvard Citation

Mansbach, R. and Pirro, E. (2017) Introduction to Global Politics. 3rd edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Mansbach, Richard, and Ellen Pirro. Introduction to Global Politics. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis, 2017. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.