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attempts to provide a conceptual
model upon which
relations can be analyzed. Each
theory is reductive and essentialist
to different degrees, relying on
different sets of assumptions
respectively. As Ole Holsti
describes them, international
relations theories act as a pair of
colored sunglasses, allowing the
wearer to see only the salient
events relevant to the
adherent of realism may completely
disregard an event that a
constructivist might pounce upon as
crucial, and vice versa.
The number and character of the assumptions made by an international relations theory also determine its usefulness. Realism, a parsimonious and very essentialist theory is useful in accounting for historical actions (for instance why did X invade Y) but limited in both explaining systemic change (such as the end of the Cold War) and predicting future events. Liberalism, which examines a very wide number of conditions, is less useful in making predictions, but can be very insightful in analyzing past events. Traditional theories may have little to say about the behavior of former colonies, but post-colonial theory may have greater insight into that specific area, where it fails in other situations.
International relations theories can be divided into "positivist/rationalist" theories which focus on a principally state-level analysis, and "post-positivist/reflectivist" ones which incorporate expanded meanings of security, ranging from class, to gender, to postcolonial security. Many often conflicting ways of thinking exist in IR theory, including Constructivism, Institutionalism, Marxism, Neo-Gramscianism, and others. However, two positivist schools of thought are most prevalent: Realism and Liberalism; though increasingly, Constructivism is becoming mainstream and postpositivist theories are increasingly popular, particularly outside the United States.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "International Relations Theory".