The anarchic problematique is a discourse inside the field of International Relations that has been analyzed from a variety of different theories and points of view. It has been a stable discourse used to find motivations or key aspect of international cooperation. While it has appeared in some contemporary literature, newer investigations or essays have been focusing on different areas of International Relations. Leading some scholars to believe that this is not the central concern of International Relations anymore. During this essay I attempt to explain the anarchy problematic and if it is still the central concern for scholar in International Relations. I attempt to do this by first, defining anarchism and explaining the problematic within this field of study. Second, showcasing its permanence in some of the most important theories in International Relations. Lastly, by demonstrating how the fundamentals of any theory will always be the central concern for that area of study.
The anarchy problematique as described in the first lecture by the Professor Darshan Vigneswaran is the main idea determines that the world system is anarchic. * Anarchy in the sense that there is no hierarchy nor organization that can condemn a state for its actions. “The prominent characteristic of international politics, however, seems to be the lack of order and organization… In looking for international structure, one is brought face to face with the invisible” CITATION Ken79 l 1033 (Waltz, 1979) For example, when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, there wasn’t a world police nor organization that deemed what Germany’s government did as ‘illegal’. This is one of the main point of views of the rationalists which is one side of the argument.
Another important “point” to emphasize is the constructivist counter argument stated in Wendt’s ‘Anarchy is what you make of it’ “Self-help is an institution, one of various structures of identity and interest that may exist under anarchy” CITATION Ale92 l 1033 (Wendt, 1992) Wendt’s argument states that anarchy is essentially a state of mind and meanwhile societies accepts this as their realities they will act accordingly. Nevertheless it also expands on the idea of self-help, which brings to believe that anarchy is not an absolute concept it allows other variables to interact. While these points are an important distinction as to how their theories express anarchy, it is not the key argument in International Relations. The fundamental discussion is understanding how these actors/ states cooperate in an anarchic system. The concept of anarchy is a complex yet simplistic notion; the absence of power or hierarchy in a system.
Finding the practicality of this concept we can observe that it gives way to any possibility or action taken in the International System. Whether international actors cooperate or go to war, it happens because of the anarchic state that they find themselves in. While this may seem as a simple way of analyzing the international system, this is not the reason why social scientist look to study anarchy. The actual level of analysis are the actors and why they use certain tactics or arrangements in the anarchic system.
During the development of International Relations as a field of study it has established a variety of different schools of thought, each with their own counter argument. These arguments are commonly known as the Great Debates. The first one of these is Realism vs Idealism; after a couple of years the idealism debate started to fall short.
The second Great Debate is neo-realism vs realism; subsequently the realist’s debate was deemed too curt and was discontinued. Lastly, the debate of neo-realism vs post-positivism. While there are currently more debates and school of thoughts in the field of International Relations; I am limiting them to the 3 arguments that are the most historically influential. These school of thoughts have drastically different views on key concepts in International Relations like; the origin of war or the nature of the state. However, they are all created by the foundation that the world is anarchic.
What these theories do have in common is that they strife to find an explanation to the anarchy problematique. This is the constant argument that political scientist try to answer every day. While some may argue that the focus of International Relations has shifted in this last decade, one concept remains constant.
That is anarchy, while it may seem outdated it has been the base of study of almost all schools of thought. From Idealism to Neorealism and now in Constructivism, all these theories look to explain the way certain actors perform in anarchy. Although some differences in these theories may approach the concept of anarchy in a different light it does not make it less valid. This discussion is the base of this field of study.
Understanding that anarchy is not simply chaos as some are “programmed” to think is a fundamental step into analyzing how the states interact with one another. Getting past this idea we can observe how this is the fundamental thought of International Relations. Anarchy is the bridge that gives way to all other theories of international relations. There does not exist an act that can be made by the state in an international setting, that does not derive from the anarchic system; whether the study is peace or war they are both achievable under anarchy.
While these studies are the basic building blocks of Political Science;