Challenging Western Theory of International Relations

Till date, the entire world follows western constructs of literature without voicing their own demands, nuances and intricacies that contribute to forming opinions.In the course of this article, the need and want of Asian Perspectives to the field of IR is explained with reasons.
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Asian states have an interest in IR theory that speaks for them and their interests. Neither China nor Japan fit comfortably into realism or liberalism. China is trying to avoid being treated as a threat to the status quo as its power rises, and the moves to develop a Chinese school of IR are focused on this problem. Japan is seeking to avoid being a ‘normal’ great power and its status as a ‘trading state’ or ‘civilian power’ is a direct contradiction of realist expectations. ASEAN defies the realist, liberal and English School logic that order is provided by the local great powers. South Korea and India perhaps fit more closely with realist models, yet neither seems certain about what sort of place it wants for itself in international society. Asian states have a major interest in being part of the game. If we are to improve IRT as a whole, then Western theory needs to be challenged not just from within, but also from outside.

Regardless of the acknowledgement it receives, it is important to open the scope of IR theory and generalize it to make it universal. This will only happen if we bring to the fore the Asian trends of history, economics, sociology, domestic politics, psychology, law and military strategy.

There have been no classical philosophies giving explanations for the decline of Asian nations. The theories such as Realism, Neo-Realism, Liberalism, Constructivism and post modernism have failed to fit in Asian nations primarily because our struggle for power and ways of functioning were entirely different from that of the West. The contributions of Thyucidites, Gramsci, Hobbes and Kant have been picked up, examined and exploited vastly enough in terms of hard theory. The Asian contributors’ works such as Kautilya, Sun Tzu and Confucius have rarely been under trial for execution. Their works were a result of the growing wealth and power of nations.

Scholars of political science and international relations understand Kautilya to be India’s foremost political strategist. Some have even gone so far as to declare Kautilya to be the first great political realist. This is owing to his treatise on the ‘science of politics’, The Arthashastra, written about 300 B.C.E, some eighteen hundred years prior to Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, considered to be the quintessential text on political realism. The Arthashastra is an extraordinarily detailed manuscript on statecraft, and is considered to be the most comprehensive political treatise of classical times. In the treatise, Kautilya outlines rules of governance, fundamentals of political organization, details of the treasury and accounting and auditing systems, regulations governing civil servants, law, foreign policy, prescriptions for national defense and war.

Coming to contemporary times, Jawaharlal Nehru, Aung San of Myanmar and Sukarno of Indonesia gave principled ideas to the field of international relations. The most important idea of Non- alignment actually challenged the theory of realism and gave importance to Nehru’s idea of ‘sticking with the tradition’. This primarily meant that a nation’s power is not defined by its military strength. By taking a neutral stance, this principle discouraged the formation of military blocs that prevailed in Europe. Aung San adopted a liberalist outlook and brought about the importance of interdependence and rejected military alliances.

Different schools in Japan, China and South Korea have given various ideas. Japanese theories have both criticized western theories but adopted parts of them. One such example being the Kyoto School’s ‘post-White power’ which explains Japan taking over from the hegemony of the West and re balancing world politics. In China, the theory was of different nature wherein the Confucian Tianxia worldview challenged the Western theories. Theories of Hobbes and Locke being principled around equality and competition, this juxtaposed those in a way where hierarchy was looked up to as the sole harbinger of order. The two theories of Japan and China get tied together in Kautilya’s Mandala theory that talks of both.

The challenge that Asian IR faces is that all nations have different scholars of different perspectives. Be it India, Japan, China, Koreas, Indonesia or the middle east, they all have their own views to IR theory. What ties them all together is that missing theory that majority Asian nations can relate to. It is imperative to understand that if a theory has been globalized, it does not necessarily mean it is universalized. To break such barriers, we need non-western theories that speak of the world outside of the hegemony created by the West.

Various factors have led to the failure of such theories being recognized or studied but they need to be universalized for the betterment of this global world that we call as one.


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