Human nature in international relations: A theoretical investigation
LE3 .A278 2010
Bachelor of Arts
The objective of this thesis is to investigate the use of concepts of human nature within International Relations and to compare the human nature claims or assumptions of each major International Relations theoretical tradition – Realism, Idealism and Liberalism, and Marxism and Constructivism – with a Darwinian or sociobiological view of human nature. The project is premised on the idea that a human nature claim or assumption has an impact on the broader policy prescriptions or analyses of an IR theory, and that evolutionary theory can add to the study of politics, IR included. After developing a biopolitical framework as a lens through which to analyze politics, where political behaviour is seen as an evolutionarily adaptive social behavior, heavily influenced by the ideas of evolutionary psychology and the modular theory of the brain, the thesis will proceed to contrast and compare this model of human nature to the claims or assumptions that permeate IR theory. Classical Realism, with an egoistic and power- hungry human nature posited as the driving force behind state behaviour, will be found to have accurate elements, such as war being an ancient and biologically influenced part of human existence, combined with an inaccurate focus on an asocial, uncooperative human nature. Structural Realism, where the structural distribution of power in the world system determines state behaviour, ignores implicit human nature assumptions that the theory relies on to be sensible. Human nature as found in Idealism and Liberalism balances out the aggressive, ‘ groupish,’ status- seeking image of human nature in the Realist frame, while providing an evolutionary basis for cooperation, altruism, and trust through reciprocal exchange. Marxism’s human nature assumptions are based on a Lamarckian model of human nature that is no longer tenable, while Constructivism’s focus on an overly malleable human nature ignores the evolutionary heritage of humanity’s past in influencing our behavior
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