Sample International Relations Essay Summary on Theoretical Approaches to Causes of War

International Relations: Theoretical Approaches to Causes of War

Despite changes in civilization in the international societies, one aspect that has remained constant is the disagreement and battle between opposing nations and societies. War has remained a constant part of human history. However, there have been changes in the modes of war as the type of weaponry used during the battles. In a book by John Baylis and others, the theoretical aspects that are related to the causes of war are discussed. Based on this book, the paper highlights basics of key theoretical causes and comes up with the best theoretical approach to conducting war.

The first theoretical explanation to the causes of war is the realism approach. In this theory, the nature of self interest in humans contributes to the beginning of wars when the egoistic nature overcomes the set moral principles of life. Based on this origin, nations also act in an egoistic nature through seeking their own selfish interests. The neo-realist aspect of realism considers the distribution of power among states to be the key cause of war between nations.

A possible explanation of neo-realism is exemplified through an illustration of the cold War which is associated with the presence of bipolarity (two centers of power). The US and the Soviet Union formed the two power centers in conflict. The end of the war came due to the collapse of one of the powers resulting in uni-polarity. Other examples are given of Ukrainian war which resulted from the re-emergence of Russia as a second center of power. Another theory that explains the origin of war is the Liberalism theory.

According to this theory as postulated by Baylis et al (2011), human beings can be made perfect through various ways. While opposing the realist views that war results from the role played by states in power struggle and thus is a natural process, the liberalists have a different argument about the causes of war. According to the liberalist argument, multinational corporations, international organizations and other groups such as terrorist groups are key players in international wars.

Consequently, the liberalist purport that war is caused by retrogressive ideologies such as imperialism, lack of democracy and the collapse of power systems. From this, perspective, war is viewed as necessary for the restoration of human rights and democracy. An example of the Gadaffi regime and the intervention of the U.S government in the Libyan issue are given.

A third theoretical explanation for war is the Marxist theory. This asserts that war results due to Capitalism which results in a division of classes. Conflicts between the different classes are what cause war while multinational corporations and international organizations dominate the class idea of war. In this theory, imperialism is considered as the highest level of capitalism. Wars that occurred in Africa during the pre-independence regimes are indicated to be caused by this.

The post independence wars are also said to be fueled by the increase in the demand for minerals. The minerals sold raise finances for the purchase of weapons used in war (Book, 2009). The post colonialism approach to war study is based on the argument that the effects of colonialism are what cause wars between nations. This postulation is different from the proposals of other theories in that it explains the origins of present day wars and links them to boundary conflicts between nations. In conclusion, the realism approach best describes the cause of war based on the struggle for power by nations. This can be linked to the struggles explained through all other theories where there has to be a conflict for resources, boundaries e.t.c, which indicates an imbalance of power.


Baylis, John, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens, eds. The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Book, Marion. Global Compact International Yearbook 2009. Munster, Westf: Macondo, 2009.

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