“Neorealism and its Critics” is the book by Robert Keohane in which the author talks about the practical implications of the international relations theory. The book was written twenty years ago and is a beneficial tool for those who want to understand what scholars thought about the struggle of states to have control over the world affairs. Even though much of the arguments are obvious and logical for the contemporary leaders and the theory of international relations is studied in the universities, the information presented was of innovative thinking for that period of political development.
The book starts with the essay by Keohane in which he presents the reasons why practical implication of the theory is essential. The further sections are the overview of the contributors’ points of view on this issue. The works of such prominent scholars as John Ruggie, Robert Cox, Richard Ashley and Robert Gilpin included.
The first sentence of the book says that the world politics is a matter of life and death and this statement is entirely true today. The super-powerful nations and international organizations influence the global political decisions: to start the war, to control the oil market and international trade. Interestingly, that these issues were important twenty years ago are still the points of significant conflict in the current political world.
The author mentions that there was very little interest in the theory of international relations because the practical implication questioned. Today the global affairs are not just the theory, but has become the profession and can be studied in the universities by those who want to have the ability to influence the global political decisions. One of the primary reasons why the theory should be considered: when the practitioner knows the history of the events he can understand the possible future outcomes.
I agree with the author that every theory should be judged with some skepticism and what is applicable for one country can be not acceptable for the other. Keynes has raised the concern that there is still no answer to the question about the sources of war, cooperation or peace between the countries. Even though the answers seem to be very easy to find, the roots lie much more profound than a struggle for political domination.
Also, the author says that the theory is worthless if the current events are not taken into account. It is true because the political powers and global concerns change over time. Therefore, the policies need to be adjusted to include such changes. The studying of contemporary theories is vital to understand the current events and judge them based on some knowledge, not only on the personal reactions. I might think that the war in Iraq was wrong because so many have died, however, such judgment is highly personal and incomplete. To validate my opinion I need to have some knowledge about the political events to understand the actions of both sides.
Another essential idea raised is that the theory of international relations is helpful to understand the cause-effect relationship but is very different from the other approaches (physics, for example) because nothing stays the same in the world. Of course, some of the points made by the author cannot be applied to the current political studies, but in overall little has changed for the last twenty years.
The language of the book is straightforward to read, and the arguments presents are arranged in the logical order. The author has incorporated the works of the other scholars to illustrate the opinion of others and support his own. Even though the book is old, it still can be used in studying the international relations theory today because most of the foreign concerns have remained the same. In overall, the book is well-written and entertaining to read.
In conclusion, I would like to stress once again the importance of the book. The book has raised the question about the practicability of the theory of international relations, and it was an innovative thinking for that time. There are primary good points made as well as several misleading statements. However, the essence remains: to understand the causes of the modern political events and courses. The one should be aware of the legislative history and possess some knowledge in the field of international relations.
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