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Video 1.1.

Overview of week 1
Hello and very much welcome to the course, the Changing Global Order. As you see from the course
structure, we start this course with an introduction into theories of international relations. This is so
we get a basis for the various lectures we will get on different topics in the course. Like
The role of China and of Russia in today's global structure.
The role of regional organizations such as the European Union
Global politics and the contribution of different institutions, including the United Nations
Security Council and the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO) to the maintenance of
peace and stability.
In the videos that will follow now, we will not be able to cover all the theories of international
relations, but you will get a glimpse of how some of these major theories interpret and explain the
developments in international relations. Materials in these first lectures may sometimes be a bit
tough, but nevertheless, we think they will be useful for you to understand.
In the assigned readings for this week, you also have some additional work if you wish that you can
read on theories of international relations. We also list some possible additional readings, that you
may want to consult.
After these introductory videos, you will get a first lecture on the role and function of the United
Nations Security Council, a very important institution in today's global order.
This lecture will be given by my colleague Larissa van der Herrik who is a professor of public
international law, here at Leiden University. We very much hope you'll enjoy this first week of the
course with us.
Video 1.2 Realism
Hello, and welcome again. In this video, we will start looking at theories of international relations.
We will see how the theories interpret how international relations change, what the role of states is
in the international system, whether international institutions matter and whether international
cooperation between states is possible, and can be sustainable. In this video, we start with Realism,
and, as a later extension of the theory, Neorealism.
Realism is one of the oldest, and most well-known theories in international relations. In Realism, in
essence, individuals are rational actors and are assumed to aim to maximize their own power. If
another individual becomes stronger than they are themselves, this poses a security challenge. It is a
rule of all against all, without a central authority that regulates their actions.
In classical Realism, in which Hans Morgenthau is one of the famous authors, it is this human nature
that is seen as driving conflict also in terms of international politics. Generally, in Realism, groups can
be the focus or a unit of analysis, but in classical Realism it is states. They are the unit of analysis and
with this, the main actors in world politics. These states calculate their interests in terms of power.
Or as Hans Morgenthau has stated, political leaders think and act in terms of interest defined as
power. This is a quote from his book Politics Among Nations published in 1948.
So Realism in international relation theory, is based on three core assumptions.
1. States are the units of analysis. That is, the main actors in world politics.
2. States aim to increase their power.
3. States behave in rational ways.
In the international system, states aim to increase or even maximize their own power, notably in
military terms. If another state becomes more powerful than they are themselves, this can pose a
security threat in the future.
Therefore states tend to be concerned about what is called relative gains. Not what they obtain in
absolute terms, but in relative ones. If another state is more powerful or has more arms than your
own state does, you fear that you could be defeated in the future.
In modern versions of Realism, also called Neorealism, human nature is not necessarily the driving
force for conflict. In this modern perspective, the structure of the international system and the units,
so the states, are seen as interacting with each other. It is the structure that encourages certain
actions and discourages others by states. Neorealism is based on some core assumptions.
1. the international system is anarchical, meaning that there is no central authority.
2. the international system is characterized by interaction between these units, the states.
3. within the structure of the international system, the distribution of capabilities, that is
power, can vary over time and can vary between states.
In contrast to Realism, Neorealism sees the structure of the international system as largely
determining state behavior. Rational calculations about their own position in the system determine
states' interests and their strategies. States define their interest in terms of power and position.
Political leaders respond to the incentives and the constraints that the system provides, and to the
distribution of capabilities within it. So variations in state behavior are due to variation in the
characteristics of the international system.
According to Neorealism, cooperation between states is unlikely to happen, but states may aim to
form coalitions or alliances in an attempt to balance the power of other entities in the system. The
formation of an alliance may cause the formation of a counter-alliance. In the global system, on a
regular basis, such balances of power will form.
States, or coalitions of states, may also face a security dilemma. For example, they might prefer to
disarm, but the fear that the other side gets stronger than they are themselves, and the fact that
there is no higher level authority controlling the system, forces them to continue the armaments
When do you think we saw such balances of power or security dilemmas happen in world politics? A
prominent example could be the situation of the Cold War, where the United States and the Soviet
Union formed the two poles of the bipolar international system. They balanced each other's power
and were caught in a kind of security dilemma.
In Neorealists' thinking, changes in the distribution of capabilities will also cause changes in the
relations between states. The world system may at times be dominated by what is called a
hegemonic power. That is a power that has geopolitical and maybe also cultural dominance. But
states may also fear the rise of a hegemon, and may try to form coalitions or balance against such a
potential hegemon.
States may also lose power in a global system, allowing for challenging powers to rise. In Neorealist
thinking, regional integration can also be seen as an attempt to balance the power of a major state or
coalitions of states, within the international system. For example, cooperation among the states of
the European Union could be seen as unlikely to happen. But European integration, from this
theoretical perspective, makes more sense if it is seen as an attempt to increase Europe's power and
standing in the global system. The formation of regional integration schemes around the world,
including those focused predominantly on economic integration, could then be seen as deliberate
attempts of its member states to increase their collective power and influence on the global level.
Of course, organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an organization that
we will deal with later in this course, are other examples of alliance formation in the global system.
Currently, the rise of major powers, such as China, challenges the existing global power balance. It
may also lead to the rise new powers, and new regional integration schemes.
According to Realist thinking in international relations theory, cooperation between states is not
likely to happen, and neither is the establishment of international institutions. Because they
constrain their own actions. States will be willing to create international rules and institutions, if they
are consistent with their interests. International institutions, if they are created, are then likely to
largely reflect the preferences and power of the most influential states in the system. They are
unlikely to be able to act independently of the interests of these powers.
This is an argument that has been presented for example by John Mearsheimer, in a 1994 article
called The False Promise of International Institutions. The article actually was a reaction to
literature that assumes that international institutions can be quite influential.
Since the global political system is assumed to be anarchical, meaning there is no formal central
authority, it largely constitutes what is called a self-help system. According to some Neorealist
thinkers, including Kenneth Waltz, states mainly act to ensure their survival. This approach is also
called defensive realism. Other Neorealist thinkers, including John Mearsheimer, have argued that
states, mainly great powers, aim to maximize their power in an attempt to dominate the
international system. This approach is called offensive realism.
Sometimes Neorealists are seen as pessimists who see the world as very conflictual. However, you
may need to remember that Neorealists are often concerned with the maintainance of global peace
and stability. They did not describe the world as conflictual because they felt that's how it should be.
But they aimed to describe, and understand state behavior, exactly in an attempt to prevent violence
and war. An example of this is Kenneth Waltz, who made very important contributions to Neorealist
thinking. Waltz aimed to understand what drives state behavior, why states may feel insecure in the
system, and with this how situations can be prevented when states go to war with each other. Do
you think it is indeed true that cooperation between states is difficult to achieve because states are
mainly concerned about relative gains? Do states, indeed, seek to increase their power?
I think that while Neorealism has many worthwhile elements, states are not likely to be the main and
almost only actor. And that other factors may co-determine their actions, apart from the aim to
increase power, such as the existence of institutions, of norms, and identities.
So what have we learned? Realism is one of the oldest theories of international relations. It has been
extended to account for the dynamics of the international system in what is called Neorealism.
Neorealists assume that the world is anarchical and conflictual in nature. States aim to continuously
increase their power due to fears that others might become more powerful than they are themselves
and with this, their security could be threatened. But we have to keep in mind that Realism and
Neorealism are not prescriptions as to how individuals and states should behave. They simply aim to
understand what drives behavior, and with this, on the international level, how patterns could be
established that prevent states from going to war with each other. In the next video we will look at
another approach to international relations that is very different from Realism. It is Liberalism, and
later Neoliberalism.
In these approaches, while some assumptions are shared with Realism, the perspective on the role of
politics is quite a different one.
Video 1.3 Liberalism
Hello, in the last video, we looked at how realism and later, neorealism, sees the world and aims to
explain how it develops. In this video, we will present quite a different approach. Liberalism and as a
more recent version of this trend of theorizing, neoliberalism. Liberalism has a rich tradition. In its
political versions, summarizing various different trends of this major theoretical stream, it focuses on
aspects and values such as individual liberty, political freedom, and equality. In what is sometimes
called Republican Liberalism, for example, democracies are believed to be more peaceful than non-
democracies. The so-called Democratic Peace Theory even assumes that two democracies will not
actually fight each other. Sociological Liberalism, by comparison, emphasizes that transnational
collaboration and coalitions affect national attitudes, interests and behavior.
Aspects of Liberalism can also be found extensively, for example, in the principles of neo-classical
economics where the unit of analysis or focus tends to be the firm or the individual.
In neo-classical economics, there was a sense that the economy should be as free as possible from
political interference. Markets should operate on their own and an invisible hand would then
generally lead to welfare gains for all. There were just a few areas were collective action would fail
and where government interference would be needed. This is the case of market failures.
In this economic version of liberalism, special emphasis was placed on so-called comparative
advantage. This means that every state focuses on the production of certain goods or services that it
actually can produce best and cheapest. If all states do this and exchange, this is beneficial to all.
Economic liberalism was largely a response to approaches that had emphasized the importance of
government interference in markets, such as mercantilism. In the framework of what is at times
called Commercial Liberalism, economic independence is believed to allow for the development of
peaceful relations between states.
Economic liberalism has been extremely influential in most parts of the world over the last decades.
However, in recent years, more concerns have been voiced about the effects of economic liberalism,
especially in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
In international relations theory, an adaptation of liberal thoughts to international relations has been
labeled neoliberalism, at times also called neoliberal institutionalism. This tradition shares some of
the core principles with realism and neorealism, including the assumption that states are the most
important actors and that they are rational.
But it differs from them in some other important aspects. Key authors who sparked off this school,
are Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, who, in 1989, published a world famous book, Power and
Interdependence. In their perspective, next to states, there are many other actors that influence
world politics. Trans-national linkages, and the various patterns of interdependence between states
crucially influence the ways in which states behave and conduct their foreign policy. In Neoliberalism,
like in Neorealism, the global system is believed to be anarchic.
But states are not seen as the unit of analysis acting as cohesive entities, but rather as being
constituted by a range of different actors. Domestic politics and international institutions shape the
priorities of governments and co-determine their behavior. In addition to this, actors can cooperate
across state borders. Multinational corporations and transnational interest groups, for example, are
seen as playing a crucial role in terms of shaping the incentives for states to act. International
institutions and what is called regimes -- essentially sets of rules, norms and principles that govern
behavior in giving issues areas -- are seen to affect state behavior. Stephen Krasner has actually
defined international regimes as being implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules and decision-
making procedures around which actors' expectations converge in a given area of international
In Neoliberalism, international institutions are seen as much more important than they are in
Realism. This is captured, for example, by an influential article published in 1995 by Robert Keohane
and Helen Milner titled The Promise of Institutionalist Theory. A link to this article is in our list of
assigned readings. Actually, John Mearsheimer's article, The False Promise of International
Institutions, which we briefly mentioned in the last video, was an explicit reply to this kind of work.
In essence, according to neoliberal institutionalism, institutions affect the ways in which states define
their self-interest. Cooperation between states is then possible, partially because of the existence of
institutions and what is called regimes, and the effect of reciprocity.
Although states may be tempted to break the rules of cooperation, and for instance, display non-
cooperative behavior, institutions can exercise important functions that allow for cooperation.
Institutions, for instance, can monitor the behavior of actors, provide information, allow for repeated
interaction and for the reduction of transaction costs. They can sanction actors if they display non-
cooperative behavior and with this, they create the foundations for long-term stable patterns of
cooperative interaction. In this perspective, cooperation and sustainable peace are possible.
Neoliberal institutionalists often draw on tools such as game theory to explain patterns of
interactions between states. Do you think that cooperation between states is possible also without
international institutions? I think it is. But institutions can clearly help create systems and
frameworks that increase prospects for states to engage in cooperative behavior also for longer time
spans. Neoliberal institutionalists sometimes mention European integration as an example of such
patterns, with its rich and dense network of institutional structures.
In essence then, the work of neoliberal institutionalists can be seen as a reaction to realism and
neorealism. Schools of thought they believe are being too pessimistic in terms of explaining the
behavior of states and notably, their assumptions regarding the likelihood that cooperation between
states can occur. Robert Keohane, however, sees himself more as what he calls a rational
institutionalist because he also believes that some of the realist assumptions are actually relevant
and very useful. He has criticized Neorealism but sees this more as an attempt to adapt to theory,
rather to reject it entirely. According to Neoliberalism, international institutions will not simply be
reflections of the interest of the most powerful actors in the global system. Clearly, the preferences
of such actors will matter. But they, like smaller or medium-sized countries, are constrained in their
behavior by their embedding into networks of international or regional institutions, or regimes.
In fact, international institutions are believed to be able to crucially influence the behavior of states
in the global system. Interdependence between states, according to this school of thought, does not
create dependence, and with this a fear of gaining less than others in a relative terms, but it adds to
the prospects for stability and peace over time. In fact, we could see a project like European
integration in the light of this theory.
After World War II, former enemies such as Germany and France, integrated some of the most
important sectors of the economy at the time, coal and steel. This economic inter-dependence
created the foundations for a long-lasting pattern of stability and peace in what today is the
European Union. Moreover, the theory would argue that the European integration process has led to
the establishment of institutions that have further stimulated the integration process and that they
do not simply reflect the preferences and power of its most important member states.
Summarizing, Liberalism has a rich tradition in terms of both its political and its economic features.
Political liberalism emphasizes values such as individual liberty, political rights, equality, human
freedom, and democracy. Economics strains of liberalism focus on the importance of markets, the
benefits of trade and the need to keep markets as free as possible from government interference.
Neoliberalism or Neoliberal Institutionalism, as it is also called, emphasize the role of a range of
different actors on the domestic and the international level, including transnational actors, in terms
of constraining and shaping the behavior of states. In this theoretical school of thought, international
institutions do matter.
In the next video, we will investigate a third major theory, which differs in terms of quite a few
aspects, from realism and liberalism: that of constructivism.

Video 1.4 Constructivism
Hello there. In the last videos, we presented realism, neorealism, liberalism, and neoliberalism. In
this video, we look at how another major strand of theorizing constructivism -- explains
international politics and the driving forces of actor behavior.
In essence, constructivism in international relations theory is based on many different approaches,
but broadly it can be seen as a reaction to neorealism, but also neoliberalism. It criticizes some of the
core assumptions of these trends of theorizing and aims to offer alternative explanations.
Constructivism like other major theories of international relations, has many different authors and
sub-schools. But what is common to most of these approaches, is that social reality is not assumed to
just be given, but it is constructed. Knowledge does not exist independently of interpretation and the
use of language. We give what we see a meaning. So how we and others see the world depends on
how the social reality is constructed. It is not so much material interests and power that matter, but
for example ideas, norms, identities, and processes of learning. It is not so much the structure of the
international system that determines how states act, but how states view each other. An enemy of a
state is not an enemy because it holds a specific amount of power, but because it is perceived as an
Another state with a similar level of economic or military power, is perceived as a friend and with
this, not seen as a security threat. The level of threat that a state poses to another state, is not
something that can just be measured by its military weight or its economic power.
For constructivists, institutions may not only offer formal rules of interaction, but they also shape
actor behavior: actors will learn in the setting of formal or informal institutions and get socialized by
them. The gradual acquisition and development of shared norms and values will matter. For
example, the value of human rights or democracy may be learned and by mutual interaction,
gradually, be seen as valuable. Constructivism does not see actors as utility maximizing or rational.
Ideational factors are generally understood as being more important than material interests. It is the
spread of norms and values, changing identities, and patterns of socialization that will mainly affect
actor behavior, including interactions between states. Images and perceptions will matter, such as
whether actors perceive others as belonging to self, or to the other.
In 1992 Alexander Wendt wrote a very influential article, in which he presented some of the most
important elements of what now is called social constructivism. His article was titled Anarchy is
What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics. In essence, he criticized some of
the core assumptions of neorealism, but also of neoliberalism. A main message of his article is that
states do not so much act on the basis of the constraints and opportunities that the global system
offers, but the ways in which they perceive each other and their actions. Social reality, in this sense,
is constructed, and with this also the patterns of interaction between states in international
For constructivism, cooperation between states may be possible, but the focus of analysis is different
compared to other theories of international relations. For example, when analyzing an entity such as
the European Union, a constructivist is more interested in aspects such as how this regional
organization is affected by, and supports, values and norms such as democracy, the rule of law, and
human rights than how material features shape the behavior of this organization.
Similarly, identities will matter, like the question to which extent citizens of the European Union, for
example, will feel they are French, German, Polish, rather than citizens of the European Union. The
European Union in turn will affect these identities.
Constructivism differs from other major strands of international relations theorizing by its emphasis
on how states perceive each other, by the importance of identities, and of images such as self and
the other, by whether states see each other as friends or as enemies, and finally by a focus on
socialization and learning. In constructivism, institutions matter, but as formal or informal rules that
affect actor behavior; for most constructivists, it is not so much material forces that are assumed to
influence the behavior of actors, but rather ideational ones.
The end of the Cold War, for example, triggered many debates about the relevance of constructivism
as a theory to explain international relations. Constructivists argued that the failure to predict the
end of the Cold War showed that the focus of neorealism on security and anarchy was largely wrong.
As explained for example by Robert Snyder, constructivists claim it should rather be the terms of
agency, and of ideas, and the so-called new thinking of Mikhail Gorbachev: the Cold War ended not
because of strategic or military reasons, but because of a change in identity, and a change in thinking,
in the Soviet Union itself.
However, as also explained by Snyder, this in turn fails to recognize that Gorbachev was not only
driven by ideas, but that his foreign policy was also an instrument for domestic purposes. For more
on this article, please refer to the reading list. This example shows that there are many different
explanations of a major event, such as the Cold War, and its ending. Scholars do not agree on the
causes and dynamics of what could be called the most defining period in the history of the 20th
What do you think of these different explanations? Do you think that one strand of theorizing can
more adequately explain international relations than the others?
So, what have we learned? In essence, constructivism is now one of the major strands of theorizing
in international relations. It does not consist of one single school of thought. But most constructivists
in international relations believe that social reality is constructed by mutual interaction and that
material interests are not as important as non-material ones, including norms, ideas and identities.
In the next video, we will explore quite a different topic, by looking at one of the most important
institutions in global affairs: the United Nation Security Council.

Video 1.5 United Nations Security Council
Hello, welcome. My name is Larissa van den Herik and I'm a professor of Public International Law at
the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at Leiden University. This first lecture that I give to
you is about the United Nations Security Council. In this lecture we will explore together the role and
function of the Security Council in the world of today.
We will mainly speak about the actions of the council and not its composition or voting procedures.
So the question of which states are member of the council, whether the composition of the council
still reflects current geographical power distributions, and whether some members, the P5 (the
Permanent five), should really have a veto and an ability to obstruct decisions, are addressed by my
colleague, Professor Hosli, in a later lecture.
The Security Council is sometimes called the policeman or firefighter of our international society.
Whenever there is a crisis, we expect the Security Council to act. But what is it? A policeman, who
acts in case of violations of the law? Or a firefighter, who acts in case of fire and other emergencies?
What is the identity of the Security Council? What can we expect of it? What kinds of crises does it
address and how, and what is its relation to international law?
Those are the questions that I would like to discuss with you today.
The Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations. It exists as of 24 October
1945, when after the Second World War, the United Nations was founded, when the UN replaced the
League of Nations. The main aim of the United Nations, created in the immediate aftermath of the
second World War, is to maintain international peace and security. Or in the words of the preamble
of the charter of the United Nations, to save succeeding generations from a scourge of war. And
the organ of the UN which is primarily responsible for the maintenance of peace is the Security
Council. The Security Council is a very special organ in international law, for two reasons.
First of all, it is the only body which can impose binding obligations on states; and secondly, it is the
only body which can authorize states to use force; military force. The UN, for the first time in history,
prohibits states to use force unilaterally. So, instead of a dispute, they must settle it peacefully.
Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, the cornerstone of our international society, prohibits the use of force.
From now on states may not use force, unless they act in self-defense or when authorized by the
Security Council. So, states have agreed that in times of crisis, the Security Council will respond on
their behalf, and that they will accept and carry out decisions of the council.
What kinds of crises does the Security Council address? When does it act and how? The council must
ensure the maintenance of peace. It is a political body, which may act and impose binding obligations
under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, whenever it decides that there is a threat to peace. So, it
acts more as a firefighter than a policeman. The council does not address just any violation of
international law. But, its main task is to maintain peace. In 1945, the concept of peace referred to
the absence of war between two states.
However, in the post-Cold War period, we see that the concept of peace has become much broader
or even elastic. In the 1990s, the council was reactivated after the Cold-War paralysis, when the
rivalry between the two super powers, the US and USSR, blocked any effective decision making. The
reactivated council determined that also civil conflicts and situations of gross human rights
violations, like Somalia in 1993 and the Romanian genocide in 1994, constitute a threat to peace,
even if those are internal situations; and this new interpretation has been accepted. So, the council
has enlarged the mandate by including civil conflicts in grave human rights situations; and in fact,
many of its actions in the 21st century concern civil conflicts, rather than inter-state conflicts. Think
of the Central African Republic, Yemen, Syria, and Libya.
Another moment when the Security Council broadened its working space is 9/11. In the aftermath of
9/11, the Security Council determined that acts of international terrorism constitute a threat to
peace. So the Council did not determine that a concrete situation in a specific state was a threat to
peace, but it rather determined that a phenomenon terrorism -- was a threat to peace, which is of
course much more open-ended. 9/11 was transformative also for another reason.
On 28 September 2001, the council adopted resolution 1373; and this resolution was different from
all resolutions before: it was a legislative resolution. Normally, when the Security Council determines
a threat to peace, it has various concrete measures at its disposal under chapter seven of the UN
charter: It can order a cease fire; it can impose sanctions (a forceful measure that we discuss in more
depth in a subsequent lecture); it can also establish ad hoc tribunals, as it did for Yugoslavia and
Rwanda; or it can refer a matter to the International Criminal Court, like it did with Libya and Sudan
(and we will discuss the role of the ICC in more depth later); or lastly, the Security Council can
authorize the use of force.
Now, why is Resolution 1373, adopted right after 9/11, so special? Because, in this case, the council
did not order, or recommend that the states undertake concrete action. But the resolution was very
general in scope. For instance, it ordered states to criminalize the financing of terrorism in a very
generic way.
What actually happened, is that the Security Council copy-pasted part of a terrorism treaty that had
not yet entered into force, and by putting this treaty into a resolution, the council made it binding on
all states. So the Security Council, which had so far acted as a firefighter, ordering states to undertake
specific acts to address concrete situations, now started to legislate and to issue obligations with
much more general implications and making them binding on all states. The council assumed a new
role, but perhaps it was a special role for a special situation.
At the end of this lecture, we may conclude with one question. How should we see the Security
Council today? Has it become the guardian of international law? On the one hand it has, since it may
now act in situations of grave human rights violations, and can thus be seen as enforcer of human
rights in those situations.
On the other hand, the council acts of course very arbitrarily, as it is sometimes barred from
operation by the use of veto by one of the permanent members - a matter we will discuss in more
depth in the next lecture. Moreover, the council is also sometimes seen as a body violating human
rights, in particular in the context of sanctions. We will also discuss this in more detail in a
subsequent lecture.
What is important to know after this lecture is that the council broadened its mandate ever since
1945, to include internal situations in states and to address phenomena rather than situations only. It
has become more active in the post-Cold War period; and enforcement measures that it has at its
disposal have become more varied. In next lectures, we will discuss some of those measures in more
Video 1.6 Wrapping Up
We hope that you enjoyed this week's lectures. The videos on International Relation theories have
given you a basis to understand some of the core concepts in the study of international relations and
international organization. Please keep in mind that several other theories of international relations
exist. Such as Marxism, post Marxism or feminist theories of international relations. But of course
we cannot cover all of them. if you're interested to learn more about such approaches, please have a
look at possible additional readings. This lecture on the role and function of the U.N. Security
Council you got an idea what this crucial institution can do in practice in terms of the maintenance of
global peace and stability.
The lectures and the assigned readings will give you the foundation that you need to complete the
first quiz for this course. That will count towards your course grades. Good luck taking this test. Next
week we will have a look at changes in the current global order. Focusing for example, on the rise of
emerging powers.These lectures will be given by my colleagues. professor Rob de Wijk, and Professor
Andre Gerrits. See you then.