International Relations from a Political and Economic Perspective

612 words | 3 page(s)

Political scientists and economists can learn much from historians and sociologists: history provides us with lessons on both successful and unsuccessful implementation of international policy, while understanding how societies function can help us understand the economic needs and trends of any given society. Political scientists examine international relations issues by evaluating how different governments create policy based on political thoughts and behavior. Often, this is evaluated by examining how power and resources are distributed and sought by different parties within a government, based on political ideology. Economists examine international relations by evaluating the different areas of the economy and how they influence both policy and legislation. As the world becomes increasingly global, particularly from an economic perspective, economists have begun to analyze how trade and the distribution of resources function on a global scale.

As seen in the Dani Rodrik and Paul Krugman essays, the root of positive international relations often begins with shared economic values. This can be seen in the establishment of the Euro, which has helped stabilize European relations since its introduction. This is particularly significant, considering the economic problems faced by Germany throughout much of the twentieth century that ultimately gave rise to World War 2. Before the Euro, many conflicts, beginning with the rapid rise of German inflation following the first World War and its subsequent currency manipulation, became openly hostile; however, these were economic in origin, so a shared currency between European nations has stabilized the continent.

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At the same time, sociologists can see how economic trends can also influence the social culture. Ayers’ description of the Civil War explores how these economic issues contributed to class distinctions and culture. Although the Civil War can be seen as the first step toward correcting a grave social injustice, the foundations for its cause can be attributed to one side feeling economically threatened, as it was forced to relinquish its free labor economy. Although this system had many significant social implications in regard to how certain classes were treated, the root of the conflict was economic in origin. From these lessons, we can see how social elements such as the marginalization of certain groups are often rooted in preserving the hegemonic status quo.

In regard to international conflict, we can see how international policy has become increasingly directed by nations with the largest economies. Following the end of the Second World War, the Cold War saw conflicts in Korean and Vietnam, which were based off of competing Soviet and American economic interests in the region. In order to gain support, it became increasingly apparent that local support, and not just the support of the current regimes, was essential. This created the hearts and minds fallacy, as described by Jacqueline Hazleton, which amounted to propaganda designed to influence the culture of a society in order to gain support for one side or another. However, these policies often failed, as there was a misunderstanding of the local culture and a presumption that western values would be accepted by an eastern nation. This division of ideology can still be seen today in North Korea, which exists as a remnant of Cold War hostilities that created the Korean conflict.

Political scientists and economists can therefore learn from historians and sociologists, because historians provide us with specific examples and case studies of what happened before; and sociologists provide us with ways of seeing a culture that we otherwise might not have considered. International conflicts such as Vietnam were created because of a misunderstanding of the local culture; by understanding these previous failures, and learning from history and having a respect for other cultures, many of these problems can hopefully be prevented in the future.

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