All entries for May 2005

May 23, 2005

IP Power Essay Response

Follow-up to IP Power Essay from Iain's blog


This to those of you who were wondering what grade I got for my power essay.

I got 64/100 which is a middling 2.1

Hope that helps!!

May 16, 2005

Apology or an Appeal for Clarification? – Liberal or Liberalist?

This is a general apology (although specifically aimed at Fred), for being unsure of the correct use of my own language. (What, did I read that correctly, Iain never,ever apologises!!!) Often I have argued with him over the correct way to describe someone who holds a liberal political outlook on life. He contends that you can call someone a 'liberalist', whilst I counter that assumption with the fact that the word doesn't even exist. Instead I have hitherto confidently insisted that you can only say that someone is a 'liberal' or say that he holds 'liberal' views. However, now I am not so sure. Is anyone?

What, I hear you ask, has planted this seed of doubt in my normally overly confident (and some might say, arrogant) mind? The answer, surprising as it might seem, is actually my own work that has been posted up on this blog. In my own essays I have referred to liberals as 'liberalists' and so to avoid confusion and to apologise to anyone that I have had this discussion with, as well as to avoid accusations of hypocrisy I would like to say it. I'm sorry. There, that didn't hurt. Well not too much anyway. So there you go, the moral of this blog entry is to NEVER, EVER TRUST ANYTHING IAIN SAYS. (Assuming that you were taking any notice that is.)

Before I finish (gosh, I wish this guy would just shut up!), I would just like to wish all my fellow EPAIS students and any other friends that I may have, the best of luck with the revision and the upcoming exams. Never before has such a small word caused such anxiety and stress for so many people. If you come out of an exam feeling rather low and thinking you may need to come back early in September to re do them, all I can say is this. Don't. If the worst comes to the worst, you can rest assured you will have me for some rather fun, if not self depricating, company. I know nothing and I don't know where to start!

See y'all soon in the coming weeks,

May 04, 2005

IP Theories and comment reply

Follow-up to WP Essay– Theories of International Relations Grade 60/100 2.1 from Iain's blog

This is a follow up to my IR Theories essay and a comment that I was asked. Sorry but these are the sites I used for analysing the UN, but other UN sites would obviously be of some use also.

For the theories you could try this site to accompany one of the textboks I use here

WP Essay– Theories of International Relations Grade 60/100 2.1

In this essay, I shall attempt to explain which theory of international relations is the best one for a student of this subject to use and why that is the case. I will go through each of the theories in turn before trying to reach a conclusion about which one or two I feel are the most useful to use. The theories that I shall be looking at are liberalism, realism and their neo offshoots, Marxism, as well as having an overview of world systems, critical theory and constructivism.

I shall first start off with liberalism. Liberalism is seen as the theory that arose out of the carnage of WW1, where political scholars and the general public alike thought ‘never again’ would they have to endure such wanton destruction and loss of life. It is as such seen as one partly based on utopianism or is idealistic because it is a normative theory that its critics argue sees the world as its proponents ‘hope it would be’ rather than how it actually is. For liberalists the idea of human nature is important and they see mankind as basically good and capable of coexisting with others in peace and harmony, yet I would argue that this is not entirely true as the almost never ending occurrences of violence throughout the world demonstrates, whether that be in the former Yugoslavia, the outbreaks of violence in Africa such as Rwanda and parts of Asia would show.

One thought of liberals that I would broadly agree with is that of the democratic peace hypothesis. Put in general terms, this idea is one that suggests that states that are liberal democratic in nature, on the whole peace loving and will not go to war with each other1. This is because in a liberal global system, there are many constraints on how governments act. In democracies, leaders face re election and other methods of checks and balances that hold them to account. Facing such obstacles it is unlikely that a democratic state would go to war as a decision to do so would face criticism and is often unpopular. Also one of the fundamental tenets of liberalism is that economics has an important part to play in global affairs and economies are likely to suffer if a state goes to war due to the destruction that war entails. Therefore, liberals argue it’s in nobody’s interest to go to war. There are certain failings to this assertion. I do feel that undermine the liberal outlook on international relations. For example, although democracies are unlikely to go to war with each other it does not mean that no democracy will ever go to war as the instances of Iraq and Kosovo will show although in the case of the latter, it was justified on humanitarian grounds to prevent the ethnic cleansing that Bosnian Serbs were committing.

However, as I have already said, the liberal emphasis on economics is one that I do feel is particularly pertinent today as the number of economic groupings will show such as the EU, ASEAN and NAFTA. I feel that with these supranational economic groupings as well as institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO it is almost impossible to separate economics from international relations theory. This would also support the hypothesis that there are actors other than states that have a bearing on how international relations are conducted. In this case the non-state actors are international organisations. For example, the aid received by the European countries in 1947 through the Marshall Plan could be interpreted by a liberalist as a benevolent act on the behalf of the US to help the shattered European economies to recover and to have a worthwhile group of friendly countries with which to trade as well as hoping that an economically sound Europe would help propagate liberal democratic states that could hold off the perceived threat of communism.

Another theory that I feel is useful is the realist one. In brief, this is the theory that suggest that states are the only actors on the global scene and that all states act in what can only be described as the ‘national interest’. To simplify, each states uses its own sovereignty to get what it wants by increasing its own power. In contrast with the multilateralism involved in liberalism, the realist school of thought tends to suggest that states will act unilaterally if that is what is required and to support this assertion I refer to the example of the USA not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, arguing that it would harm the US economy and put it at a relative disadvantage to other countries that must face less stringent restrictions such as India and China.

Another basis for the realist theory is the idea of a balance of power and the anarchic nature of the global system as there is no effective global government and the world system is anomic (without rules)2. This ties in well with the idea of global relations being one of self help3 and each state striving to promote its own interests at the expense of others. In short, realists see the global system as one of self help. The idea of the balance of power is put in place to explain the situation where states will ally themselves to prevent the hegemony of one state over all others. The example of Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries is an example of a balance of power system in place.

However, that is not to say that I feel the realist theory is flawless. For example, the UN can exert sanctions and military force on those who transgress ‘international law’, as in the case of Iraq in the 1990’s as well Libya over the Lockerbie bombings, although the US and UK lifted these after Gadaffi agreed to accept responsibility for the Lockerbie disaster and renounce terrorism. Also, the balance of power theory could only work if no one state or alliance is so predominantly powerful that they alone could claim to have greater power than their enemies combined. However, in the contemporary global system, I see the USA as so powerful in both military and economic terms ( in the IMF and World Bank its 18% of votes gives it a virtual veto on all decisions), it can ‘go it alone’ and there is little other states could do about it. In such a unipolar world, a balance of power couldn’t exist as there is no countering power to the USA since the end of the Cold War.

I shall now attempt to quickly cover neo liberalism and neo realism, which tend to merge the ideas of liberalism and realism together. As Keohane4 (1988), one of the main neo-liberals points out international organisations, “constrain activity and shape expectations.” Here it seems that neo-liberals feel that international organisations have a role on the global scene and I feel that this is correct as these bodies do have an impact as well as showing that states are actually prepared to co-operate. Neo-liberals are seen to be more interested in economic welfare or environmental concerns in place of just focusing on survival as neo-realists do. However, I do disagree with the neo-liberal thought that says states are only interested in comparative advantage. Here my support shifts to the neo-realist theory of relative advantage. As Waltz points out,“A state worries about the division of possible gains that may favour others more than itself.”5

Waltz says, and I tend to agree with him, that states also have an eye on how other states are doing in relation to that particular state and that states will act rationally in order to pursue their own interests. All states try to ensure that if their gains aren’t maximised then at least they aren’t worse off than they were before in relation to the power that other states possess. The already mentioned example of the USA refusing to sign up to the Kyoto protocol would suggest that this is the case as in enforcing the protocol, the USA would be less well off than countries such as China and India who had to face less severe cuts in their levels of pollution. Waltz, who is seen as the main voice of neo-realism also repeats the realist view that “self help is necessarily the principle means of action in an anarchic order.”6

The next theory of international relations that I shall try to cover is Marxism. I must admit that there are parts of it that I am not too keen on. The theory suggests that individual actors on the world scene have no impact on how events. If that is the case, then how do historical events happen? I feel that history has required individuals to leave their indelible mark on international relations for events to have occurred. To take an extreme example to explain my point, it is widely felt that although certain events (such as the strength of feeling against what was seen as the unfair conditions laid out in the Versailles Treaty), made the rise of an individual like Hitler in the 1930’s possible, it was his own charismatic way of expressing the frustrations that many Germans felt that could explain his popularity in the early 1930’s. It was not because of the exploitation of the proletariat that led to WW2, I would suggest that it was in part to do with countries like Britain responding to acts of naked aggression on the part of the Germans to increase their power and pursue their own interests.

A central component of Marxism is the idea that each class in history will be replaced by another one in some permanent kind of ‘class struggle’. I take this to mean that Marxists believe that the current capitalist system will be replaced by a variant of socialism or communism. I disagree with this because I feel that instead of being replaced, the ideals of capitalism as supported by liberals are becoming more predominant, not less so on the global scene as well as the end of communism in the USSR. Also, I cite the fact that WTO membership has now reached 1487 and that there are some 30 or so countries negotiating to join it. The reason that I feel that this is relevant is that the fact that WTO and other international organisations are seen as supporting the liberal, capitalist centred view of the world that Marxists say should be eroding away. Instead of eroding away, their membership and global reach is increasing.

This leaves us with the remaining theories. World systems theory is one that deals with the economic inequalities and exploitation between the core and periphery in the capitalist system. This theory purports that the economic exploitation of the weaker economies in the periphery allow powerful capitalist states to prosper through things such as cheap labour and raw materials as well as lower standards that keep costs down for multinational companies. Critical theory points out that it is impossible to generate an objective, impartial theory for international relations as we are all part of the ‘system’ and so we can’t form an unbiased view of the world as such as we are in it. As Cox famously put it “theory is always for someone, and for some purpose.”8 Whilst I accept that this could be true to a certain extent, I am going to reject this theory, as according to Cox, I can’t use a theory to explain the global system as I am part of the system that I wish to study. For constructivists like Onuf, there is no innate law of nature to explain the international system9. To paraphrase, it is what we make of it and if we believe in sovereignty or any other culture or norm that regulates how states act in relation to each other, then in so believing, this idea will exist and we will act accordingly. I reject this, as I feel that human nature is such that we will react to whatever threats we see to our survival, instead of creating norms or values that tell us how we should respond to different circumstances.

In conclusion, I feel that the most useful theory would be a mix of realism and liberalism, although that is not to say that they are flawless (no theory predicted the end of the cold war for example). Liberalism, as far as I am concerned sums up the natural instinct to co-operate as well as placing an emphasis on economics which would explain the increasing influence of non governmental actors on the global scene. Realism’s strength lies in its focus on how the world actually is and that in the absence of an effective global authority, it is a case of ‘every state for itself’ where each state will use any means, peaceful or militaristic, to get what it wants at the expense of others and ensure its survival. I feel that on the whole, these two theories combined best explain the happenings of both the past and contemporary international relations between states and increasingly, non state actors.

Word count: 2195. Upper limit 2200.

Bibliography and footnotes

1. ( Accessed 22/11/04)
2.Little,R “International Regimes” (2001) in Baylis,J and Smith,S (eds) The Globalisation of World Politics (New York: Oxford University Press), 314
3.Waltz, K (1979) Theories of International Relations, (USA: McGraw Hill), 15
4.(Keohane, R. “International Institutions: Two Approaches”, in International Studies Quarterly Vol. 32, 1988, cited in address in footnote 1).
5.Waltz, K (1979) Theories of International Relations, (USA: McGraw Hill),106
6.Waltz, K (1979) Theories of International Relations, (USA: McGraw Hill),111
7. ( Accessed 19/11/04)
8.Cox, R (1996) “Social forces, states, and world orders in international relations theory” in Cox, R and Siclair, T Approaches to World Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p87
9.Onuf, N (1989), World of our Making: Rules and rule in social theory in International Relations ( Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press)

WP Essay– Is the UN efffective?

Is the UN an effective organisation?

Iain Foreman 0305494
Tutor: Alina Gamboa

Since its creation in 1945, the United Nations (UN) and its effectiveness as an organisation has been the subject of much debate and discussion, especially in light of the events of the last two years where its role or perceived lack of it in the Iraq war has led to some to question its relevance in the contemporary world. The difficulties I feel lie in agreeing on what the UN actually should be doing and what should be left to the individual member states that make up the near universal membership of the UN1. The most effective way to deal with this question would be to look at what the UN does effectively and what it doesn’t, and then to come to some sort of conclusion and to see if it is as Peter Jones put it “only as effective as its members wish it to be.”2

The UN has many detractors with various criticisms of the organisation which I shall be dealing with first. The first of these is that it is unable to neither create peace nor prevent acts of aggression nor even to keep peace in parts of the world where violence has erupted. Examples from the past decade include the recent Gulf conflict, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. In the case of the latter, it has been pointed out that its disintegration and descent into chaos and fighting between differing and national ethnic groups is what many feel could have been prevented by the UN or at least more effective measures should have been enforced to prevent the ‘ethnic cleansing’ perpetuated by Bosnian Serbs. One reason that the vast body of critics of the UN point out is the veto power that is wielded by the five permanent members of the Security Council, which makes it difficult for a decision leading to effective action to be made. In recent times, proposed resolutions relating to Yugoslavia and Israel, among others have been vetoed by permanent members (China/Russia and the USA respectively). This may lead to some seeing the UN as nothing more than a ‘talking shop’ that appears unable or unwilling to act against those transgressing the will of the international community or going against the principles of the UN Charter, due to the UN’s inability to get agreement on what should be done.

This certainly appeared to be the view of the ‘hawks’ in Washington when it became clear that France would veto any resolution that would explicitly permit the use of armed force in ensuring Iraq’s compliance with previous UN resolutions, including the unanimously passed Resolution 1441 of November 2002 that gave Iraq a last chance to prove that it had eliminated its weapons of mass destruction as required after the first Gulf War of 1991. The argument is; how can an organisation be effective when it can’t reach an agreement on how to punish a miscreant state that had consistently broken and then delayed its compliance with regards to obligations that it faces?3 This also raises the issue of whether or not the UN is actually relevant in these circumstances, as if we live in a world where there’s US hegemony, then the theory is that any meaningful UN action has to have US support (e.g. resolutions regarding Israel), or in cases where the US can’t get UN support for its views, then the USA is powerful enough to ‘go it alone’, as in the case of Iraq. This is perhaps summed up best by Urquhart who said “the determining factor in responding to future emergencies will be the interest and concerns of the USA and its allies in a given situation.”4

One of the problems that critics of the UN point out that it has is that it has no standing or permanent forces of its own. Instead it is reliant on member states of the UN to provide troops of their own on a case by case basis to ensure that military action is at least possible. Obviously, in these circumstances a nation will only provide finance or military troops if it regards the function of the UN force as acceptable, or in line with its own interests. The failure to set up a military committee, as anticipated by the founders of the UN, which would have taken over preparations for any collective action to ensure security has resulted in the rendering of the UN as “almost entirely ineffective as an instrument of collective security.”5 The issue of peacekeeping is one used as a rod by the UN’s critics with which to hit it. The supposed ineffective action of the UN in areas such as Somalia and the former Yugoslavia is often cited. Many commentators have noted that the IFOR NATO force sent to the Balkans after the Dayton Peace accords was more effective in keeping the peace than the UN’s ‘blue berets’ were6 .

Other instruments that the UN has at its disposal are seen as insufficient to carry out the tasks required of it. One of the UN’s very own reports has admitted that sanctions can be described as a “blunt instrument.”7 This report also goes on to say that the sanctions imposed are normally ineffectual and often result in the suffering of innocent civilians whilst being unlikely to affect the conduct of the leaders whose actions that the sanctions were supposed to change. The most recent example pointed out by many is the plight of ordinary Iraqis before the second Persian Gulf War, even though the UN had since modified its stance with the now discredited ‘Oil for Food’ programme. It has since been alleged and partly accepted by the subsequent Volcker report that Saddam Hussein was able to corrupt certain UN officials with vouchers for oil reserves in return for influence or a sympathetic ear in the higher echelons of the UN. It seems that sanctions are to be put in place in order to avoid the need for military action but as the cited UN report states this mechanism at the UN’s disposal is often unlikely to effect the desired change from badly behaved states and as Roberts suggests “sanctions are seldom enough: military means are therefore likely to be seen as necessary.”8 The UN is supposed to be able to uphold peace and security in the world and yet one of the ways in which it aims to achieve this end (using sanctions against aggressive states) is seen as ineffective.

Another issue blighting the UN in its search for effectiveness is its budgetary problems. According to the recent figures the UN debt stands at $800 million, with the US owing $690.9 million in unpaid dues9 and has had to cut its staff levels from 12,000 to 9,000. The USA has also withheld in $34milllion in protest against the UN Population Fund’s stance on contraception that has to be applied to Africa in its fight against AIDS. To further underscore the perception that ‘money talks’, the USA has not lost its voting rights despite it owing money to the organisation. Nations such as Afghanistan that didn’t pay monies that it owed have lost their voting rights in the past. The UN is supposed to be equitable in its dealings with all its members but this fact only further suggests that the UN is unable to control the larger, more powerful states that appear to be able to run roughshod over or bully the heavily criticised organisation.

However, that’s not to say it is all gloom when one considers the UN’s effectiveness. Many supporters of the UN point to the success of the first Gulf War where the UN was able to reverse an act of aggression on the part of Iraq when it had invaded Kuwait in 1990. The UN acted with reasonable pace in being able to agree that action was necessary and had expelled Iraq from Kuwait within eight months of its first Resolution calling for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. This success was attributed to the fact that both superpowers, the USA and Russia (which took up the USSR’s seat on the Security Council), both accepted that something must be done. The Cold War divide that had hitherto paralysed the UN taking action was no longer in existence. Both East and West had decided on what action was necessary and led to President Bush’s proclamation of a ‘new world order’ with the UN at its heart. This example could refute the claim of the UN’s critics that the power of veto is the main obstacle to the UN acting effectively.

Another thing going for the UN is that it has as Claire Short put it, “a special moral authority on the world stage.”10 It is seen as the place where to air grievances and it has a unique authority as it is the only international organisation with near universal membership able to deal with issues of the day. As such, it can legitimately claim to speak for the international community as a whole when a proclamation is made on the behalf of the UN. Any action authorised by the UN is going to carry more moral weight than one without its support and members of the UN are more inclined to interfere on the world stage if it is clear that they have the UN’s authority behind them. In short, the UN is seen as a neutral means of garnering support for action in order to reverse undesirable acts, such as acts of aggression.

This has been seen in Parsons’ six examples of the UN helping to mediate and lessen the probability of armed conflict11. One of these is the Falklands dispute where the UK got international support for the notion that force was not the way to assert a nations’ sovereignty over disputed territories, and garnered some moral authority when it sent out an armed force to recover the islands. The UN had also helped mediate between the superpowers in the Cold War. Parsons points out the role the Secretary-General played in the Cuban Missile Crisis in helping to draft letters and allowed Khrushchev to be seen as listening to a plea from the international community in order to back down and avoid a potential nuclear war. To put in Parsons’ own words, “the UN escape route had worked.”12

Another thing that could be said that the UN does effectively is that it aims to improve the lives of citizens all over the world. In this respect it has had limited success, such as the UN development goals and the aim to halve poverty by 2015. According to the UN, the aim to halve the number of people living on under a dollar a day has been met in South East Asia and the Pacific13, but the targets have yet to be reached in sub- Saharan Africa, where there are real problems in attempting to reach the target. The picture of mixed success also applies to the attempt to combat hunger, but most regions have reached or are on course to reach the target requiring every child to have had a primary education14.

In conclusion, the UN has had some success, albeit limited in improving the lives of the less fortunate but could be more effective, especially with regards to maintaining peace in the international community. The problem lies in the make up of the UN where the five potential vetoes in the Security Council ensure that the agenda tends to stay in line with those of the more powerful countries, thus ensuring that remedial action against acts of aggression can only take place if these countries, most notably the USA, allow it. The fact that regional organisations often fare better than the UN in dealing with trouble, such as NATO in the former Yugoslavia or the Arab League helping to diffuse tensions in 1961 between Kuwait and Iraq when the Security Council was paralysed by Soviet vetoes15, show some the UN’s, particularly the Security Council’s failings. In other issues, the UN has been more effective such as reaching agreement on the Millennium Development Goals which aim to help the third world and improve the lives of the less advantaged in the world. In sum, the UN is not as effective as it could be in regards in maintaining world peace but a lot of the ‘behind the scenes’ work has been more effective, although admittedly not as successful as it would be hoped.


1.the UN website membership page at link (Accessed 17 February 05)
2.Peter Jones (1996), Introducing International Politics, Sheffield Hallam University: PAVIC, p135.
3. (Accessed 7 Feb 05)
4.Urquhart, B “The UN and international security after the Cold War” in Kingsbury, B and Roberts, A (eds) (2000 2nd edition) United Nations in a Divided World, New York: Oxford University Press, p86.
5.Peter Jones (1996), Introducing International Politics, Sheffield Hallam University: PAVIC, p130.
6.Teresa Cowling on the web at link (Accessed 6 Feb 05).
7.Adam Roberts “The UN and Collective Security” in Woods, N (ed) (2002), Explaining International Relations since 1945, New York: Oxford University Press, p318 citing Supplement to an Agenda for Peace: Position Paper of the Secretary-General on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations, UN doc.A/50/60 (3rd January 1995), para.70.
8.Adam Roberts “The UN and Collective Security” in Woods, N (ed) (2002), Explaining International Relations since 1945, New York: Oxford University Press, p318.
9. (Accessed 12 February 2005)
10.The Claire Short speech at the Rockefeller Foundation, New York, 26th October 1999 online at link (Accessed 13 February 05).
11.Anthony Parsons “The UN and National Interests of States” in Kingsbury, B and Roberts, A (eds) (2000 2nd edition) United Nations in a Divided World, New York: Oxford University Press, pp106–111.
12.Anthony Parsons “The UN and National Interests of States” in Kingsbury, B and Roberts, A (eds) (2000 2nd edition) United Nations in a Divided World, New York: Oxford University Press, p107.
13. (Accessed 13 February 05).
14. (Accessed 13 February 05).
15.Sally Morphet, “UN Peacekeeping and Election Monitoring" in Kingsbury, B and Roberts, A (eds) (2000 2nd edition) United Nations in a Divided World, New York: Oxford University Press, p189.


Peter Jones (1996), Introducing International Politics, Sheffield Hallam University: PAVIC
Kingsbury, B and Roberts, A (eds) (2000 2nd edition) United Nations in a Divided World, New York: Oxford University Press
Woods, N (ed) (2002), Explaining International Relations since 1945, New York: Oxford University Press

May 03, 2005

Plugging my society—– Pick & Mix Sports

Hi all!!! This is where I unashamedly promote one of the societies that I happen to be in,as well as it's Treasurer and also it is one of the newest. As you can probably tell from it's name P&M is a society where we basically sample a different sport each week and have some fun before it becomes boring doing the same thing two or three times a week. It also gives you a chance to try out activities that you would not have normally done before. Some of the more interesting unpredicted ones that come to mind, amongst others, are lacross, trampolining, taekwondo and thai boxing. Of course, the usual suspects, such as football, cricket and basketball are done as well.

The lessons are normally taken by the exec of the relevant sport society concerned, so those leading the fun 2 hour session actually do know what they are talking about and are able to engender some enthusiasm from those who are normally reluctant to take part. As it is a more informal society than some, it doesn't matter if you'd never done the sport before as most of us aren't that competitive. Well, perhaps not all of us anyway. You can also miss the odd session if there is something that you don't fancy doing, without running the risk of getting the 'cold shoulder' treatment that you may get in other societies. Also, through doing and being a member of the society, you will of course be able to try out a sport/ activity and if you like it, use this knowledge to join that society as well.

For those of you who are interested, as well as for those who may not be, the email address is (between the speech marks)


IP Essay Conservative– Ideology?

Introduction To Politics
Essay Term 2
6. Is Conservatism an Ideology?

Iain Foreman : 0305494
Tutor: Rosalba Icaza

In order to answer this question, firstly I must accept that there are various definitions as to what an ideology actually is1 and then using these definitions, set out to see if conservatism matches any of them and if so, I will be able to draw the conclusion that conservatism is an ideology. For some such as Marx, an ideology could lead to a false consciousness as Heywood (2002)2 cites and explains the German Ideology where “the class which has the means of mental production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production.”3 For Marx, ideologies are false and they led to people believing in something that is actually incorrect and that ‘truth’ can only be defined through scientific, empirical observation. In this case, ‘truth’ can’t be established through an idea but through observing the world.

Others have put forward other views of ideology. An ideology will lead to people “judging a particular issue through some rigid framework of pre conceived ideas which dictates their understanding”4, as Eagleton (1991) suggests. He then goes on to quote Durkheim (1982) who says the ideologies are the “use of notions to govern the collation of facts rather than deriving notions from them.”5 The quotes from Eagleton and Durkheim suggest that ideologies limit how people interpret an issue or differentiate between right and wrong. They limit the view that one takes when deciding a course of action and so in turn may ‘bias’ the decided outcome due to the fact that the ‘preconceived ideas’ will bar some ideas from consideration.

Following on from having accepted that different interpretations of ideology exist and what they are, it is now important to actually decide what conservatism is before I can come to some sort of conclusion and decide if it meets the definitions of ideology that have been put forward. Thomas Hobbes is recognised as one of the original writers that have been termed ‘conservative.’ He says that man needs authority to keep men in check as without some limit to man’s freedom life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”6 There is a need to respect the authority of a sovereign to prevent war as he writes “without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they (man) are in that condition which is called war.”7 and in the same chapter in Leviathan (ch.13) he talks of a sovereign being able to set rules or laws in order to maintain the peace and that all men must follow these laws. Obviously, for writers and conservatives such as Hobbes, a respect for authority and an acceptance of hierarchy is central to their view of a society that is stable and in peace. As Heywood put it, “duty is the price of privilege”8, and this was the view of ‘One Nation’ conservatives who felt that those who were better off or in a position of authority had an obligation to look after the interests of the less fortunate, especially as by doing so the threat of revolution or social disorder would recede as a result.

As I will now allude to, the conservative outlook on life depends in part on the historical context of that particular situation. As Huntington (1957) says when he cites Mannheim “conservatism is a function of a particular historical and sociological situation.”9 In Hobbes case, he was writing at the time of civil strife in England when the monarchy was overthrown and England became a republic. Like Burke10 who wrote just over a century later, he was saying that revolution was not the way societies should change as any rupture with the natural organic evolution of society could lead to chaos and instability in the future as this change was in a sense ‘un natural’.

This brings me on to my next point about conservatism. As Riff (1987) points out the conservative “tradition has stressed the achievements of the past while allowing for gradual change.”11 As Huntington (1957) also goes on to say “society is the organic product of slow historical growth.”12 What conservatives are trying to say is that the way for a society to progress is not through revolution, but instead any change should be gradual or piecemeal. Implicit in this is an acceptance that if the world has inequalities or a hierarchy then there is probably a good reason for things being as they are and as such there is no real need to try and change them as any revolutionary change, for conservatives at least, is doomed to failure.

However, a couple of events I feel may contradict with this very strict interpretation of conservatism. Firstly there was the Iranian revolution in 1979 where the old order was overthrown and replaced with a fundamentally Islamic state. The second was the rise of the ‘New Right’. These politicians rejected the economic consensus that had arisen out of WW2 and had radical economic views that harked back to classical liberalism yet harked back to Victorian social values also. As these examples hopefully show, conservatives may look at the past through rose tinted spectacles and hope for a return to the ‘good old days’, but what differentiates them from conservatives in the traditional sense was the radical means in which their policies were implemented. In these cases it was through revolution and a rejection of the post war economic consensus respectively.

The political writings of Oakeshott have been classed as conservative. He is perhaps best known as being sceptical of the role rationalism plays in politics and thus by extension, unsure of the validity of some of the claims that liberals have tended to
make. He has argued that experience and pragmatism are the best ways to develop the solution to a problem. In his ‘Rationalism in Politics’13 essay, he talks of two types of knowledge and says that both are as important as the other. For Oakeshott these are technical (of which he is sceptical) and practical knowledge (which he lauds).

Throughout his essay he argues that practical knowledge is the better and more useful of the two as he says the “best knowledge is traditional and it often takes two or three generations to acquire.”14 This implies that experience is a better guide to what should be done as opposed to knowledge and that pragmatism or doing what works is best as opposed to idealistic solutions to problems. This is because experience tells us what can be done as opposed to rationality as Oakeshott implies it only suggests what should be done, regardless of whether it works or not. For conservatives it seems to be a case of ‘better the devil you know’.

However, it should be noted that people may be called conservative and yet still be considered to be of a different ideological orientation. This is because conservatives are understood to resist change of any sort until it absolutely necessary, yet in most regimes of any political persuasion, you could find ‘conservatives’. For example those who attempted a coup against Gorbachev in the summer of 1991 who had considered his reforms as going too far and wanted a return to the communist policies of old could be called conservatives as they opposed changes, namely the signing of a treaty giving communist states a greater degree of independence, even though they were mostly life long communists. This in itself shows the adaptability or as Goodwin (1997) puts it the “chameleon”15 nature of conservatism.

Is conservatism an ideology? This answer will in part depend upon what an ideology is accepted as being and what conservatism actually is and in short, conservatism is only an ideology of sorts. I feel that as conservatism is adaptable and depends in part on the historical context that it has arisen out of then it can’t strictly be an ideology, well certainly not completely in the strictest sense. However, on this front it cannot be completely rejected as an ideology as some say that ideologies are false and solutions can only be reached through empirical observations of the world and adopting what is known to work. In this sense, a conservative ‘ideology’ appears to be one of pragmatism and of tradition, following what has worked previously without much need for modification. As such conservatism is not an ideology but as it has the central ideas that I have just mentioned and these shape the conservative thinking on the world it is an ideology only in a limited sense if we accept the definition of ideology as being one that is “an interrelated set of ideas that in some way guides or inspires political action”16, even though conservatism does not set out an ideal utopia of how society should be, unlike other ideologies.

1.Eagleton, E (1991) Ideology: An Introduction London: Verso, p1
2.Heywood, A (2002) Politics (2nd ed) Palgrave: New York, p42
3.K,Marx (1846 [1970] ) The German Ideology, p64 in ibid p42

4. Eagleton, E (1991) Ideology: An Introduction London: Verso, p3
5. Durkheim, E (1982) ‘The Rules of Sociological Method’, London: Free Press, p86 cited in ibid p3
6. T, Hobbes (1660), edited by Tuck,R (1991) Levithian Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p89
7. Ibid, p88
8. Heywood, A (2002) Politics (2nd ed) Palgrave: New York, p49
9. Mannheim “Conservative Thought – Essays on Sociology and Social Psychology” in Kecskemeti, P (1953) London; Routeledge Kegan Paul, pp98–99 cited in Huntington, S.P “Conservatism as an Ideology”, American Political Science Review, (1957) vol 51, p 454
10. Burke, E (1790) Reflections on the French Revolution any edition.
11. Riff, M.A (1987) Dictionary of Modern Political Ideologies Manchester: Manchester University Press, p 67
12. Huntington, S.P “Conservatism as an Ideology”, American Political Science Review, (1957) vol 51, p 456.
13. Oakeshott, M (1962, 1991) Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays USA: Liberty Fund.
14. Oakeshott, M (1962, 1991) Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays USA: Liberty Fund, p 36.
15. Goodwin, B (1997) Using Political Ideas (4th ed) Wiley: New York, p 166.
16. Heywood, A (2002) Politics (2nd ed) Palgrave: New York, p 43.


Burke, E (1790) Reflections on the French Revolution any edition
Durkheim, E (1982) ‘The Rules of Sociological Method’, London
Eagleton, E (1991) Ideology: An Introduction London: Verso
Goodwin, B (1997) Using Political Ideas (4th ed) Wiley: New York
T, Hobbes (1660), edited by Tuck,R (1991) Levithian Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Heywood, A (2002) Politics (2nd ed) Palgrave: New York
Huntington, S.P “Conservatism as an Ideology”, American Political Science Review, (1957) vol 51
Mannheim “Conservative Thought – Essays on Sociology and Social Psychology” London: Routeledge Kegan Paul
K,Marx (1846 ) The German Ideology
Oakeshott, M (1962, 1991) Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays USA: Liberty Fund.
Riff, M.A (1987) Dictionary of Modern Political Ideologies Manchester: Manchester University Press

IP Power Essay

Introduction to Politics
Question 3
‘A gets B to do something that he or she would not otherwise do.’ Does this sum up the essence of political power?

Iain Foreman: 0305494

Tutor: Rosalba Icaza

Power and the discussion of it has been a constant source of intellectual debate in political science. A range of debates have occurred and different theories have been proposed, ranging from the ‘one face’ of power put forward by pluralists such as Dahl1, the ‘agenda setting’ of Bachrach and Baratz2 and Lukes’ ‘radical’ or three dimensional view of power which complicated the definition of what constitutes power as he proposes it as ‘preference shaping’3 in addition to the ideas that had been put forward prior to his work. One should not also discount the contributions of others such as Schattschneider when considering the exact nature of political power. To sum up the essence of political power, an agreement needs to be reached on not only what the political and power are but if it is measurable, and if so, how.

I shall at first attempt to cover Dahl’s one dimensional view of power. Here Dahl suggests that power is quantifiable and can be measured by counting the number of decisions that are reached and from that decide who is the most powerful by counting the number of decisions that go in each persons favour. As expressed by Hay whilst analysing Dahl’s work “the powerful are those whose opinions hold sway in the decision making area.” 4 This implies that such a society is pluralistic with a dispersal of power because differing groups compete with each other to advance their own interests. In such a situation there would be an overt conflict of interests because a power relation could only be observed where decisions had to be made and a conflict of interests arose. This suggests that power in these instances would only occur in institutions where decisions had to be made but it has to be asked what is the political?

If the political is defined as something that is what takes place within public bodies then this view of power is perfectly correct with regards to the question, but if you have a different view of what constitutes the ‘political’, such as feminists who see the personal as the political, where decisions in everyday life have a political undertone to them then obviously disagreements as to what political power is are going to ensue. Another criticism of the ‘one dimensional’ view of power is that power is not a zero sum game with only winners and losers, but instead all benefit from the decisions that are reached. It is as Parsons points out the ‘right’ of A to “make decisions which take precedence over those of B, in the interests of the effectiveness of the collective operation as a whole.”5 The distinction being made here is that between power and authority, where the former is where A is actually to get B’s acquiescence and the latter where A has the legitimate ‘right’ to enforce B’s acceptance of a decision.

An alternative criticism of this viewpoint comes from Steven Lukes. Here, Lukes says that Dahl’s study shows that the bias of the system is being studied and not power in itself6. Is the decision being reached as a consequence of A’s ‘power’ or because of the prevailing culture and bias inherent in the decision making process? Alternatively put, we should ask ourselves if the same outcome (A’s interests being realised) would have happened if A had chose to get a different decision being reached. If that is the case, where A’s new interest are realised, then we are observing the power of A over others and if not, we are instead seeing A using the inherent bias or ‘common sense’ of its contemporary decision makers to support its interests. In this scenario, A is not that powerful.

Another theory of power was that proposed by Bachrach and Baratz who said that power was two dimensional with an element of agenda setting. The reason that this theory is relevant to the question is that if A is capable of only allowing certain topics to be discussed then the chances are that the outcome is that B or any other group different to A is going to do something that they may have originally been opposed to. They put it as thus: “a person or group-consciously or unconsciously- creates or reinforces barriers to the public airing of policy conflicts, that person or group has power.”7 This is in essence Schattschneider’s mobilisation of bias8. Power in this sense is one that not only has A exerting influence or control over B’s actions but also restricting the options that were discussed to ensure that the only decisions that were reached are ones that A would allow to be reached. Evidently, this sees power as only being exercised by an elite that are in control of what topics are up for discussion and hence the decisions that are made in any society.

It should also be noted that a power relation is taking place on two levels. A is able to control the decision making process, thus limiting the options available to decision makers as well as having the power over B to get B to do something that B presumably not have done. In this sense, there is a covert element to power because how can you tell if a ‘non-decision’ has been made? Is it possible to differentiate between a proposal not being aired because it has no support and between those which don’t make it on to the agenda because their supporters’ views are repressed by the dominant elite? For A to exercise power over B and get B to do something contrary to their interests, I feel that for a power relation to have occurred, B must have had his viewpoint ignored and that the decision reached must be against B’s perceived interests. If not, it can’t be said that A was able to get B doing something he otherwise would not have done.

This I feel takes us into a third view of power as proposed by Lukes. This three dimensional view of power takes the previous two views and adds a third element; preference shaping. If A is able to shape the values that B holds then it will be easy for A to get B to do something against his true interests. In this sense, what Lukes is talking about is what Marx referred to as ‘false consciousness’ where the less dominant party in this power relationship, namely B, does not have complete information as to what is actually in his best interests but actually blindly follows A’s orders. I don’t think that power solely is getting someone to do something to do what they would otherwise do so I would agree that this is a relevant take on the very essence of power. As Lukes says when he quotes Dahl saying that leaders “do not merely respond to the preferences of constituents; leaders also shape preferences.”9 Lukes later goes on to say “is it not the supreme exercise of power to get another to have the desires that you want them to have- that is to secure their compliance by controlling their thoughts and desires….the most effective and insidious use of power is to prevent such conflict from arising in the first place.”10

In this sense power is not necessarily something that is observable. If B happens to agree with A, one can’t say for sure that it is because of A’s power over the things that influence the shaping of B’s preferences or because A has the power or the ability to coerce B acting against his own best interests. What also needs consideration is the possibility that, according to Lukes, whether or not B had access to complete information on which to base his decision to agree (or not agree) with the preferences of A.

To conclude, I feel that the ability of A to get B to do something that he would not otherwise have done is only partially the true essence of political power. To a certain extent, it depends upon one’s definition what constitutes the political and what power actually is. If the political is part of the everyday life, as Leftwich suggests by saying “relations of power are an intimate condition of the relations of people”11, then there will be no difference between political power and power that is exercised without an explicitly political element. The true essence of political power also depends upon B knowing what he is doing may be against his own best interests. If B would follow A’s orders anyway, even if he had full knowledge that they were detrimental to him, then I would suggest that A does have power over B. However, if A is able to get B to do something that B wouldn’t object to then I would say that B doesn’t have power exercised over him, even if A has some sort of authority to order B to do something. What should not be discounted before I finish is the possibility that B accepts a decision made by A as some sort of quid pro quo enabling B to get his own way later. In this scenario, can you say that power lies with A if he gets B to do something that he would not otherwise do, without a concession or bargaining on the part of A?

1.Dahl, R.A (1961) Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City. New Haven CT: Yale University Press.
2.Bachrach, P & Baratz, S.M (1962) “Two Faces of Power”, American Political Science Review Vol.56: pp.947–952
3.Lukes, S (2nd edition 2005) Power: A Radical View, London: Palgrave McMillan.
4.Hay, C (2002) Political Analysis: A Critical Introduction, New York: Palgrave, p172
5.Parsons, T (1967). Sociological Theory and Modern Society. New York: Free Press, p318
6. Lukes, S (2nd edition 2005) Power: A Radical View, London: Palgrave McMillan, p38
7.Bachrach, P & Baratz, S.M Power and Poverty: Theory and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press,p8
8.Schattschneider, E.E (1960).The Semi Sovereign People: A Realists View of Democracy in America. New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, p71
9.Dahl, R,A (1961:164) quoted in Lukes (2005:27)
10.Dahl, R,A (1961:164) quoted in Lukes (2005:27)
11.Leftwich, A ‘The Political Approach to Human Behaviour: People, Resources and Power’ in Leftwich, A (ed) (2004), What is Politics? USA: Polity Press, p111.


Bachrach, P & Baratz, S.M (1962) “Two Faces of Power”, American Political Science Review Vol.56: pp.947–952
Bachrach, P & Baratz, S.M Power and Poverty: Theory and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press
Dahl, R.A (1961) Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City. New Haven CT: Yale University Press.
Hay, C (2002) Political Analysis: A Critical Introduction, New York: Palgrave
Leftwich, A (ed) (2004), What is Politics? USA: Polity Press
Parsons, T Sociological Theory and Modern Society. New York: Free Press (1967)
Schattschneider, E.E (1960).The Semi Sovereign People: A Realists View of Democracy in America. New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston

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