Rationalism (international relations)
Rationalism in politics is often seen as the midpoint in the three major political viewpoints of realism, rationalism, and internationalism. Whereas Realism and Internationalism are both on ends of the scale, rationalism tends to occupy the middle ground on most issues, and finds compromise between these two conflicting points of view.
Believers of Rationalism believe that multinational and multilateral organizations have their place in the world order, but not that a world government would be feasible. They point to current international organizations, most notably the United Nations, and point out that these organizations leave a lot to be desired and, in some cases, do more harm than good. They believe that this can be achieved through greater international law making procedures and that the use of force can be avoided in resolving disputes.1
Rationalists tend to see the rule of law and order as being equally important to states as it helps reduce conflicts. This in turn helps states become more willing to negotiate treaties and agreements where it best suits their interests. However, they see it as wrong for a nation to promote its own national interests, reminiscent of Internationalism, but that there is already a high level of order in the international system without a world government.1
In situations such as that of Burma after Cyclone Nargis, rationalists find it acceptable for other states to violate that country's sovereignty in order to help its people. This would be where an organisation such as the United Nations would come in and decide whether the situation is exceptional enough to warrant a violation of that state's sovereignty.1
Realists believe that states act independently of each other and that states' sovereignty is effectively sacred. Rationalists agree to a certain extent. However, as stated previously, rationalism includes sovereignty as a vital factor, but not as untouchable and 'sacred'.
Realists also hold the Treaty of Westphalia and the international system that arose from this as the international system that prevails to this day. Rationalists acknowledge that the treaty has played an important part in shaping international relations and the world order and that certain aspects, such as sovereignty, still exist and play a vital role, but not that it has survived in its entirety. They believe that through the existence of international organisations, such as the European Union and the United Nations, the international system is less anarchic than Realists claim.2
Internationalists believe in a world order where an effective world government would govern the world, that sovereignty is an outdated concept and barrier to creating peace, the need for a common humanity and the need for cooperative solutions. Rationalists adhere to these beliefs to some extent. For example, with regards to the need for a common humanity and cooperative solutions, rationalists see this as being achieved without the need to abolish sovereignty and the Westphalian concept of the nation-state. The current system is seen as the example of this, as nation-states still hold their sovereignty and yet international organisations exist that potentially have the power to violate it, for the need to create peace, law and order.1
It is believed that the proposals for reform of the United Nations come from rationalist thoughts and points of view. This belief is held because most members of the UN agree that the UN requires reform, in the way of expanding or abolishing the Security Council and granting it more powers to violate sovereignty if necessary.1
Some figures who consider themselves as 'rationalist' include:
- Scott, Derek; Simpson, Anna-Louise (2008). Power and International Politics. Social Education Victoria.
- "Political Philosophy". Retrieved 2009-05-23.
- "Habermas, Jürgen". Retrieved 03-06-2009.
- "Australian Humanists of the Year". Retrieved 03-06-2009.
- Lynch, March (July 25, 2005). "IR: Constructivism v Rationalism". Abu Aardvark. Retrieved 10 November 2013.