International Relations Theory and the Trump Administration

Yesterday afternoon, a student asked me in office hours what International Relations Theory has to say about the new Trump administration. There has been some discussion of realism and Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, and some musings about the Trump administration’s implications for different IR paradigms. There is also, obviously, a lot of serious debate about issues of American foreign policy and national interests. Engaged IR scholars such as Elizabeth Saunders, Jeff Colgan, Dan Drezner, and Jessica Weiss (among many others) have contributed significantly to these discussions.

In the interest of adding just a bit of levity to current events, though, here is the answer that I wanted to give her. Try not to be too offended.

Offensive realism – Let’s go ahead and invade Latvia first. Heads up, Latvians.

Defensive realism – Let’s go ahead and fortify Latvia first. Heads up, Latvians.

Classical realismPlataea sounds kinda like Latvia.

Neoclassical realism – We really need a good way to distinguish empirically between underbalancing and nonbalancing right about now.

Structural realism – If President Trump is not constrained by the international system, then his actions lie outside of the ambit of a Proper Scientific Theory of International Relations.

Liberal IR – Take preferences seriously yes but also take institutions seriously too. Like the Electoral College.

Open Economy PoliticsStolper-Samuelson. Michigan. *mic drop*

Constructivism – See, structure does not determine interests.

Feminist IR – We’ve been warning you about this for some time now.

Queer IR – In a post-fact world, foreign policy statements are neither sincere nor strategic.

Practice theory – Most of what the incoming President does all day is Tweet. We must understand this habitus as constitutive of American foreign policy.

Bureaucratic politicsUm Gottes Willen we hope that we are relevant.

Neoliberal Institutionalism – We’ll second that.

The English SchoolYou know, we’re living in a society.

Environmental IR – We are pretty much f*cked.

Postmodern IRDa Da Da.

World systems theory – Make America the Core Again!

Dependency theory – Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Postcolonial IR – In othering Putin, you have created him.

Formal Theories of IR – Um, are we forbidden from employing the common priors assumption now?

Democratic Peace TheoryRemain calm. All is well!

Power Transition Theory – China (HT Scott A.W. Brown)

Post-paradigmatic IR – Let’s ask a comparativist.

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