Theories in International Relations Essay

Pages: 8 (2734 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Literature - Latin-American

International relations there are a number of different theories that are used to explain why various political actors engage in the activities they do. This is because of the constantly evolving nature of international relations; has allowed each of the different theories to explain various perspectives. One area where this can be seen is in the Zapatista Revolution in Mexico, where the theories of realism and neo-realism collided. Realism is when the state is acting in their own self-interest. The different ideas of: social justice, equality or the welfare of the people are second to the self-interest of the state. Neo-realism is when: there is an emphasis on promoting stability, by restraining the actions of the various states, through large multinational organizations and agreements. (Goldstein, 2003) in the period from 1994 to the present, the Zapatista Revolution has highlighted how a conflict exists between these two different theories. As a result, the inability of either one to effectively promote stability has allowed the situation to continue to fester. When you examine the Zapatista Revolution with inconjuction both theories, it will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each. This will provide the greatest insights as to how and when the different theories can be used in international relations.

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TOPIC: Essay on Theories in International Relations Assignment

The Zapatista Revolution began on January 1st 1994, in the Southern state of Chiapas. This is a region that is mainly dominated by people who are the decedents of Mayans. Since there is such a large population of indigenous people in the area, many of the various political figures have often overlooked the needs of region. As result, this helped fuel the disconnect that the political party in power, the Industrial Revolutionary Party (PRI), was not listening to the needs of Mexican people. This caused many of the poor and those who of Mayan decent to declare war on the Mexican government. Claiming, that since the PRI has been in power from 1929 onward; and has not implemented the land reforms called for in the 1917 Constitution, means that it is the illegitimate government of the people. What makes the situation so intriguing is the fact that the revolution started on January 1st. This was the day that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect. Part of the reason why the Zapatista Revolution began on this day was: to highlight the injustice that is occurring by an illegitimate government, where the PRI was selling out to the interests of the wealthy. This mixed message of socialism, anarchy and indigenous rights is: the ideological arguments that are pushing the revolution to this day. This because a shift occurred in the different international theories used to end the revolution. Where, the Mexican government would begin using a realist approach to the conflict, yet would use a neo-realist approach internationally. Then, after Vicente Fox was elected in 2001, a neo-realist approach was used for the revolution and internationally. The combination of the two different theories caused the revolution to adapt to the changes that were occurring.

At first, the Mexican government used a realist theory to attempt to end the revolution. Under the realist theory, there are several key principals that are important these include: the national security of the state is imperative, power of the state is derived from the use of force (military) as well as economic power and injecting morals / values into various actions will only cause confusion. (Goldstein, 2003) When the fighting broke out on January 1st the rebels were initially taking an approach of violent means to achieve their objectives. This meant that they would capture a number of different towns, a prison and a police compound. At first, they were having tremendous amounts of success. However, within a few days, the Mexican army would move into the region and would immediately counter attack the rebels. After two weeks of intense fighting, the rebels took heavy casualties and agreed to a cease fire with the Mexican government on January 12th. For a year, the land that rebels had taken remained largely under their control, until the Mexican government broke the cease fire one year later. The objective was to break the back of revolution by: capturing key revolutionary commanders, seizing areas they control and breaking them of their will to fight. As a result, the Mexican army was able to regain control of towns and villages in the regions. However, they were not able to capture the rebel leadership or break their will to fight. Instead, the rebels would escape into the mountains, at which point, the two sides would begin negating. (Joseph, 2002)

What this shows, is how the Mexican government was using a realist approach by attempting to maintain control of the economic system and autonomy of the region. They would use the army to prevent the rebels from seizing control and to attack the rebels. This would fall in line with protecting the national security interests of the state. Due to the fact that the revolution was originally intended to spread to all of Mexico. There would be no moral or values used in conflict, with the Mexican army breaking the cease fire to end the revolution. In this particular situation, the realist approach was used on a national level when it comes to the Zapatista Revolution. Yet, on the international level the Mexican government was using neo-realist approach. Evidence of this can be seen with the signing of NAFTA, where the Mexican government was yielding power to receive large economic benefits. The combination of these two elements is what helped fuel the continuation of the revolution. Where, rebel leaders would quickly realize that their campaign of a violent overthrow of the Mexican government would be ineffective. Instead, they would switch tactics to by taking a non-violent approach. In this case, the rebels were using realism, by trying to take control of the region through violent means. However, once it was determined that the Mexican government had broken their cease fire, a change in tactics took place. (Goldstein, 2003) This is what makes the conflict so intriguing. Where, both sides would use the realist approach in an attempt to achieve their political objectives. Then, after neither side could achieve their military / political / economic objective, meant that a change in tactics would take place. (Hart, 2006)

Neo-Realism and the Zapatista Revolution

After the Mexican army had chased the rebel leadership, both organizations began to use a neo-realist approach. Like what was stated previously, neo-realism is when there is a reliance on various international organizations to check the power of the state. In this particular situation, the Mexican government would leave the military in place at various towns and areas that they had seized. However, instead of having the military continue with operations against the rebel leadership, the Mexican government sought to negotiate with the rebels. The objective was to reach out to this group of disenfranchised and bring them into the political main stream. In neo-realism this is along the lines of the democratic peace theory. This simply states, that democracies rarely go to war with each other. (Goldstein, 2003) Using the neo-realist theory, if the Mexican government can be successful at bringing the rebels into the mainstream, they can begin to see stability in the region. However, the negotiations between the two sides would enter a stalemate. As the rebels felt that the Mexican government was not offering enough concessions. This would continue until the PRI was unseated from power in 2001. (Goldstein, 2003)

At the same time, the rebels used the neo-realist theory to reach out to various socialist and international organizations, in an effort to point out what is taking place. (Goldstein, 2003) What happened was, they began to use the internet to create organizations in numerous Western countries including: the United States, Spain, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Austria, Switzerland, Great Britain and France. (Hart, 2006) This shift in tactics, allowed the abuses that were taking place at the hands of PRI to be continuously brought to the forefront. Then, the organization began to spread their message throughout the Mexican news media. As a result, the rebels will often release a series of communiques supporting organizations that are resisting globalization. The medium term effect of switching to such a strategy is that, it would allow their message of inequality to be continually brought to the forefront. This would prove to be influential in helping the organization make an impact in removing the PRI from power. As they supported, engaging in aggressive negotiations with President Vicente Fox, who claimed that he could resolve the conflict within 15 minutes. (La Rose, 2006)

Once Fox was elected, the Mexican government attempted to increase what they were offering to rebels such as: 32 autonomous municipalities in Chiapas. While these proposals were a start, they did not go far enough. As a result, another stalemate ensued between the Mexican government and rebels. This time, the rebels would begin implementing their changes without… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Theories in International Relations" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Theories in International Relations.  (2010, March 22).  Retrieved January 16, 2022, from

MLA Format

"Theories in International Relations."  22 March 2010.  Web.  16 January 2022. <>.

Chicago Style

"Theories in International Relations."  March 22, 2010.  Accessed January 16, 2022.