Rivals, realists and Cold War
in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
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The atomic bomb ended World War II. It also opened up for a new, post-war peace: a world order divided between the USA and the USSR. The two, rivalling, extra-European powers were trying to outdo each other in ideological prowess and atomic capabilities. Their efforts divided the world in two ideological camps and two spheres of influence. Within the Western camp, interstate relations were largely conceived in terms of liberal internationalism. Relations between the two atomic superpowers, however, were approached in power-political terms. The USA knew little about the inner workings of the USSR. US analysts compensated for scant empirical knowledge by developing theories about Soviet behavior and models of US-Soviet interaction. Such efforts, which drew heavily on rational-actor models and statistical techniques from Economics and Engineering, stimulated several new approaches – more technical or scientific than those invoked by IR scholars in the past. Among the new approaches were game-theory and systems-theory. Their advance sowed the seeds for a big debate about the most suitable methodology for the study of IR: the new, behaviouralist approach or the traditional, historical approach.


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