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Research Cold War II The Clash of Vanities (Dissertation Sample)


This is the dissertation that I wrote in order to earn my Master's degree in International Politics. It is about the rising tensions between Russia and the West.

Cold War II - The Clash of Vanities
By Ilian Nikolov
Supervisor: Dr. Amelia Hadfield
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Master’s degree in International Politics
Centre Européen de Recherches Internationales & Stratégiques
Brussels, October 2015
TOC \o "1-3" Abstract PAGEREF _Toc302043027 \h 3
General Introduction PAGEREF _Toc302043028 \h 4
1. Research Problem PAGEREF _Toc302043029 \h 5
2. Research Question PAGEREF _Toc302043030 \h 5
3. Hypothesis PAGEREF _Toc302043031 \h 5
4. Methodology PAGEREF _Toc302043032 \h 6
5. Structure of Thesis PAGEREF _Toc302043033 \h 6
CHAPTER I: Origins of Conflict PAGEREF _Toc302043034 \h 7
1. Thymos PAGEREF _Toc302043035 \h 7
2. The Master-Slave dialectic PAGEREF _Toc302043036 \h 8
3. ’The End of History’ PAGEREF _Toc302043037 \h 9
CHAPTER II: The Struggle and Politics of Recognition PAGEREF _Toc302043038 \h 12
1. The link between identity and recognition PAGEREF _Toc302043039 \h 12
2. The politics of (non) recognition as an instrument PAGEREF _Toc302043040 \h 15
3. Psychological dimension of recognition PAGEREF _Toc302043041 \h 19
4. Addressing criticism PAGEREF _Toc302043042 \h 23
5. Importance of prestige, reputation and credibility in international politics PAGEREF _Toc302043043 \h 25
6. Non-recognition and armed conflict PAGEREF _Toc302043044 \h 26
7. Existing hypotheses on the links between conflict and recognition struggles PAGEREF _Toc302043045 \h 28
a. The assertion of self-assessed greatness and grandeur PAGEREF _Toc302043046 \h 28
b. Collective Identities PAGEREF _Toc302043047 \h 29
c. Equal and universal dignity PAGEREF _Toc302043048 \h 31
d. Particular dignities and identities PAGEREF _Toc302043049 \h 33
8. Recognition, power-sharing and consensual hegemony PAGEREF _Toc302043050 \h 34
CHAPTER III: Interpreting Russia’s “Irrationality” PAGEREF _Toc302043051 \h 36
1. Subjective Factors PAGEREF _Toc302043052 \h 36
2. The isolation of Russia and the subsequent birth of Russian hubris (1918-1989) PAGEREF _Toc302043053 \h 38
3. Russian exclusion after the Cold War (1990-) PAGEREF _Toc302043054 \h 40
4. The Russian Leadership PAGEREF _Toc302043055 \h 42
5. The “Irrationality” Of The West PAGEREF _Toc302043056 \h 43
6. Future prospects PAGEREF _Toc302043057 \h 45
Conclusion PAGEREF _Toc302043058 \h 48
Conflict is an inherent trait of human nature that also drives and motivates social progress and political decisions. Even though humanity has reached a point where it is capable of adequate worldwide cooperation that could eliminate any concerns about survival, safety and comfort, conflict still rages on for reasons that cannot be explained rationally. When a conflict can no longer be explained by rational choices, a need arises to turn to the less explored and often ignored studies of human emotions and psychology, which can not only explain decision-makers’ actions but also anticipate them, and thus contribute immensely to the study and analysis of conflicts worldwide. When human beings no longer need to worry about basic needs (realism), and are capable of cooperating and coexisting (liberalism), their inherent neurosis is shifted from the pursuit of survival to the pursuit of desires. When the material desires are fulfilled, the natural tendency for pursuit is shifted onto the abstract emotional needs to be recognized, accepted, valued and respected by other human beings. Thus, a human being finally discovers her highest gratification, worth, meaning, and confidence through the acceptance and praise from fellow human beings, whose opinions he deems the most valuable. The inherent neurosis to pursue gratification has shifted from the primeval need for survival to a constant dependence on the recognition and acceptance of others, especially considering that the level of recognition someone one holds often parallels her standard of life. The same is true on an international level, thus studying this inherent neurosis (the struggle to be recognized) helps us better comprehend, anticipate and prevent international conflict by also focusing on the leaders and analyzing them as human beings under the shackles of emotions imprinted by nature and evolution. One of the leading problems of conventional theories and interpretations of conflicts is that they tend to examine what states are doing and the reason why they are doing it, rather than asking who they are. The irrationality of the newly rising Neo - Cold War tensions between Russia and the West can be understood through the analysis of emotions, symbols and historical memories. The working hypothesis is that the behavior of the Russian leadership is a product of the indignations it experienced following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, it stands that attentiveness to the emotional and symbolic needs of people and leaders during crisis negotiations is the most conducive to reducing tensions and conflicts.
General Introduction
Recently, Russia surprised the world by resorting to imperial and cold-war practices surrounding the crisis in Ukraine. The persistence of such international conflicts and tensions, particularly between ‘great’ and ‘exemplary’ powers often falls short of rational understanding and comprehension. Indeed, ‘irrational’ behavior seems to increasingly become an acknowledged way of describing political decisions. There are often no clear explanation for why states and state leaders behave in a way that does not conform to standard theoretical views such as ‘realpolitik’, where survival and maximization of power are accepted as the main driving forces behind any action and decision. For instance, how can we ‘rationally’ explain a conflict in which there are no clear material interests and benefits that would warrant enormous war resources and energy, or where belligerents willfully continue a conflict even if its costs are far greater than any other peaceful alternative?
For decades, political theorists and researchers have stood on several fundamental theories to explain the dynamics in international political relations and conflicts. The three theories we are most widely presented with — realism, liberalism and constructivism — in most cases serve us well in understanding and explaining the interests that drive all decisions. The three theories also seemingly build upon each other, expanding the understanding of interests to more ‘enlightened’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ levels.
Realism, the primordial conception of modern politics established by Machiavelli and Hobbes, conceives human beings as basic, self-interested, violent creatures, whose decisions are only guided by the need to survive and ensuring future safety, propagation and comfort. As political institutions underwent enlightened transformations through the ages, the ideas of liberalism slowly took hold and built upon the realist’s archaic views of human nature. They emphasized the capability of human beings to transcend their inherent primitive and conflictual nature and build societies and civilizations that were cooperative and reliant on universal human values. In the last century, the next building block, that of constructivism, has also helped expand our understanding of the increasingly complex political relations. It stepped on the ideas, norms and other mental structures created by human beings to guide their societies.
However, it can be argued that these three firmly established theories can often fall short of comprehending the many apparent irrationalities in politics. That is precisely perhaps the issue with such theories - they presume that rationality is inherent to any leader and political decision. However, as soon as a leader makes an irrational move — such as the advancement of costly interests that have nothing to do with material benefit and survival — theories such as realism evaporate in thin air. The problem with most interpretations of political dynamics is that they focus too much on the strategic and material interests of states, whilst often completely ignoring the psychological factors and traits of the humans who drive all the processes and decisions. The roles of emotions, recognition, and symbols in international conflicts, for example, are often disregarded because they seem as insufficient and overly subjective factors that are difficult to build theories and generalizations upon.
1. Research Problem
In an age when international politics is increasingly moving towards a global order of cooperation and liberal practices, Russia is willingly reverting to outdated and costly practices that go against the liberal principles that the Western community is so diligently building.
2. Research Question
Why are states (such as Russia) resorting to irrational violent practices despite the obvious overbearing costs (economic collapse, sanctions and exclusion)?
3. Hypothesis
Russia’s attitude can be explained if we view its actions through the prism and importance of human emotions, symbols and identities — concepts that seem to be widely ignored and neglected in academic circles, due to the tendency to rely solely on liberal and realist interpretations of politics.
4. Methodology
The arguments in this paper are based on content and text analysis from a psychoanalytical perspective. To corroborate the main hypothesis, arguments will [refer to] historical events, political theory and statements, case studies, as well as to existing supporting literature and research which confirm that concepts and human perceptions such as pride, emotions and symbols are as important as conventional explanati...
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