Green vs. Critical International Relations Theory

Topic: International Relations
Words: 4193 Pages: 15


Depending on their viewpoint on international relations, different researchers have varied perspectives on international relations. Some people view international relations as deliberate foreign relationships between nations, with the main concerns being those related to war, conflict, peace, the environment, and collaboration. It can also involve all types of cross-border transactions, including social, economic, and political ones. This may also include researching how traditional peace negotiations work. Theories of international relations can help humans comprehend how international organizations operate as well as how different countries relate to other nations. In order to decide a regime’s direction with reference to a global political issue or concern, diplomats, as well as international relations specialists, typically apply foreign policy principles (Jessop, 2021). These theories include green and critical, which are characterized by liberal, equality-centric techniques and basic realist principles. This report aims to draw significant similarities and disparities between green and critical international relations theories.

Historical Background of the Theories

Though it has numerous diverse historical phases spanning multiple generations, Critical Theory was developed at the Frankfurt School. In the historical setting of the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy in the 1920s, the Frankfurt School was founded as the Institute for Social Research. Before relocating to Frankfurt in 1953, the Frankfurt school’s thinkers lived in exile in Switzerland and the United States. The Frankfurt School thinkers claimed that a “Critical Theory” could be differentiated from a “Traditional Theory” by the fact that it serves a particular practical goal, such as advancing comprehension of the universe that results in human liberation from enslavement (Nicholas, 2022). Horkheimer’s Critical Theory, which Marxism greatly influenced, sought to create a more consensual society within modern capitalism. Horkheimer meant by saying that a capitalist community can only be changed by being more liberal to ensure that each of the social conditions under the power of the people can be decided by the agreement of the individuals living in that community.

Critical theorists contend that one crucial aim of Critical Theory is to comprehend and aid in dismantling the social systems by which individuals are ruled and oppressed, drawing primarily on the works of Marx and Freud. They warn against having an uncritical faith in scientific advancement because they think that scientific knowledge, like many other types of knowledge, has historically been a tool of oppression and should not be sought as an aim in and of itself without consideration of the pursuit of human emancipation. Critical Theory has been a part of international relations since the 1980s. One aspect of the rise of Marxism in importance in the study of international relations is developing a critical-theoretical approach to world politics. The Frankfurt School’s critique of conventional sociology significantly impacted the recent critical movement in International Theory. Cox’s contrast between “problem-solving” and “critical” conceptions of international relations serves as an example of its significance. The fundamental goal of the early proponents of Critical IR Theory was to refute the central claim of realism.

In the context of international relations, there are four general perspectives that could be cited as examples of Critical Theory (Robinson, 2018). Firstly, the work of Robert W. Cox is perhaps the best example of neo-Gramscian work on international politics and global political economy. Secondly, there is a normative and Explanatory Theory, such as that of Andrew Linklater, which especially references Jurgen Habermas’ work from the Frankfurt School. Thirdly, there is poststructuralist literature, which draws on a variety of postmodernist and poststructuralist philosophers, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida being the most notable. Fourthly, there is feminist literature, including that of Ann Tickner (1992), Rebecca Grant and Kathleen Newland (1991), Cynthia Enloe (1990), Jean Elshtain (1987), Christine Sylvester (1994), and Cynthia Enloe (1990), which draws on a comprehensive range of traditions (Roach, 2020). Due to their involvement with the crucial element, these different perceptions have the same guiding principle. They have several similarities that have specific implications for theory and practice.

Green Theory

The disaster of the populace, based on the premise that as individually concerned persons, humanity will exploit public properties like land, clean water, and fish, resulted in public acknowledgment of the global ecological upheaval in the 1960s. The first UN meeting on the issue came about in the 1970s, and by the 1980s, green political groups and public policies were on the rise (Stein, 2017). At the same time, a Green Theory was needed to help interpret and comprehend these political difficulties.

In the 1980s, ecological politics, issues relating to women and gender, efforts to promote peace, and nuclear non-proliferation took center stage, and the first green political parties emerged in Europe. Ecological obligations, social justice, nonviolence, and grassroots democracy were the main concerns of the Green Party. Twelve green parties existed in Western European nations as of 1984. These parties entered politics in five nations, including Germany, France, and Italy, and won seats in the legislative bodies of numerous European democracies over the ensuing years (Arı, 2019). In the 1980s, the electoral and legislative competence of the green parties significantly improved, notably in Western European countries, defying the predictions of many political scientists. During these years, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and political parties became increasingly interested in global conferences and environmental issues. A delegation from NGOs like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) attended every conference where nation-states dispatched ambassadors to represent them (Arı, 2019). Most NGOs engaged with specialists more than the constituent states of the ecological affairs conference. NGOs were collaborating with specialists in environmental problems.

The natural environment has become increasingly important as a source of concern for international relations by the 1990s, demanding theoretical and practical attention and posing security and ecological issues. Trans nationalization was given more prominence in Green ideology in the 1990s, with the second phase as the consequences of worldwide environmental crises and the necessity for a global response came to light (Eckersley, 2020). This change in viewpoint was vital since it moved Green Theory nearer to the field of worldwide relations. In other words, when globalization and transnational contacts grew more significant in international relations, inter-state relations included Green Theory.

The growth of some essential ideas demarcated the next wave of the Green Theory, the attention placed on the connection between ecological sovereignty and environmental justice. It was also defined by the ongoing discussions involving green ideology and other philosophical schools. During this time, the globalization of Green Theory increased. This contributed to the multidisciplinary nature of green political philosophy, which was influenced by numerous fields of study other than politics. The latest Green Theory model might be described as this more universal and practical viewpoint.

Key Concept and Main Ideas of the Theories: Key Concepts of the Critical Theory

A variety of philosophical schools in international relations (IR), collectively known as Critical IR Theory, have questioned the hypothetical, meta-theoretical, and political existing conditions in IR Theory as well as in global relations more extensively from realist as well as post-rationalist perspectives. Marxist and neo-Marxist perspectives, as well as some aspects of social constructivism, are included in positivist critiques. In addition to non-Weberian past and present sociology, global political, social science, critical geopolitics, and the alleged new materialism, post-positivist critiques also include most feminist, postmodernism, postcolonial, critical structuralist, neo-Gramscian, and some English School approach (Roach, 2020). These latter positions have ontological and epistemic foundations that set them apart from realism and liberalism.

The main goal of the development of Critical IR Theory is to highlight the social and political conflicts that have contributed to the spread of Critical Theory on a global scale. In various ways, the Critical Theory approach is still useful for illuminating and comprehending contemporary issues (Roach, 2020). It makes more knowledge claims while rejecting many positive science tenets. It varies from scientific ideas in that it is reflective instead of stigmatizing and irreducibly and firmly normative. Participating in ideology criticism is also essential to critical theorists (O’Kane, 2020). It can be interpreted as a retreat from political activity, which seeks to expand on Marx’s critique but uses a different approach from revolutionary politics.

Critical Theory was intended as a component in the continual self-clarification of Marxist Theory and practice. It made a significant contribution to the study of IR. Human awareness of the connection between politics and knowledge has grown as a result of one of these contributions. It is criticized by the right, the left, positivists, and others because it raises issues about how knowledge is socially constructed. Rethinking descriptions of the current state and political community is another Critical Theory contribution. Understanding the intricate communication of behaviors, identities, and institutions at the local and global levels continues to be applicable and essential.

Key Concepts of the Green Theory

Instead of just considering human interests in nature, ecological thinking considers nature’s concerns. In regards to value and agency, Green Theory encapsulates this perception in terms of what should be appreciated, by whom, and ways to attain it. As environmental concerns raise concerns about interpersonal relationships in group decision-making, the Green Theory is a part of the Critical Theory custom (Bhattacharyya, 2021). Consequently, the issue of political society boundaries has continuously been brought up. These queries typically inquire at what degree of the political sphere one should look for a solution to environmental concerns, which cut across boundaries. Alternative theories about political connection centered on human evolutionary relationships hold the solutions for green theorists.

According to the Green Theory, the rationalist and state-centric analytical frameworks of conventional concepts like neorealism and neoliberalism make it impossible to comprehend environmental issues. Global justice, global development, urbanization, and security are the main topics in Green Theory. In reaction to the rise in international environmental challenges, green viewpoints in IR first appeared in the 1970s (Eckersley, 2020). Green Theory had become well-established in the field by the turn of the 20th century. Green Theory is in line with post-positivism, which came from the supposedly third IR discussion. The theory can be split into a cosmopolitan and an international political economy (IPE) focused wing.

According to the above theory, the main environmental problem is climate change, brought on by people’s unhealthy dependency on fossil fuels. With the aid of Green Theory, people can better grasp this in the context of long-term ecological functions instead of transient human interests. States naturally endow with technology to further these benefits; nevertheless, there is no simple technical solution for human-caused environmental change. As per the Green Theory, this scientific standstill necessitates an adjustment in social practices and values, which produces a foundation for diplomatic invention or possibly an ultimate change in global politics. Due to fiscal rivalry and additional aspects that depress collaboration, IR Theory can aid in elucidating why nations find it difficult to talk about the problem of climate variation. Nevertheless, it cannot provide a diverse context to define how this can be solved.

Adding Green Theory to IR enables people to reconsider how the government, the economy, and the surroundings are related. Typically, IR puts this within the framework of globalization as perceived through the narrow lenses of states and markets; nevertheless, globalization also presents a potential for the emergence of universal ecological ideals. Green Theory is a component of the post-Westphalian tendency in IR belief. It can alter the paradigm of free national states rivaling each other (Bhattacharyya, 2021). Naturally, the more critical impact of Green Theory, or its aptitude for a strong connection with IR, resides in the theory’s entirely diverse roots, which begin with the terrestrial ecosystem and look outside humans’ present political and economic institutions.

Therefore, Green Theory can offer a different way of describing the universe and a new way of comprehending it and how people can behave to alter it. The Green Theory is probable to disorder and reorients IR Theory, though not highly since Green theorists can prevail in the debates and because IR philosophers eventually need to offer a cogent explanation of how people dwell sustainably. This suggests that, at times, people might need to leave their theories of the state-centric international in favor of looking for an alternative political framework in interpersonal interactions, such as social movements or policy networks.

The Green Theory is a type of applied political thought. As such, it has a common goal with other ideologies: to influence and transform society or the world according to their unique political principles. The main concepts of international relations, including realism and liberalism, have been reviewed concerning the topics on the initiative of the Green Theory. Realists talked about environmental concerns as providing better security. They think a lack of resources brings on government conflicts. Neoliberal Institutionalism views nature as subservient to humanity; hence they consider themselves realists. They do not contest the dominion of humans over nature (Eckersley, 2020). They claim that institutionalization on a global scale and cooperative state action is crucial to address environmental issues. According to several green theorists, companies, municipal governments, financial organizations, social groupings, and individuals should all be viewed as vital actors. Ecocentrism is a crucial concept for green thinkers. They believe one should concentrate on worldwide consumption as much as international investments and production rather than incarcerating a few states’ environmental problems.

Comparative Assessment of the Theories

The foundation of the Green Theory of international relations is the idea of global ecology, which is seen to have some explanatory power. Because of this, Moore’s category of world ecology is compelled to be expanded into a larger theoretical framework for the analysis of international relations from a green perspective (Eckersley, 2020). Additionally, Moore’s denial of the Society and Existence duality fits well with ecocentrism, which is a fundamental tenet of green thinking and opposes anthropocentrism. The issue is that although ecocentrism is inherently politically ambiguous, Moore’s interpretation of capitalism and the categories of Society-in-Nature and Nature-in-Society make this crucial idea of the Green Theory of International Relations politically definitive. By considering potential changes to the forms of political society and the economic system, any Green Theory may be able to work much more harmoniously, including both neo-Marxist concepts and the Critical Theory of Global Affairs.

On the other hand, according to Robert Cox, a Critical Theory of global affairs is one that challenges hegemonic discourses. It holds that the classic paradigms of liberalism and realism are inadequate for addressing the most pressing issues in global politics. This Critical Theory of international relations is rooted in an examination of how the prominent institutions and norms of the existing world order were developed (Roach, 2020). In order to execute the emancipatory effort for a healthier and fairer world, it is vital to remember that it is not an end in and of itself but rather a stop along the route to a deeper comprehension of those mechanisms. Using Moore’s history of capitalism as a starting point, there do not seem to be any barriers to expanding this historical analysis to include environmental challenges.

Critical Theory calls for a radical transformation of global politics. It goes for the structural power disparities that uphold and are upheld by the status quo. Ideational and material power is viewed to be complementary, necessitating a strategy of extreme opposition that includes a conflict between minds and hearts. The field of international relations (IR) is one of such frontlines. Critical Theory calls for profound and urgent changes, which gives it a degree of volatility that can support using force. Critical Theory also draws attention to aspects of power that go beyond material possessions and are fundamental to the existence of material power. This offers opportunities for change using nonviolent means.

Compared to Critical Theory, the Green Theory is a recent development. It demonstrates that people are coping with problems that could affect their life. The Green Theory is among the best mechanisms for bridging high- and low-level ideologies. With its renunciation of a human-centered strategy and adoption of an environmental-oriented approach in place of a human-centered approach, the Green Theory stands apart from all previous theories of international relations. The Green Theory stressing global linkages expresses the propensity to think freely from political boundaries. Environmental protection is also necessary for the survival of humanity.

The definition of “Green Theory” needs to be revised to incorporate the surrounding ecosystems and break free from the Nature vs. Society duality. Contrarily, Critical Theory must be explanatory, practical, and normative to highlight the agents of change, give a clear framework for criticism, and impart information about potential social reform. Critical Theory is suitable for human concerns and emphasizes how discussions about protecting the environment benefit from the involvement of the general people. It establishes that democratic discussion between representatives of the many social groups should occur to attain community decisions. Contrary to the Green Theory, Critical Theory does not make an effort to alter the fundamental principles of justice in order to defend or acknowledge the interests of non-human animals explicitly. Because Critical Theory is solely centered on human concerns, it is insufficient for nature’s complete preservation. Therefore, unlike the Green Theory, it cannot support the maintenance of species that are not useful for humans.

The analysis of supremacy’s effects on different actors’ capacities to impact their situations is a crucial constituent of Critical Theory. Past that notional influence, it also aids as an agent for operative diplomatic deeds by challenging and overturning preexisting authority affairs. On the other hand, Green Theory analyzes international development, modernization, and security. It came into being as a reaction to global environmental issues. Critical theorists disapprove of solution design that disregards the communal and financial structures of the nation. Analysts of the Green Theory base their field of study on the demands of future generations, non-human nature, and the distribution of ecological risks.


Both green and critical theories desire to question the validity of the current global order and its good power relations and practices. While both critical and green theories remain relevant today, they typically neglect or oversimplify the relationship between the environment and various forms of power involved in creating the global order. The potential of the theories to apply to the entire world’s ecology is expanded upon by accepting the concept of capital, power, and nature as the fundamental lens through which to perceive those modalities of power.

Both ideologies are critical of both capitalism and communism. They highlight the benefits of modernization, economic expansion, and technological development. The two theories question how the current status quo came to be and stand independently from it. Focusing on their roots and how and if they may change, the above concepts investigate institutions, social structures, and power relations rather than taking them for granted. They are aimed at evaluating the action framework itself. As a result, they offer a blueprint for taking strategic action to establish a new system.

Thus, both theories lament the adverse effects of industrialism, modernism, and scientism, and critical philosophers, such as ecocentrism, strive to emancipate humans and nature as a whole. Creating a robust public realm is one of the goals of both the Critical Theory and Green Theory. The industrialist assumptions of success are not the deciding factors in this discursive space. Instead, the public sphere establishes a forum for ecological politics and the conduct of substantive arguments and discussions concerning society and the steps required to promote ecological sustainability.

The Green Theory is built on a thought process since it is a way of thinking in the notion that it raises queries about interpersonal relationships in the framework of group decision-making and communal life. As a result, political community boundaries have always been brought up. These queries usually take the shape of questioning to what degree of the political sphere individuals ought to look for a solution to environmental concerns, which cut across boundaries. Alternative theories about political connections centered on human-environmental relationships hold the solutions for green theorists.

Since it agrees and disputes some concepts, just like the Green Theory, the Critical Theory is built on a mental process. According to Roach (2020), the concept mentioned above disorders the ‘distribution of the rational.’ Critical Theory brings to light the connections and objects that International Relations reject to classify as connections or things. Critical Theory recognizes the arbitrary and artificial nature of hurdles. It interprets them in connection to their functions in the labor distribution social processes or system preservation in opposition to the technocratic hurdles to worldwide living and understanding.


In order to promote a sustainable economy, different nations, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), adopt various policies. These policies range from more focused action plans to single-aspect recommendations or regulations. Over the last few years, the UAE has continually worked to strengthen the viability of its economy. The UAE founded the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment to address climate change challenges in an economically sensible and resource-conserving way. The UAE still has difficulty sustaining sustainable growth and climbing the global sustainability rankings (Shibieka et al., 2019). This is happening even though it has made tremendous progress in changing its environmental approach over the past few years. It is regarded as one of the region’s leading nations in sustainability. Applying critical and green international relations theory ideas could help solve these challenges.

When designing and putting into practice Green Theory strategies, the UAE, like other developing nations, must make different and trickier policy decisions than wealthy nations. It will be challenging for a nation with elevated amounts of rural poverty to decide against cultivating new land due to the high environmental costs. However, strategies for boosting the productivity of currently-cultivated land should be investigated. The political viability of Green Theory strategies will undoubtedly depend on systems to compensate impoverished countries for ecological systems and enhance the financial and welfare benefits accruing to both them and their citizens from conserving environmental assets. New evidence has confirmed that green growth initiatives can benefit and present chances to developing nations in the short and long terms.

The Green Theory is most likely to produce immediate local benefits in terms of better environmental management via sustainable effluent treatment, improved access to water and energy, and more preferable health outcomes via regulated pollution. The immediate expenses of the chosen measures should be weighed against these near-term benefits. Reducing incentives for using agricultural fertilizers to increase soil yield and encourage sustainable farming may decrease the earnings of many small-scale, impoverished farmers. The gradual elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels will result in higher energy prices that will strain producers and users. The extent of the trade-offs varies depending on the economy and how the Green Theory policies are implemented, but they are undoubtedly in the policy implications. Changing from one development plan to another frequently can hurt the poor. When countries diverge from their existing development strategy, significant entities like political groups, organizations, and the corporate sector can suffer consequences. Therefore, the short-term gains may become more apparent if suitable and focused social supplementary policies are adopted alongside Green Theory measures.

The setting of Critical Theory offers sustainable growth. The decision-makers should interpret Critical Theory as a tool for achieving sustainable growth instead of as a replacement for it. This is because the Critical Theory is more engrossed and contains an applied approach aim that can contribute to creating quantifiable, real improvements at the convergence of the fiscal state. It puts heavy stress on promoting the atmosphere for competition, outlay, and innovation which can result in new avenues for economic growth.

Critical theories intend to classify the fundamental common assumptions that avert individuals from ultimately and validly perceiving how the sphere works. Critical Theory opposes that fundamental beliefs foster an incorrect awareness that actively hinders individuals from stirring forward into a real democracy. The use of Critical Theory tactics explicitly addresses a wide range of social problems and equitable issues that may develop as a direct outcome of enhancing the national and global economies of the UAE. To promote more significant relationships, decision-makers should put this idea into practice concurrently with programs focusing on the larger social pillar of sustainable development.

The UAE economy aims to experience long-term, diversified, sustainable growth that reduces poverty, boosts well-being and significantly raises inhabitants’ quality of life. This is accomplished by accounting for natural capital’s total value and acknowledging its crucial contribution to economic development (Allagui, 2017). Decision-makers in the UAE can progress liberation, or personal freedom, in the practice of international affairs by studying the Critical Theory model, which will result in the effective allocation of resource decisions in the nation. By studying this theory, the UAE can attain sustainable development and improved relations with other nations.

From the Critical and Green international relations theories, decision-makers in UAE can learn how to participate in the effective promotion of pro-environment principles. This can be through training and seminars to build constant values linked with the organization’s identity by discussing environmental concerns at every opportunity. As they participate in developing policies, rules, regulations, and training programs for procurement managers inside government enterprises in the UAE, they can also learn to review their values and devotion to particular causes. These theories help establish long-term infrastructural deficiencies to support economic activity, technological advancement, and adoption of climate-resilient practices.


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