Writings by Marx on international relations (IR) are limited; however they are relevant and offer a thorough approach on IR. Marxists and neo-Marxist theories on international relations were against capitalism and realism. The Marxist theories on international relations used a different approach from the one that had been fronted by other theories. The Marxists theories took a materialistic approach on international politics with economy being the main focus. These theories diverted attention from war and peace and state centred features of realism (Holsti, 1987). Marxist theories criticised the proliferation of poverty and uneven development which would continue if capitalism was adopted. According to the world’s system theory proposed by Wallerstein, the 19th and 20th century were dominated by the world’s capitalist economy (Holsti, 1987). This economy is characterised by unequal division of labour between the periphery and the core. According to Wallerstein, this world system has proliferated the widening instead of narrowing of the gap between the rich and the poor (Holsti, 1987). As a result the poor periphery has developed dependency on the rich core. Capitalistic societies are outcome oriented and do not pay attention to the structures which could eliminate these disparities. The end of the cold war and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union somehow rendered the Marxist theories irrelevant and outdated. Marxists theories laid emphasis on elevation of class and bridging the gap between the rich and the poor (Katzenstein et al, 1999).
The Marxist theories were explained better in the past because the country’s economy and politics were closely tied. But today politics and the economy have successfully been separated. Despite this, the gap between the rich and the poor if anything has widened. The core and the periphery do exist in the contemporary world. The Marxist theories noted that the capitalism’s main agenda is to accumulate and create capital. The third world countries have become poorer while the west has become richer. Globalisation has helped a few countries such as Singapore and Taiwan cross the gap but the majority of the third world countries are still in the periphery. Today capitalism has not produced the best results for the world economy; in fact capitalism today is in a constant crisis. Globalisation which is driven by capitalism has indeed been favourable for the developed countries but not so for the developing ones and the blue collar workers in the western countries. In addition financial crisis such as the 2008 recessions are now occurring more frequently. The global capitalism in the world scenario has led to accumulation of wealth in the west and proliferation of poverty in third world countries (Katzenstein et al, 1999). Marx said that the accumulation of wealth on one pole will definitely lead to poverty on the opposite pole (Holsti, 1987). This is evidenced by the disparities between the western countries and developing countries. The capitalist employer does not have the same goals with his/her workers Marxist theories aim at achieving change which would end capitalism in a bid to end exploitation of the poor. This would indeed create more just society. According to Marxist theories power lies with the capitalists and not the workers. Marxism theories argue that there is need for a revolution so that power is brought to the working people. Antonio Glamsci brought out the concept of hegemony which describes the attempt by western countries to sell capitalism through various means.
Today people are raised in such a way that they only accept and embrace capitalism without questioning the system (Anvieas, 2009). Today the relationship between the material reality and the superstructure can be clearly seen. Take an example of world trade whereby free trade has been adopted as the solution to liberate economies. The hegemonic ideology of neo liberalism benefits the rich countries and disadvantages the poor countries by stating that free trade is the ultimate solution for everyone. However a closer look reveals that free trade opens up the market for the rich countries which ensures that raw materials are available for their economies. The third world countries are then forced to rely on these raw materials as their source of income. In addition these countries enter into competition with each other hence eliminating other viable alternative solutions to their problems. There are a few countries such as Taiwan and South Korea which have been able to develop their economies after 1950. However these countries did so after enforcing protectionist policies (Holsti, 1987). International institutions on the hand have enforced hegemony. For example where countries refuse to be party to these principles financial aid is withdrawn leaving them in debt. IMF is one such institution which has in the past withdrawn financial aid to countries that have defied these policies and ideologies.
The world today has experienced unprecedented integration of national economies and increase in global organisations and networks. Capitalism was largely successful in 1990s but today it has produced damage to our systems with little progress for the developing countries (Anvieas, 2009). In western countries undesired outcomes such as financial crisis have become the norm. Therefore it may be necessary to evaluate the Marxist theories and see whether we can integrate these ideas into our system. Marxism may provide solutions with global and local perspectives that will end disparities (Anvieas, 2009).