History Of Internatioal Relations
International relations (IR), a branch of political science, is the study of foreign affairs of and relations among states within the international system, including the roles of states, inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and multinational corporations (MNCs). It is both an academic and public policy field, and can be either positive or normative as it both seeks to analyze as well as formulate foreign policy.
Apart from political science, IR draws upon such diverse fields as economics, history, law, philosophy, geography, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and cultural studies. It involves a diverse range of issues, from globalization and its impacts on societies and state sovereignty to ecological sustainability, nuclear proliferation, nationalism, economic development, terrorism, organized crime, human security and human rights.
The international system
The history of international relations is often traced back to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, where the modern state system was developed. Prior to this, the European medieval organization of political authority was based on a vaguely hierarchical religious order. Westphalia instituted the notion of sovereignty, which essentially meant that rulers, or sovereigns, would recognize no internal equals within a defined territory, and no external superiors. Classical Greek and Roman authority at times resembled the Westphalian system, but both lacked the notion of sovereignty. Westphalia encouraged the rise of the nation-state and the institutionalization of diplomacy and armies. This particular European system was exported to the Americas, Africa, and Asia via colonialism and the "standards of civilization". The contemporary international system was finally established through decolonization during the Cold War. However, this is somewhat over-simplified. While the nation-state system is considered "modern", many states have not incorporated the system and are termed "pre-modern". Further, a handful of states have moved beyond the nation-state system and can be considered "post-modern". The ability of contemporary IR discourse to explain the relations of these different types of states is disputed.
International relations theory
What is explicitly recognized as international relations theory was not developed until after World War I, and is dealt with in more detail below. IR theory, however, has a long tradition of drawing on the work of other social sciences. The use of capitalizations of the I and R in International Relations aims to distinguish the academic discipline of International Relations from the phenomena of international relations. Many cite Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War as the inspiration for realist theory, with Hobbes' Leviathan and Machiavelli's The Prince providing further elaboration. Similarly, liberalism draws upon the work of Kant and Rousseau, with the work of the former often being cited as the first elaboration of Democratic Peace Theory. Though contemporary human rights is considerably different than the type of rights envisioned under natural law, Francisco de Vitoria,Hugo Grotius and John Locke offered the first accounts of universal entitlement to certain rights on the basis of common humanity. In the twentieth century, in addition to contemporary theories of liberal internationalism, Marxism has been a durable foundation of international relations.
The study of IR
Initially, international relations as a distinct field of study was almost entirely British-centered. In 1919, the first Chair in International Politics established at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, from an endowment given by David Davies, became the first academic position dedicated to IR. In the early 1920s, the London School of Economics' department of International Relations was founded at the behest of Nobel Peace Prize winner Phillip Noel-Baker. While schools dedicated to the study of IR have been founded in Asia and South America, IR as a discipline remains to be studied chiefly in Europe and North America.
Main International Relations
Theories and derivates
Realism & Neorealism
Idealism, Liberalism & Neoliberalism
Marxism & Dependency theory
Functionalism & Neofunctionalism
Critical theory & Constructivism
Epistemology and IR theory
IR theories can be roughly divided into one of two epistemological camps: "positivist" and "post-positivist". Positivist theories aim to replicate the methods of the natural sciences by analysing the impact of material forces. They typically focus on features of international relations such as state interactions, size of military forces, balance of powers etc. Post-positivist epistemology rejects the idea that the social world can be studied in an objective and value-free way. It rejects the central ideas of neorealism/liberalism, such as rational choice theory, on the grounds that the scientific method cannot be applied to the social world and that a 'science' of IR is impossible.
A key difference between the two positions is that while positivist theories, such as neorealism, offer causal explanations (such as why and how power is exercised) postpositivist theories focus instead on how constitutive questions, for instance what is meant by 'power'; what makes it up, how it is experience and how it is reproduced. Often, postpositivist theories explicitly promote a normative approach to IR, by considering ethics. This is something which has often been ignored under 'traditional' IR as positivist theories make a distinction between 'facts' and normative judgments, or 'values'.
During the the late 1980s/1990 debate between postivists and post-positivists became the dominant debate and has been described as constituting the Third "Great Debate" (Lapid 1989).
Liberalism arose after World War I in response to the inability of states to control and limit war in their international relations. Early adherents include Woodrow Wilson and Norman Angell, who argued variously that states mutually gained from cooperation and that war was so destructive to be essentially futile. Liberalism was not recognized as a coherent theory as such until it was collectively and derisively termed idealism by E.H. Carr.
Realism was a response to liberalism that chiefly denies that states seek to cooperate. Early realists such as EH Carr and Hans Morgenthau argued that states are self-interested, power-seeking rational actors. Any cooperation between states is explained as purely incidental. Realists saw World War II as the vindication of their theory. It should be noted that classical writers such as Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Hobbes are often cited as the "founding fathers" of realism by contemporary self-described realists. However, while their work may support realist doctrine, it is not likely that they would have classified themselves as realists (in this sense of the term).
Neorealism is largely the work of Kenneth Waltz (who actually called his theory "structural realism"). While retaining the empirical observations of realism, that international relations are characterized by antagonistic interstate relations, neorealists point to the anarchic structure of the international system as the cause. They reject explanations that take account of states' domestic characteristics. States are compelled by relative gains and balance against concentration of power. Unlike realism, neorealism seeks to be scientific and more positivist.
Neoliberalism seeks to update liberalism by accepting the neorealist presumption that states are the key actors in international relations, but still maintains that non-state actors (NSAs) and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) matter. Proponents such as Joseph Nye argue that states will cooperate irrespective of relative gains, and are thus concerned with absolute gains. The growing interdependence throughout the Cold War through international institutions means that neoliberalism is also called liberal institutionalism.
International society theory
International society theory focuses on the shared norms and values of states and how they regulate international relations. Examples of such norms include diplomacy, order, and international law. Unlike neorealism, it is not positivist, and its wider adherence in the United Kingdom than in the United States means that it is also called the English School. Theorists have focused particularly on humanitarian intervention, and are subdivided between solidarists, who tend to advocate it more, and pluralists, who place greater value in order and sovereignty. Nicholas Wheeler is a prominent solidarist, while Hedley Bull is perhaps the best known pluralist.
Critical international relations theory is the application of 'critical theory' to international relations. Proponents such as Andrew Linklater and Robert Cox focus on the need for human emancipation, through a reduced role of the state as the provider of services and security to individuals. Hence, it is "critical" of mainstream IR theories that tend to be state-centric.
Note: this is by no means an exhaustive list of IR theories. Examples include functionalism, neofunctionalism, feminism, dependency theory, and constructivism. See also international relations theory.
Marxist and Neo-Marxist theories of IR reject the realist/liberal view of state conflict or cooperation; instead focusing on the economic and material aspects. It makes the assumption that the economic trumps other concerns; allowing for the elevation of class as the focus of study. Marxists view the international system as an integrated capitalist system in pursuit of capital accumulation. Thus, the period of colonialism brought in sources for raw materials and captive markets for exports, while decolonialization brought new opportunities in the form of dependence.
Linked in with Marxist theories is dependency theory which argues that developed countries, in their pursuit of power, penetrate developing states through political advisors, missionaries, experts and MNCs to integrate them into the integrated capitalist system in order to appropriate natural resources and foster dependence by developing countries on developed countries.
Marxist theories receive scant attention in the United States where no significant socialist party ever existed. It is more common in parts of Europe and is one of the most important theoretic contributions of Latin American academia, for example through Liberation theology.
Social Constructivism eccompasses a broad range of theories that aim to address questions of ontology, such as the Structure and agency debate, as well as questions of epistemology, such as the "material/ideational" debate that concerns the relative role of material forces versus ideas. Constructivism is not a theory of IR, for example in the manner of neorealism, but instead is a social theory.
Constructivism in IR can be divided into what Hopf (1998) calls 'conventional' and 'critical' constructivism. Common to all varieties of constructivism is an interest in the role that ideational forces play. Constructivism's most famous scholar, Alexander Wendt noted in a 1992 article in International Organization (later followed up by a book, Social Theory of International Politics (1999)), that "anarchy is what states make of it". By this he means that the anarchical structure that neorealists claim governs state interaction is in fact a phenomenon that is socially constructed and reproduced by states. For example, if the system is dominated by states that see anarchy as a life or death situation (what Wendt terms a "Hobbesian" anarchy) then the system will be characterised by warfare. If on the other hand anarchy is seen as restricted (a "Lockean" anarchy) then a more peaceful system will exist. Anarchy in this view is constituted by state interaction, rather than accepted as a natural and immutable feature of international life as viewed by neorealist IR scholars.
Critics, however, abound from both sides of the epistemological divide: Post-positivists say the focus on the state at the expense of ethnicity/race/class/gender makes social constructivism yet another positivist theory. The use of implicit rational choice theory by Wendt has also raised criticisms from scholars such as Steven Smith. Positivist scholars of (neo-)liberalism/realism hold that the theory forgoes too many positivist assumptions for it to be considered positivist.
Poststructuaralist theories of IR developed in the 1980s from postmodernist studies in political science. Poststructuralism explores the deconstruction of concepts traditionally not problematised in IR, such as 'power' and 'agency' and examines how the construction of these concepts shapes international relations. The examination of 'narratives' plays an important part in poststructuralist analysis, for example feminist poststructuralist work has examined the role that 'women' play in global society and how they are constructed in war as 'innocent' and 'civilians'.
Examples of postpositivist research include:
Feminisms ("gendering" war)
Postcolonialism (challenges the eurocentrism of IR)
Concepts in international relations
Systemic level concepts
International relations is often viewed in terms of levels of analysis, the systemic level concepts are those broad concepts that define and shape an international milieu, characterised by Anarchy.
The concept of power in international relations can be described as the degree of resources, capabilities, and influence in international affairs. It is often divided up into the concepts of hard power and soft power, hard power relating to the use of force, and soft power commonly covering economics, diplomacy and cultural influence.
Polarity in International Relations refers to the arrangement of power within the international system. The concept arose from bipolarity during the Cold War, with the international system dominated by the conflict between two superpowers, and has been applied retrospectively. Consequently, the international system prior to 1945 can be described as multipolar, with power being shared among Great powers. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 has lead to what some would call unipolarity, with the United States as a sole superpower.
Several theories of international relations draw upon the idea of polarity.
The balance of power was a concept prevalent in Europe prior to the First World War, the thought being that by balancing power blocs it would create stability and prevent war. Theories of the balance of power gained prominence again during the Cold War, being a central mechanism of Kenneth Waltz's Neorealism. Here, the concepts of balancing (rising in power to counter another) and bandwagonning (siding with another) are developed.
Hegemonic stability theory also draws upon the idea of Polarity, specifically the state of unipolarity. Hegemony is the preponderance of power at one pole in the international system, and the theory argues this is stable configuration because of mutual gains by both the dominant power and others in the international system. This is contrary to many Neorealist arguments, particularly made by Kenneth Waltz, stating that the end of the Cold War and the state of unipolarity is an unstable configuration that will inevitably change.
Many advocate that the current international system is characterised by growing interdependence; the mutual responsibility and dependency on others. Advocates of this point to growing globalisation, particularly with international economic interaction. The role of international institutions, and widespread acceptance of a number of operating principles in the international system, reinforces ideas that relations are characterised by interdependence.
Dependency theory is a theory most commonly associated with Marxism, stating that a set of Core states exploit a set of weaker Periphery states for their prosperity. Various versions of the theory suggest that this is either an inevitability (standard dependency theory), or use the theory to highlight the necessity for change (Neo-Marxist).
Systemic tools of international relations
Diplomacy is the practice of conducting negotiation between representatives of states. To an extent, all other tools of international relations can be considered the failure of diplomacy.
Sanctions are usually a first resort after the failure of diplomacy, and are one of the main tools used to enforce treaties. They can take the form of diplomatic or economic sanctions and involve the cutting of ties and imposition of barriers to communication or trade.
War, the use of force, is often thought of as the ultimate tool of international relations. A widely accepted definition is that given by Clausewitz, with war being "the continuation of politics by other means". There a growing study into 'new wars' involving actors other than states. The study of war in International Relations is covered by the disciplines of 'War Studies' and 'Strategic studies'.
The mobilization of international shame can also be thought of as a tool of International Relations. This is attempting to alter a states actions through 'naming and shaming' at the international level. A prominent use of this would be the UN Commission on Human Rights 1235 procedure, which publicly exposes states human rights violations.
Unit-level concepts in international relations
As a level of analysis the unit level is often referred to as the state level, as it locates its explanation at the level of the state, rather than the international system.
It is often considered that a states regime type can dictate the way that a state interacts with others in the international system.
Democratic Peace Theory is a theory that suggests that the nature of democracy means that democratic countries will not go to war with each other. The justifications for this are that democracies externalise their norms and only go to war for just causes, and that democracy encourages mutual trust and respect. Communism justifies a world revolution, which similarly would lead to peaceful coexistence, based on a proletarian global society.
States can be classified by whether they accept the international status quo, or are revisionist i.e. want change. Revisionist states seek to fundamentally change the rules and practices of international relations, feeling disadvantaged by the status quo. They see the international system as a largely western creation which serves to reinforce current realities. China is an example of a state that has gone from being a revisionist state to one that is satisfied with the status quo, because the status quo is now beneficial to it.
It is often considered that religion can have an effect on the way a state acts within the international system. Religion is visible as an organising principle particularly for Islamic states, whereas secularism sits at the other end of the spectrum, with the separation of state and religion being responsible for the Liberal tradition.
Individual or sub-unit level
The level beneath the unit (state) level can be useful both for explaining factors in International Relations that other theories fail to explain, and for moving away from a state-centric view of international relations.
Psychological factors in International Relations:
Looking at psychological factors in international relations comes from the understanding that a state is not a 'black box' as proposed by Realism, and that there may be other influences on foreign policy decisions. Looking at the role of personalities in the decision making process can have some explanatory power, as can the role of misperception between various actors. A prominent application of sub-unit level psychological factors in international relations is the concept of Groupthink, another is the propensity of policymakers to think in terms of analogies.
Looks at the role of the bureaucracy in decision making, and sees decisions as a result of bureaucratic in-fighting, and as having been shaped by various constraints.
Religious, Ethnic, and secessionist groups:
Viewing these aspects of the sub-unit level has explanatory power with regards to ethnic conflict, religious wars, and other actors do not consider themselves to fit with the defined state boundaries. This is particularly useful in the context of the pre-modern world of weak states.
Institutions in international relations
International institutions form a vital part of contemporary International Relations. Much interaction at the system level is governed by them, and they outlaw some traditional institutions and practices of International Relations, such as the use of war (except in self-defence).
The United Nations (UN) is an international organization that describes itself as a "global association of governments facilitating co-operation in international law, international security, economic development, and social equity"; It is the most prominent international institution. Many of the legal institutions follow the same organisational structure as the UN.
International legal bodies
International Court of Justice
European Court of Justice
African Court of Justice
United Nations Commission on Human Rights (to be replaced by the United Nations Human Rights Council)
Human Rights Committee
European Court of Human Rights
Inter-American Court of Human Rights
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
International Criminal Court
Regional security arrangements
World Trade Organisation
International Monetary Fund
If faith is lost, there is no security and there is no life for him who does not adhere to religion.