International Relations

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International Relations considers the political relationships and interactions between countries, including the causes of war, the formation of foreign policy, international political economy, and the structures that increase or decrease the policy options available to governments. Major Analytical Concepts include Foreign Policy Analysis, International Organisations, International Political Economy, War Studies, Conflict Studies, International Security, World Politics. Major normative issues Justice, human rights, the conduct of war and economic development.

Other Approaches and Concepts that occupy IR studies are: Democratic Peace Theory, English School, Psychological Theories, Behaviourism & Game Theory, Systems Theory, Constructivism & Normative Theory incl. Feminism, Postmodernism. Power, Soft Power, Anarchy, Decisionmaking, Level-of-Analysis problem, Balance of Power, Clash of Civilisations, Power Transition Theories, Hegemonic Order Theory, Globalisation, Change.

History of the international system World History (roughly from 1500 onwards, cf. Paul Kennedy), Diplomatic History (world diplomacy and events from the period of World War I onwards), History of International Relations (development of the theory, paradigm wars etc.).

Major Theoretical Approaches Realism, Neorealism, Idealism, Neoliberal institutionalism, Structuralism.

Current important areas of focus for IR Importance of Gender for all contemporary processes in IR (war on terror and islamic fundamentalism crowding out female gender from IR), Role of social revolutions, upheaval and strife for IR (Baghdad, Afghanistan, Iran), Role of langague and culture (need study of the effects of culture on IR processes that is grounded in real knowledge of societies and culture and distinct from the mono-lingual 'cultural studies' of today, role of illicit, illegal activities, especially the loss of control of movements of people, goods, arms and impact on societies and international stability. 'We are looking, in some inchoate and only episodically visible way, at the modern equivalent of the slave trade in the Atlantic economies of the eighteenth century'.


International Politics News Releases frequent reports on world events ; ; Svenska institutet för europapolitiska studier ; an online forum of global news and culture ; a gateway to web based IR resources ;, another useful portal ; provides analysis of states’ foreign policies ; is a portal for ‘leftist, progressivist’ web based resources ; is the front-page for the University of California, Berkeley’s ‘conversations with history’ TV programme. The site contains interviews with some of the leading lights of contemporary IR, including Kenneth Waltz, Stephen Krasner, John Mearsheimer and Robert Keohane ; ; ;

Blogs , the site run by Tufts University’s Dan Drezner (realist and IPE specialist) ; a collective venture established by a younger crow of mainly constructivist IR scholars ; ; Stephen M. Walt ; Internet and IR discussions ; Marc Lynch blog mostly on ME ; ; Focus on horizontal knowledge, across disciplines.

Wikileaks Cable Viewer


Intergovernmental Organisations Follow the central website of the United Nations, and which attempts to shed light on the inner workings of the UN. The Global Policy Forum is an independent policy watchdog that monitors the work of the United Nations and scrutinises global policymaking. GPF works particularly on the UN Security Council, the food and hunger crisis, and the global economy.

For international financial organisations: The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank ; and the WTO

For regional organisations see the European Union, and NATO, and the African Union, ECOWAS

State of IR discipline ; Talks about Trip survey IR scholars , The most influential scholars of the last 20 years: Bob Keohane, Alex Wendt, Ken Waltz, John Mearsheimer, Jim Fearon, Joe Nye, Bob Jervis, Sam Huntington, Peter Katzenstein, and Robert Cox. Hard to argue with this top 10 list. The most interesting scholars of the past 5 years: Wendt, Mearsheimer, Fearon, Martha Finnemore, Nye, Katzenstein, Mike Barnett, Foreign Policy's own Steve Walt, John Ikenberry, and Barry Buzan ;


'Power is not what you have but what you give.' Barnett, Michael, and Raymond Duvall. 2005. “Power in International Politics.” International Organization 59, no. 1 (February): 39–75.


Gilpin, Robert. 1981. War and Change in World Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Huntington Clash of Civilisations Edward Said comments 1997 ; Noam Chomsky ;

Balance of Power & Hegemonic Order

BoP theory at the heart of realism almost seen as a law of nature, although neorealists often contend to argue that it is an outcome of anarchic international order. Cf. related theories BoP theory, theories of power balances, and theories of balancing. What is the explanatory power of BoP theories? Is there an equilibrium that is automatically achieved between great powers or does the international system rather veer towards Hegemons. BoP theory under fire after end of Cold War, giving rise to modifications in theories of state motivations (does their "balancing" actions direct against threats or power? if the former, benign powers might not be met with balancing strategy). Other concepts stemming from this include 'soft balancing' or 'asymmetric balancing'. Others contend that strategies such as self-strengthening reforms and power-maximizing tactics, and divide-and-conquer gambits undermine a BoP theory. Haas, Ernst B. 1953. “The Balance of Power: Prescription, Concept, or Propaganda.” World Politics 5, no. 4 ( July): 442–77.

Agency & Structure in IR

Wendt, Alexander. 1987. “The Agent-Structure Problem in International Relations Theory.” International Organization 41, no. 3 (Summer): 335–70 ; Wight, Colin. 2006. Agents, Structures and International Relations: Politics as Ontology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


IR moving into entropy by chaos following the second law of thermodynamics.


See Empathy.

The English School

a form of state-centred approach that parallels the pure power politics of North American orthodoxy but is tempered by some recognition of the role of international law and of international institutions and norms, and, most importantly, by some sense that the international system is not just a zone of unrelenting and unchangeable conflict, but is liable to change, reform and long-term improvement. It is, in other words, a cautiously liberal view of international relations.


A cosmopolitan belief that a diversity of cultures can be inscribed in a universal ethical, institutional and social order.

Liberal internationalism, belief that through progress and international institutions and law the world is growing together and shaping a new common culture, and international order. The rise of nationalism, of identity politics, of the ‘securitization’ of issues of rights, free speech, migration, travel, even taking cash out of the bank or buying a house, marks an erosion of the liberal internationalist vision.

Revolutionary internationalism, the marxist, leninist vision of revolution that will control the world. Hegemonic internationalism, a hegemon, wrests control through projection of power.

The forces of globalisation that shape internationalism, paradoxically also produce strife, diversity and particularism.

IR and Literature

Charles Hill, Grand Strategies, Literature, Statecraft, and World Order - “The international world of states and their modern system is a literary realm,” writes Charles Hill in this powerful work on the practice of international relations. “It is where the greatest issues of the human condition are played out.”A distinguished lifelong diplomat and educator, Hill aims to revive the ancient tradition of statecraft as practiced by humane and broadly educated men and women. Through lucid and compelling discussions of classic literary works from Homer to Rushdie, Grand Strategies represents a merger of literature and international relations, inspired by the conviction that “a grand strategist . . . needs to be immersed in classic texts from Sun Tzu to Thucydides to George Kennan, to gain real-world experience through internships in the realms of statecraft, and to bring this learning and experience to bear on contemporary issues.”

Individual thinkers

Hanna Arendt

Fred Halliday

'International Relations in a post-hegemonic age', International Affairs 85: 1 (2009) 37–51. In his valedictory lecture, concluding twenty-five years teaching at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Fred Halliday examines three aspects of the changing reality and intellectual context of International Relations. Placing a broad interpretation on the concept of the 'post-hegemonic' he looks at the changing nature of American power, the growing diversity of, and challenges to, the discipline of International Relations, and the mixed record of different conceptions of internationalism. This lecture is a reassertion of the necessity and vitality of academic reflection on International Relations, a challenge to much conventional thinking on issues of globalization, and a reassertion of the need for, and complexity of, a commitment to global values.

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