International Relations

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International Relations is a branch of Political Science dealing with interactions between actors (typically states) in the international system. There are several schools of thought which claim to provide a theoretical model for International Relations, and therefore understand or even predict the behavior of actors on the world stage.

But as of current scenerio, the phenomenon of actors has made the position of International Relations, as a Political Science, quite hazy. The immense role played by private sector, civil society and individuals; that goes beyond state boundaries and regulations, has forced the scholars of International Relations to consider it as a holistic stand-alone discipline, which can inculcate various branches of Social Sciences and not only Politics in its domain. Such characteristics make International Relations as one of the most dynamic courses for study and research.

Overview[edit | edit source]

International Relations traditionally maps its knowledge with state-centric point of view, proven by the dominance of classic state-centric theories in the field. However, the contemporary International Relations has experienced a large shift of focus, particularly on the emphasize of alternative theories and the prominence of non-state actors. Some scholars even argued that this field of study is no longer an 'International Relations Studies', but instead a 'Global Studies', which indicates the containment of actors and subjects beyond states in the international system.

Course Outline and Objectives[edit | edit source]

  • An overview of key theories of International Politics
  • An overview of International Political Economy
  • An understanding of some of the key issues in contemporary World Politics

Unit 1: What is International Relations?[edit | edit source]

Learning Materials[edit | edit source]

International Relations is a branch of Political Science dealing with interactions between actors (typically states) in the international system.

Reading List[edit | edit source]

Unit 2: Theories of International Relations[edit | edit source]

Classic Theories of International Relations[edit | edit source]

There are traditionally three classic theories of International Relations, which are Realism, Liberalism, and Constructivism.

Realism[edit | edit source]

Structural Realism[edit | edit source]

Structural Realism usually begins with the following assumptions:

  • that the international system is anarchic; that is, there is no credible power above the states that compromise the system.
  • that states cannot be certain of the intentions of other states
  • that at least some states have offensive capabilities
  • that states have preferences which they seek to realize, and that survival is a prerequisite for realizing such a preference

From these premises, Structural Realism concludes the following: because states require survival in order to seek their preferences, they seek to survive. Because they cannot be certain of the intentions of other states, which may have offensive capabilities, and because there is no higher authority which can protect them from those other states, it is rational for states to seek some optimal level of power relative to all other states in the system. Relative power can then be used as a means to survival, and therefore a means to the state's true preferences.

The result is an international system in which each state competes with every other state for relative power. While power is an unlimited resource, the competition is, in effect, zero sum, because what is important is how powerful a state is relative to all other states. An increase in absolute power for one state and no change in absolute power for all other states will mean a decrease in relative power for all other states.

Note that, in Structural Realism, states must seek power before being able to realize their preferences. Therefore, the structural imperative to seek power will, in Structural Realism, tend to override any contrary preferences that the state has, at least for a rational state. In this way, Structural Realism posits that the driving factor behind a rational state's foreign policy is not internal politics or preferences, but an externally-determined set of structural imperatives. For this reason, Structural Realists can be very dismissive of a state's domestic politics.

Structural Realists can be further divided into Offensive and Defensive Realists, based on how much power they believe is optimal. Defense Realists posit that there is some ideal level of power which a state should seek; below that level, it cannot be guaranteed of its own security, but above that level, other states will begin to see it as a threat and counter-balance it. Offensive Realists hold that states should maximize their power, since the collective action problem will impede counter-balancing.

Liberalism[edit | edit source]

While Structural Realism posits an international system where it is rational for each state to compete with every other state, Liberalism posits a system in which cooperation is the rational choice.

Classical Liberalism[edit | edit source]

Laissez-faire Liberalism[edit | edit source]

Liberal Institutionalism[edit | edit source]

Constructivism[edit | edit source]

Conventional Constructivism[edit | edit source]

Critical Constructivism[edit | edit source]

Learning Materials[edit | edit source]

Reading List[edit | edit source]

  • Carr, Edward H.; The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939 - An Introduction to the Study of International Relations. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. [Read chapter 4, The Harmony of Interests, online. A classic in political realism critics of liberalism]
  • Adler E. "Seizing the middle ground. Constructivism in World Politics", European Journal of International Relations, 1997, vol. 3, issue 3, pages 319–363
  • Checkel J."The Constructivism turn in International Relations Theory", World Politics vol. 50, issue 1, 1998, pages 324-348
  • Hopf T. "The promise of Constructivism in International Relations Theory", International Security, vol. 23, issue 1, 1998, pages 171-200
  • Price R. Reus-Smith C. "Dangerous liaisons? Critical international theory and Constructivism", European Journal of International Relations, vol. 4, issue 3, pages 259–294
  • Wendt A., Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Essential Reading[edit | edit source]

Supplementary Reading[edit | edit source]

Assignments[edit | edit source]

  • Outline the assumptions of Realism and Liberalism concerning human nature. How do these assumptions influence each theory's view of International Relations? This is a 1,000 word assignment.

Unit 3: World Politics since 1945[edit | edit source]

Learning Materials[edit | edit source]

Reading List[edit | edit source]

  • Calvocoressi, Peter; World Politics since 1945. Addison Wesley Longman, 1996.
  • Gaddis, John Lewis; The Cold War. Penguin, 2005.

Assignments[edit | edit source]

Unit 4: International Political Economy[edit | edit source]

Learning Materials[edit | edit source]


Reading List[edit | edit source]

  • Gilpin, Robert; The Political Economy of International Relations. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987.
  • Gilpin, Robert; Global Political Economy - Understanding the International Economy Order. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001.
  • Gilpin, Robert; The Challenge of Global Capitalism - The World Economy in the 21th Century. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Assignments[edit | edit source]

Unit 5: Security Studies[edit | edit source]

Learning Materials[edit | edit source]

Reading List[edit | edit source]

  • Collins A. (ed.), Contemporary Security Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Kolodziej E., Security and International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Terriff T., Croft S., James L., Morgan P., Security Studies Today. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999.