Skip to main content

IR - One Definition a Day: International Relations (IR)


One-Definition-A-Day: International Relations (IR), (p. 274, Ref. 1)

This term is used to identify all interactions between state-based actors across state boundaries. The term can immediately be compared with, though is broader than, international politics. Indeed, the latter is subsumed as one, and certainly one of the most important, sub-fields of international relations. Thus international law is part of international relations but not international politics. Law is, after all, certainly in its customary form, created by interactions between state-based actors. Similarly international economic relations are part of international relations but not international politics. This is not to say that political calculations will not intrude into these areas, but only that they can be separated for the purposes of analysis.

International relations (IR) is thus an interdisciplinary and heterogeneous area of study. It has no unifying methodology because, taken with three examples mentioned above, international economics is an empirical social science, international law is far more normative than most social sciences while international politics is eclectic, borrowing from a number of traditions and divided in many minds into a rather unruly flock of activities. It should also be noted that the above listing is illustrative rather than exhaustive, diplomatic history, which again has its own methodology, being an obvious omission.

Despite its multidisciplinary and fragmented nature, most students of international relations view it as a sub-discipline of political science, broadly conceived. Although the main professional societies in the Anglo-American world have specifically and deliberately avoided using the term IR in order to indicate its multidisciplinary character (The International Studies Association and the British International Studies Association) the majority of members are in fact drawn from the study of politics. Indeed the domain of IR is often still referred to as 'international politics' despite the differences noted above. This terminological imprecision can also be noted in related labels such as 'world politics', 'foreign affairs', 'international affairs' and more recently 'international studies' and 'global politics'. Foreign policy analysis, security studies, International Political Economy and normative theory are the most vibrant sub-fields and these also are dominated by political scientists.

History and approaches

As a separate fields of academic inquiry distinct from International law, Political Theory and Diplomatic History, IR effectively began with the establishment of its first chair at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 1919. The first general theoretical perspective was popularly labelled idealism and was characterized by a belief in progress; that the international system could be transformed into a fundamentally more peaceful and just world order.

From the start therefore IR was policy-orientated. Thereafter the subject underwent a succession of waves of theoretical activity which inspired a number of 'great debates' within the discipline. In rough chronological order (mindful that these 'schools' are not exclusive and do overlap) these are: realism, behaviorism, neo-realism, neo-liberalism, world systems theory, critical theory and postmodernism. These perspective shifts often involved bitter disputes about methodology, epistemology and ontology. However, there is now general acceptance within IR that given the range and complexity of the subject matter, a wide variety of theoretical approaches might be an asset rather than a liability. 

Most of these paradigm controversies were centred on the work of analysts in the USA and Europe (sometimes, inaccurately referred to as the 'Anglo-Amercian tradition' which tended to concentrate on great power/superpower issues. IR students in the Third World or South by and large, by-passed these debates and not unnaturally focused on particular policy problems with their states or regions. 

Overall theoretical perspectives, if developed at all, usually had their origins in Marxist/Leninist theories of imperialism in dependency theory and structuralism. With the ending of the Cold War, IR like its subject matter is in the state of flux. The two dominant perspectives are neo-realism and neo-liberalism but the general uncertainty about the continued validity of the state as the key actor in world politics, has led to doubts about the ability of IR in its present form, to survive as a separate area of academic study.

Remarks: ONE DEFINITION A DAY is a campaign by YourVietBooks.com to encourage young Vietnamese talents to practise their translation skills and learn more on Vietnam's Culture, the Land and the People. Volunteers are welcome to contribute their translated version of today's DEFINITION in the comments below.

Original Title in English: Dictionary of International Relations, Penguin (1998) by Authors Graham Evans and Jeffrey Newnham

About YourVietbooks.com
YourVietBooks is a collection of books on Vietnam for Readers who are interested in Vietnam's History, Culture, Language, Economy, or Business. Most titles are in English, but some are only available in French or Vietnamese. We can provide interested parties an accurate translation of some parts of the books for your research purposes. Translations are done by YourVietnamExpert's qualified and experienced translators. contact@yourvietnamexpert.com

Popular posts from this blog

Travel to Vietnam - Nhatrang City and Khanh Hoa Province

Travel to Vietnam
Nhatrang City - Khanh Hoa Province


Original Title in Vietnamese: Du lịch miền Trung và Tây Nguyên - Những điều cần biết: Nha Trang Khánh Hòa
By Authors: Nguyen Gia Nung, Thia Ly, Nguyen van Thanh, Khanh Hoa Tourist Ofice
Journalists: Nguyen Hoang Ba, Khue Viet Truong, Dinh Hanh, Dang Minh Chau
Publishers: Chính Trị Quốc Gia (National Politics)


About the Book:
Published in 1998, the information contained in this book is now obsolete but the book itself shows the early efforts of the provincial and central government to gather valuable information for the visitors to Vietnam. More complete information are available under wikipedia.


Complementary from wikipedia

GeographyNha Trang city has a metropolitan area of 251 km² and population of about 500,000 (as of 2007). It borders Ninh Hòa town by the north, Cam Ranh city by the south, Diên Khánhtown by the west and the South China Sea to the east. The city is located on the beautiful Nha Trang Bay, which was chosen by Travel and Leis…

Vietnamese Classical Literature - 19th Century

Vietnam Classical Literature is not known to the outside world as Chinese Literature. For the younger generation, the study of Vietnamese literature seem to fade away, leaving place to contemporary authors on topics on modern existentialism. In my attempt to "come back to source", I have started a collection of books on Vietnam, and classify them under various topics such as Culture, History, Vietnam War, Politics, Biographies, Contemporary Vietnam, International Relations, Doing Business in Vietnam, Reference and Languages, Zen Buddhism, Philosophy, Art and Literature. 

Here is a short picture of the literary world under the last dynasty of Vietnam: the Nguyen. 

Indeed, the 19th Century was a flourishing century for literature and the arts in Vietnam. It opened up with the Kim Vân Kiều  by Nguyễn Du (1765-1820) and closed with the anonymous Song of True Patriotism (Chính Khí Ca :1900). 

Three outstanding talents, Nguyen Du, Mdm Ho Xuan Huong and Nguyen Dinh Chieu contri…
Here is a short list of books I read between 2009-2010
Author's Biographies Smith, Adam, encyclopedia article about the author <http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Adam+Smith>Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice, on SparkNotes <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/pride/>Henry Maine, encyclopedia article about the author<http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Henry+Maine>Karl Marx, encyclopedia article about the author Karl Marx<http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Karl+Marx>Durkheim: encyclopedia article about the author<http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Durkheim>Max Weber, encyclopedia article about the author <http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Max+Weber>


Books on History-Biography Bartholomew-feis, Dixee R, The Oss and Ho Chi Minh: Unexpected Allies in the War Against Japan. University Press of Kansas, 2009. Berman, Larry. Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist …