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1. Introduction to international relations

International relations define the relationships between different states in the worldwide interstate system. The study of international relations is criticised by various critics due to its diversified approaches. Some researchers investigate the psychological and social-psychological factors that influence foreign officials’ behaviour (Sørensen, et al., 2022). Others investigate institutional dynamics and politics as elements influencing states’ behaviour and goals with an external focus. However, the study of international relations is a wide concept which is very crucial in today’s globalised world. International relations are broadly divided into two major fields which are the international political economy (including FDI, trade, and other attributes related to political economy) and international peace and security (including war, trade restrictions, conflicts, peace, and so on). Additionally, international relations also include environmental concerns, international laws, human rights, and so on.

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Academic institutions in Europe and the United States began offering classes on the subject in the 1920s following the end of World War I. When it comes to pre-state political systems, however, this topic has been around for a long time. According to most historians, international relations (IR), more often known as the interaction between countries, was laid out in large part by the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, which is widely regarded as helping to establish modern nation-states in Europe (Baylis, 2020). Pre-state political systems had already spread over the globe long before the creation of contemporary nation-states. It is now widely accepted that no organised system of international relations began as soon as the treaty was signed. Furthermore, systematic relationships between nation-states or other sorts of political systems had not emerged before the French Revolution in 1789. Hence, the development of international relations has a very long history, which is responsible for its development.

The importance of international relations has been raised after the globalisation and liberalisation of the global economy. Political science and the operation of global systems serve as the foundation for the theory of international relations studies, which examines the interactions between states and their foreign policy. International relations affect every person in society, even though the idea might appear alien. International relations provide a significant base for understanding the effects of globalised policies on states as well as individuals (Kaufman, 2022). International relations between any state impact the economic and political conditions of other states as well. Therefore, studying international relations is very important in this highly globalised world. The prosperity and growth of countries can be determined by the quality of international relations they have with other economies. The quality of international relations between nations determines the business activities among such nations. Hence, the study of international relations is very crucial if businesses want to prosper in the international markets.

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2. Liberalism

From the Reformation Movement in the sixteenth century to the present, the development of liberal philosophy spans a significant time in history. Throughout its lengthy history, liberalism has been shaped by a variety of intellectual movements, fashions, and historical circumstances. It broke the spiritual illusions that the feudal society had painstakingly cultivated and gave rise to a scientific and secular understanding of existence. Liberals often hold that the government is required to safeguard citizens against harm by others, but they also understand that the government may be a threat to liberty. The liberal theory was initially introduced as a theory for conserving individual freedom and liberty by seventeenth-century philosophers including John Locke (MacKay and LaRoche, 2021, p.16). These scholars stated that liberalism could be maintained in a free society and within a supportive government that would allow for the development of one’s goals and desires. Individual freedom and liberty are not in conflict with the founding and continuation of the state; in fact, they are protected by a liberal, less intrusive state. This idea of the liberal, supportive, and less intrusive state had an impact on IR experts, who created a liberal tradition in their thought that was later known as the liberal theory in international relations.

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The liberalism theory is broadly classified into two phases– early liberalism (1920 to late 1930) and post–second world war liberalism (1945 to 1970). The basic assumptions of early liberalism are that nations and states are the leading role players in international relations, peace can be maintained only with cooperation among nations and states, and international peace can be best ensured by nation-states that respect individual liberty and freedom in their internal political systems, war and conflicts can be avoided through the establishment of profound relations among nations (Burchill, et al., 2022). However, the basic assumption for post–second world war liberalism is that individuals, groups, and societal organisations are also significant actors in international relations (IR), in addition to nation-states, the states are entangled in a complicated web of interconnectedness due to technological advances and economic interests; hence, such interdependence encourages healthy international relations, peace on the global stage can be ensured by democracy and a vibrant economy, and so on.

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A subset of liberal theory is the pluralist theory in IR. This theory, as its name implies, contends that in international relations, in addition to the state, individuals, associations, groups, organisations and institutions also play significant roles. In other words, according to this idea, the state is just one of many institutions that make up a society, which is multiple. The pluralist viewpoints are supported by the diversification of liberal philosophy into sociological, institutional, and interdependent liberalism (Levine and McCourt, 2018, p.92). The pluralist theory signifies the importance of other non-state factors in international relations today. This theory has been diversified from the basic early liberalism theory due to the global changes in the world in the past few decades. Today, several institutions, organisations, individuals, and associations play a very important role in international relations since major activities are performed by these groups due to increased globalisation and liberalised trade policies among different nations.

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3. Realism

International affairs academics have been dominated by the realism school of thought since World War II ended. Rationalism argues that it gives us the most accurate account of state behaviour, as well as a set of policies to reduce the naturally unstable features of international relations (namely the allocation of power across nations). The realists believe that their explanation is the most correct explanation available currently. The British political scientist and historian E.H. Carr is credited for helping to launch the self-aware movement known as realism in the middle of the 20th century in the field of international affairs. Carr was a major source of inspiration for the movement at the outset (Karkour, 2022). Many academics adopted this negative outlook as a result of the onset of World War II in the region. The most renowned of these was political scientist and historian Hans Morgenthau, who was born in Germany. Morgenthau’s 1948 book Politics Among Nations filled a need for a broad theoretical foundation for realism. It was not only republished in new editions for the next fifty years, becoming one of the most widely used textbooks in the US and UK, but it also served as a crucial introduction to the realist theory of international relations (Popović, 2020, p.121). Hans Morgenthau propagated six principles in his book which are discussed below:

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  • The law of politics is that people are by nature power-loving, egotistical, and self-seeking.
  • Politics is a separate field of endeavour and is independent of economics. Politics can become independent of other fields of study thanks to the concepts of “interest” and “power.”
  • The nation’s interests might change with time; therefore, international politics must consider this.
  • Political or situational ethics, which are fundamentally at odds with personal morality, govern international politics.
  • Political realism holds that a state’s goals cannot override the universe’s ruling principles.
  • Statecraft requires a fundamental understanding of human limitations and is a sombre, uninteresting activity. International politics should consider human nature as it is, not human nature as it ought to be (Hotz, 2020).

Realist philosophy has been put to the test by modern economic and technological advances. The validity of the realist theory, which holds that the state is the most significant unit in international politics, has been called into question by factors such as globalisation, increasing foreign investment, privatisation of state-owned businesses, increasing importance of non-state actors, and the expansion and significance of civil society. Realists contend that to advance their respective national interests, governments must eventually rely on their resources, or power, within an anarchic international system. However, in today’s era of high globalisation, this approach is less relevant because there is no single nation that is self-sufficient in terms of resources or power. Therefore, nations must consider the collective interests of other nations also.

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4. Neorealism and Neoliberalism institutionalism

Neorealism, a revision of the dominant realism, was created by Kenneth Waltz in the late 1970s. A theory of international relations called neorealism, often known as a structural extension of realism, emphasises how the behaviour of nations within the global hierarchical order is influenced by global power structures. It claims that war can take place at any time in international politics. Neorealists often assert that these influences do not change the important role that conflict plays in international politics, even though conventions, institutions laws, ideologies, and other factors are accepted to influence the behaviour of individual states. The basic logic is also unaffected by changes in governing entities, from great civilisations to the European Union and all in between. However, the heritage of liberalism has a lengthy history and has endured into the 21st century (Ogunbanjo, 2021, p.57). Liberal intellectuals claimed that the nation-state and the international order would be significantly impacted by the advent of globalisation and free trade in the late 1970s. Neo-liberal intellectuals are a group that arose following the victory of the “New Right” in Britain and the US in the late 70s and early 80s. Neoliberalism in international relations encouraged fair economic forces and a limited role for the nations in economic life in an era of globalisation. They contended that the previous laissez-faire economic theory could not successfully abolish the state’s authority over economic life. Neoliberals have different viewpoints on institutions like alliances because they believe that the nation’s interests are influenced not just by the distribution of resources but also by established norms, rules, and processes.

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Both approaches believe in the importance of institutions in international relations. The likelihood of international collaboration is a point of contention between neorealism and neoliberal institutionalism. The fundamental difference between the two schools is how states interact with one another (Benczes, 2020). Neorealists state that states are prone to competition and conflict, and they frequently fail to work together even when they have similar objectives, neoliberals argue that neorealists undervalue the influence of international organisations and that their pessimistic assumptions about cooperation are erroneous. Neorealism and neoliberalism share certain essential presumptions despite these opposing predictions. Both schools assume that the characteristics of the global system provide the best explanation for the regularities of international conduct. Both theories make the supposition that nations are the primary actors in international affairs and that they operate rationally and cohesively in pursuit of their own national goals. Due to the possibility of states breaking international agreements under anarchy, both neoliberals and neorealists believe that even when states have common interests, international cooperation is challenging (Pan, 2022, p.266). Thus, while both neorealists and neoliberals acknowledge that there is a causal relationship between the significance of relative gain factors and the operation of international institutions, they place differing emphasis on the various components of that relationship. Relative gain factors are emphasised by neorealists as an individual entity since, in their view, they have a significant impact on the applicability and efficacy of international institutions.

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5. English school

The moment has come to evaluate the English School as a strategy for handling international affairs. An international reputation has been established, and there are currently three generations of researchers who are actively involved in their study. As an academic movement, the English School has its roots in the British Committee on the “Theory of International Politics,” which began meeting in the late 1950s and is still active today. The English School is built on the foundation of these classes. It is a more complete approach to international relations than the theories of realism and liberalism, which each represent a specific area of international affairs, which the English school considers. However, English school is a modern-day approach which is playing a crucial role in today’s globalised world (Mironov, 2022, p.7). Philosophical perspectives in English-speaking schools are founded on the distinctions between “the international system, international society, and global society“. The result is that a new area of IR theory may be explored and a middle ground can be found between the clashing goals of realism and liberalism can be found. Conflicts of power between nations dominate international affairs, with the acts of each nation being influenced by the broader framework of global anarchy.

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Power politics among nations are at the heart of the international system, and realism places the framework and dynamics of international anarchy at the core of IR theory. Because it substantially parallels both conventional realism and neorealism, this viewpoint is thoroughly developed and recognised. Rationalism places the establishment and upkeep of common standards, laws, and institutions at the core of IR theory. According to Grotius, international society is about the institutionalisation of shared interests and identities among nations. Although this position has some similarities to regime theory, it goes far beyond and has ramifications that go beyond mere instrumentality (Yousefi Joybari and Khorshidi, 2018, p.535). English School thought has mostly focused on international society, and the idea is quite well-developed and transparent. Therefore, the concept of international society focuses on nations with shared interests to form profound relations. Finally, world society is concerned about individuals instead of states because individuals are the ultimate constituents of the vast society of all humanity.

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Institutions are not international bureaucratic structures that can be constructed to promote state interaction; rather “institutions” are about long-term behaviour among nations (such as war, law, and diplomacy). The fundamental goal of research at the English School has been to better understand global societies, including their origins, goals, and changes across time. Using the combination of rationalism and realism that was just discussed, it was built. However, to achieve this goal, the English School had to engage in discourse with the liberal revolutionary component (Charountaki, 2022). As a result, it’s been seen that the link between global society and international society isn’t clear. There have been two significant discussions in the English school. First, determine whether there is a legitimate difference between an international system and an international society and if so, identify the location of that line of demarcation. The second debate centres on pluralist vs solidaristic viewpoints, as well as the connection between global and international societies.

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Baylis, J., (2020). The globalization of world politics: An introduction to international relations. Oxford University Press, USA.

Benczes, I., (2020). Conflict and cooperation in international relations: the cohabitation of (neo) realism and neoliberal institutionalism. Köz-gazdaság-Review of Economic Theory and Policy, 15(1).

Burchill, S., Linklater, A., Donnelly, J., Nardin, T., Paterson, M., Reus-Smit, C., Saramago, A., Haastrup, T. and Sajed, A., (2022). Theories of international relations. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Charountaki, M., (2022). Conceptualising Non-State Actors in International Relations. In Mapping Non-State Actors in International Relations (pp. 1-16). Springer, Cham.

Hotz, A.J., (2020). Morgenthau’s Influence on the Study of International Relations. In Truth and Tragedy (pp. 316-321). Routledge.

Karkour, H., (2022). EH Carr: Imperialism, war and lessons for post-colonial IR.

Kaufman, J.P., (2022). Introduction to international relations: Theory and practice. Rowman & Littlefield.

Levine, D.J. and McCourt, D.M., (2018). Why does pluralism matter when we study politics? A view from contemporary international relations. Perspectives on Politics, 16(1), pp.92-109.

MacKay, J. and LaRoche, C.D., (2021). Theories and Philosophies of History in International Relations. Routledge Handbook of Historical International Relations, pp.16-26.

Mironov, V., (2022). Balance is not the same as Balance: Two Interpretations of the Same Concept. From the History of the Formation of the English School of International Relations. Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, (1), pp.7-17.

Ogunbanjo, M.A., (2021). Neo-realism and neo-liberalism in global politics: towards assessing the intellectual siblings. KIU Journal of Social Sciences, 7(2), pp.57-76.

Pan, L., (2022). The Development and Prospect of Neoliberalism International Relations Theory. Journal of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences, 1, pp.266-272.

Popović, P., (2020). Hans Morgenthau and the Lasting Implications of World War I. Journal of Military Ethics, 19(2), pp.121-134.

Sørensen, G., Jackson, R.H. and Møller, J., (2022). Introduction to international relations: theories and approaches. Oxford University Press.


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