This book traces discussions about international relations from the middle ages up to the present times. It presents central concepts in historical context and shows how ancient ideas still affect the way we perceive world politics. It discusses medieval theologians like Augustine and Aquinas whose rules of war are still in use. It presents Renaissance humanists like Machiavelli and Bodin who developed our understanding of state sovereignty. It argues that Enlightenment philosophers like Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau laid the basis for the modern analyses of International Relations (IR). Later thinkers followed up with balance-of-power models, perpetual-peace projects and theories of exploitation as well as peaceful interdependence. Classic IR theories have then been steadily refined by later thinkers – from Marx, Mackinder and Morgenthau to Waltz, Wallerstein and Wendt. The book shows that core ideas of IR have been shaped by major events in the past and that they have often reflected the concerns of the great powers. It also shows that the most basic ideas in the field have remained remarkably constant over the centuries.
The nineteenth century and the rise of mass participation
Torbjørn L. Knutsen
The political revolutions in America and France occurred at about the same time as the industrial revolution in England. The three events spurred new visions, ideas and arguments about social relations – domestic as well as international. This chapter discusses the theories and ideologies that emerged in the wake of these revolutions. It presents several authors, but none is singled out for special analysis – although Hegel receives a little more attention than others. Instead, the chapter addresses three political ideologies – three ‘-isms’ – that emerged during and after the Napoleonic Wars: liberalism, radicalism and conservatism. Each ideology is discussed in a way that highlights ideas about war, wealth, peace and power. A distinction is drawn between the theories of the Atlantic rim (represented by the liberal thinkers Cobden and Mazzini) on the one hand, and on the other the theories of the Continent (represented by the protectionist List and by Bismarck).
This chapter introduces the ‘classic age of international relations’. It focuses attention of the forces that changed the Western world and altered interstate interaction. It discusses three such forces in particular: industrialism, imperialism and nationalism. The chapter identifies writers who observed the rapid changes of the age and who sought to identify their origins, capture their nature and assess their implications. These writings encouraged the growth of the modern social sciences. Some of them, especially those made by historians and lawyers, also contributed to the rise of International Relations (IR) as an academic subject. Many writers discussed change in terms of progress. This chapter documents the way academics – liberal, radical and conservative alike – drew on Darwin’s theory of evolution to help explain world events. It also shows how historians and lawyers helped establish schools and found journals to examine international issues, and how peace activists formed associations to combat war. These efforts systematized centuries of previous writings on war, wealth, peace and power. And they opened the gates wide for a systematic, academic study of International Relations (IR).
During the early decades of the sixteenth century, several Atlantic states developed new ship designs, new navigation techniques and new weapons systems. These innovations increased their capabilities, their power and their wealth. This chapter discusses these innovations and shows how they paved the way for the ‘great discoveries’ and for Western conquests in Africa, Asia and the Americas. The chapter also shows how the invention of movable type contributed to a religious Reformation – which provoked religious quarrels that in turn undermined the authority of religion. The chapter discusses several authors – among them Italian diplomat Alberico Gentili and Spanish lawyer Francisco de Vitoria – who stimulated international theorizing. It singles out French philosopher Jean Bodin for special attention. Bodin foreshadowed the modern notion of the state and explored the concept of ‘sovereignty’ in ways which exerted a formative influence on subsequent scholarship on the state and on interstate relations.
The re-discovery of ancient texts changed the views and visions of the Far West. It challenged Christian orthodoxy and triggered the rise of Renaissance humanism. These re-discoveries coincided with other changes that washed across the Far West – among them the economic expansion of commerce and the political evolution of the modern state. This chapter examines the rise of the Italian city states, whose interrelations foreshadowed dynamics of the modern interstate system. It presents authors like Niccolò Machiavelli who discussed state relations and wars in secular and modern terms. The chapter singles out the writings of Francisco Guicciardini and the actions of Lorenzo de Medici for special attention. Both men were attuned to the new, secular notions of the ‘reason of state’ and of the ‘balance of power’.
The atomic bomb ended World War II. It also opened up for a new, post-war peace: a world order divided between the USA and the USSR. The two, rivalling, extra-European powers were trying to outdo each other in ideological prowess and atomic capabilities. Their efforts divided the world in two ideological camps and two spheres of influence. Within the Western camp, interstate relations were largely conceived in terms of liberal internationalism. Relations between the two atomic superpowers, however, were approached in power-political terms. The USA knew little about the inner workings of the USSR. US analysts compensated for scant empirical knowledge by developing theories about Soviet behavior and models of US-Soviet interaction. Such efforts, which drew heavily on rational-actor models and statistical techniques from Economics and Engineering, stimulated several new approaches – more technical or scientific than those invoked by IR scholars in the past. Among the new approaches were game-theory and systems-theory. Their advance sowed the seeds for a big debate about the most suitable methodology for the study of IR: the new, behaviouralist approach or the traditional, historical approach.
This chapter presents the early, tense period of the Cold War and examines the IR theories that evolved under its impact. First, studies of the superpower rivalry stimulated the rise of the new field of ‘security studies’ – a scientific spin-off from the Realist tradition. On its heels followed the development of ‘peace research’, informed by an anti-war sentiments and left-wing theories. Second, studies of the increasing cooperation within the West revived old, liberal theories of interdependence and triggered new and special theories of integration. Third, anti-Western rebellions and wars in the colonies – what was increasingly termed ‘The Third World’ – brought in radical theories of exploitation and dependency to IR. This proliferation of approaches spurred IR scholars to chart and systematize the theories of their field. This chapter discusses two such efforts during the 1950s. First, those of Martin Wight who sought to chart the three different traditions of Realism, Rationalism and Revolutionism. Then, the efforts of Kenneth Waltz, who mapped IR theories in terms of the three different images or levels of analysis: that of the individual, the societal and the systemic.
At the end of the 1970s the West reasserted its liberal ideals of rational individuals and free, self-interested interaction. Britain, the USA and other nations along the north-Atlantic rim initiated structural reforms to deal with problems that plagued their modern, industrial societies – economic stagnation, uncertain energy supplies and environmental pollution were foremost among them. Liberal reforms soon swept other regions of the world as well. Even some communist nations embraced market-economic principles. This rise of a liberal sentiment also impacted IR, whose theorists toned down the simple structural approaches of the past and were deeply affected by actor-focused assumptions of individual rationality and models of free-market interaction. This chapter focuses on one theoretical debate that dominated IR throughout the 1980s: that of the merits of Neorealism – an approach which relied on structural as well as on rational-actor based assumptions.
The collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War altered the international system. For half a century, its bipolar structure had affected the behavior of the world’s states. Suddenly, the collapse of the USSR left the USA as the world’s only remaining, ubiquitous superpower. The collapse suddenly released a score of states from Soviet dominance; all of them sought to preserve and enhance their new-won independence while scrambling for new alignments to help maximize their wealth and security. The result was realignments and flux. Pessimistic observers saw breakdown of order and increasing uncertainty. Optimistic observers saw new opportunities and a new world order based self-determination. The optimistic attitude prevailed in the West. This chapter explores this optimism. It considers in particular the resurgence of neo-idealist values which informed the liberal-democratic activism of the USA and its Western allies. The prime reflection of this neo-idealist thrust was the theory of the democratic peace, which is presented and assessed in this chapter.