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- Author: Torbjørn L. Knutsen x
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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 begins with England’s ‘Glorious Revolution’. It traces some of the new ideas that originated with it. The example of Isaac Newton and the ideas of John Locke are vantage points for the discussion. Several Enlightenment authors are then discussed – some of them British (like David Hume), others French (like Voltaire) and still others German (like Immanuel Kant). However, the most central authors of this chapter are Swiss. First, Émeric Vattel, who pursued Locke’s ideas and established an understanding of interstate relations based on norms, laws and a reason-based argument of collective security. Second, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who broke with Locke and elaborated on balance-of-power theory. The chapter ends with a discussion of the American and the French Revolutions and the interstate debates that emerged from them. It presents the US Constitution and its concept of federalism as a distinct American contribution to International-Relations theory, and an influential vision of organizing sovereign states into a peaceful interstate order.
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).
The terrorist attack on New York and Washington on 11. September 2001, challenged the post-Cold War, neo-idealist attitudes of the USA and its Western allies. The attack was planned and executed by Islamic extremists who resented the intrusion of Judeo-Christian powers in their holy lands. The 9-11 terrorist attack caused the USA to launch a retaliatory invasion of Afghanistan and, later, Iraq. Both invasions led to unmanageable open-ended war. They stimulated the rise of Islamist radicalism which in turn alerted the Western world to new security challenges in an oil-dependent, rapidly changing world. This chapter addresses some of the forces of change and some of the new theories that purported to account for the new situation in the post-Cold War world. Some of the new theories started out as reactions against the structuralist approaches that had been developed by the previous generation of scholars. The new, post-structuralist theories regularly drew on sociological and anthropological approaches which portrayed international relations in terms of culture and patterns produced through processes of social interaction.
The field of IR emerged from World War I. This chapter explores how this happened. It shows, first, how liberal internationalists developed detailed schemes of collective security during the war and how they worked to establish a League of Nations and a ‘science of international politics’ after it. The chapter then shows how left-wing theorists expanded upon radical theories to explain the outbreak of world war. These explanations informed Lenin and the Bolsheviks and drove the policies of the Russian revolution in an anti-capitalist and anti-Western direction. By 1919, Wilson and Lenin represented the two major approaches to questions of international politics. But it was Wilson’s approach, not Lenin’s, which came to dominate the academic study of IR. During the 1920s, IR was consolidated as an academic field in universities, research institutions and specialized journals. During the 1930s, the liberal approach was pushed on the defensive. As fascist parties emerged in Europe, the liberals were criticized for being ‘idealistic’, Critics like Reinhold Niebuhr, Winston Churchill and others charged the liberal idealists for overlooking ‘the realities of power’
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.