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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 revolutionary rise of popular sovereignty
Torbjørn L. Knutsen

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.

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
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Becoming contemporary
Torbjørn L. Knutsen

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).

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
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The end of International Relations?
Torbjørn L. Knutsen

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.

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
Torbjørn L. Knutsen

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’

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
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The coming of the neo-liberal world
Torbjørn L. Knutsen

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.

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
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Torbjørn L. Knutsen

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.

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
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Why a history of International Relations theory?
Torbjørn L. Knutsen
in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
Torbjørn L. Knutsen

IR changed during World War II. This chapter tries to show how. First, it presents the war aims of the major belligerents – Germany, Britain, the USSR and the USA. It spends some time on Germany’s war aims before it zeroes in on the US approach to the war and its visions of the post-war peace. The main vision was liberal and internationalist in nature. It was expressed by President F.D. Roosevelt who drove a purposeful war-time diplomacy to lay down the institutional foundations for a liberal post-war order. The chapter discusses Roosevelt’s war-time conferences with Churchill and Stalin. It then takes up the criticism of the Roosevelt administration. George F. Kennan thought that it was naïve about Soviet affairs and the ‘realities of power’. Reinhold Niebuhr was critical of the ways in which the administration gullibly negotiated peace with master-Realists like Stalin. However, the sharpest attack came from Hans J. Morgenthau. In the wake of the war, he claimed that the Roosevelt administration was composed of naïve technocrats who did not know the first thing about the power-based politics among nations.

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
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).

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)