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- Author: Torbjørn L. Knutsen x
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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.
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.
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).
The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) shaped several of the characteristic features of Europe’s territorial states. A most important feature was the centralization of political power, expressed in a royal monopoly of command. The advent of centralized monarchies gave rise to a distinct interstate system in Europe. The interaction of monarchs was theorized in term of the twin doctrines of royal absolutism and mercantilism. The arguments of Robert Filmer reflect the attitudes of the age. But the chapter singles out British philosopher Thomas Hobbes for special attention. Hobbes’ discussion of sovereignty and of order and security are distinctly modern. His arguments are informed by an influential contract philosophy – which Benedict Spinoza later applied to interstate relations and developed a modern understanding of international politics as a ‘natural’ or ‘pre-contractual’ condition, characterized by a ‘war of all against all’. The chapter introduces the arguments of Émeric Crucé and Hugo Grotius to contrast and critique the theories of Hobbes and Spinoza.
Where should we look to find the first forays of International Relations (IR) theory? The turbulent era that followed the collapse of Rome is a good place to begin. This chapter shows how authors of these ‘Dark Ages’ touched several of the broader issues of international affairs. First among these were questions concerning the causes of war, the nature of diplomacy and the preconditions for peace. The chapter notes that early discussions on these themes took place within three distinct civilizations: in Byzantium, the Islamic world and in the unruly region of the north-Atlantic rim. This latter region – the ‘Far West’ – was at first inferior to the other two civilizations. Yet, it was here that systematic discussions of international relations first evolved. These discussions were affected by the feudal nature of Western society. They were also steeped in the Christian religion – as is evident in the writings of Capella and Augustine. However, over time there emerged theories that were also influenced by texts from pre-Christian Greece and from imperial Rome. This is indicated by the writings of St. Thomas, Pierre Dubois, Marsiglio of Padua, and others.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a turning point in the Cold War. On the one hand, the crisis convinced the two superpowers of the necessity to establish diplomatic relations and regulate their nuclear arms race. On the other hand, the superpower competition for influence in the Third World increased, as the USSR began to support rebel movements which opposed the colonial domination of Western powers and fought to obtain self-rule and sovereign status for their nations. During the 1960s, national liberation-movements in Africa and Asia introduced radical, anti-capitalist arguments to scholarly IR. Not only did the number of theoretical traditions increased from two to three – in addition to Realism and Rationalism, there emerged a radical, revolutionary tradition; this revolutionary tradition, based on the anti-capitalist political economy of Marx and Lenin, gained an enormous influence. This chapter examines the way in which the new logic of structuralism affected and altered IR theory. In particular it traces the impact of structural analysis during the 1970s by discussing the very different theories of Immanuel Wallerstein, Kenneth Waltz and Hedley Bull.
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.
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.
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’.