International Relations

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Kings, wars and an interstate system
Torbjørn L. Knutsen

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.

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
Systems and structures in an age of upheaval
Torbjørn L. Knutsen

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.

in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
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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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

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.

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)

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).

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