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Defining International Relations and Basic Concepts

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1 Defining International Relations and Basic Concepts
ETIT WEEK 2 Defining International Relations and Basic Concepts

2 What is International Relations(IR) ?

3 Broad Definition of IR The study of the political and social interaction of state, non-state actors, and individuals.

4 States Diplomatic – Strategic relations focusing on war-peace & conflict-cooperation ( Conventional Definition)

5 Non-state actors , IOs , NGOs (i. e
Non-state actors , IOs , NGOs (i.e.UN, EU, MNCs , Green Peace) cross-border transactions of all kinds (political, economic, social)

6 Individual: Global society, social movements, migration…

7 Each definition has quite distinct features with siginificant consequences for the rest our study of IR. ‘ How we understand and interpret the world is depedent on how we define the world that we are trying to understand and interpret’ Therefore, any definition we adopt will be controversial. This difficulty is shared by the social sciences as a whole.



10 Universal Consensus on study field in Natural Sciences



13 No Universal Consensus on study field in Social Sciences







20 Two inferences for defining IR
Our definition will be just for convenience , no equivalent of rock Whatever definition we will pick, it will not be a politically neutral one.

21 Conventional Definition of IR
The way diplomats, historians and most scholars define IR as the study of state relations , primarily in diplomatic, military & strategic terms. The relevant unit is the state, not the nation.

22 State vs. Nation

23 Nation-State (1) Nations and states may seem identical, but they are not. States govern people in a territory with boundaries. They have laws, taxes, officials, currencies, postal services, police, and (usually) armies. They wage war, negotiate treaties, put people in prison, and regulate life in thousands of ways. They claim sovereignty within their territory.


25 Nation-State (2) Nations are groups of people claiming common bonds like language, culture, and historical identity. Some groups claiming to be nations have a state of their own, like Turks. Others want a state but do not have one: Palestinians. Some imagined nations are larger than states or cross state boundaries ( Arabs , Turks, Kurds).




29 Nation-State (3) Diplomatic recognition confers legitimacy on a new state (or on the government of a state such as Palestine , Northern Cyprus, Catalonia , Quebec) but sometimes there is a lack of consensus within the international community.


31 Nationalism (1) Definitions rely either upon objective or subjective criteria, or on some combination of the two. The commonality of some particular trait among members of a group. Shared language, religion, ethnicity (common descent), and culture have all been used as criteria for defining nations.


33 Nationalism (2) The claim that people belonging to a particular group called a nation should inhabit a particular area and control a state of their own. Such a definition points to nationalism as a method of drawing boundaries among people (i.e. self and other).



36 Ethnicity The word ethnicity is derived from the Greek ethnos (which in turn derived from the word ethnikos), meaning nation. In everyday language, the word ethnicity still has a ring of ‘minority issues’ and ‘race relations’. In IR, it refers to aspects of relationships between groups that consider themselves, and are regarded by others, as being culturally distinctive.

37 Class

38 Sovereignty Acknowledgement of a central governing authority within a specified geographical territory, combined with the recognition of its status by other states.


40 Legitimacy Legitimacy in international relations generally refers to the right to exercise moral and political authority. Political that play a key role in promoting human rights tend to enjoy a high degree of legitimacy. In this sense, legitimacy derives from the perception of the public authority’s right to rule and exercise jurisdiction over an issue and/or territorial boundaries.

41 Max Weber (1864-1920) – German Sociologist

42 National Interest Of all the concepts, the most vague and therefore easily used and abused, particularly by politicians to legitimize their policies. The problem of determining the criteria that can establish a correspondence between the national interest expressed as a principle and the sorts of policies by which it is advanced.


44 Super Power Implies that there is a hierarchy of power among states.
Plays a crucial leadership role in the international system and is able to gain the allegiance of other states. Within its sphere of influence, a superpower can impose its political will on smaller states with relative impunity. Not only does a superpower have the capacity to project effective military power far from its territory, but it also has enormous military resources at its disposal. A superpower has special duties with respect to the maintenance of international order and holds a privileged status in international organizations such as the United Nations (UN).


46 Great Powers The most influential states in the international system at any one time. The very definition of what constitutes a great power is a matter of some debate. It implies the existence of a club with some rule of membership. Great powers were at the front rank in terms of military strength and were recognised to have certain rights and duties regarding international peace and security.


48 Diplomacy In a broad sense, diplomacy is the entire process through which states conduct their foreign relations. States communicate, bargain, influence one another, and adjust their differences through diplomacy. In a more narrow sense, diplomacy is the implementation of foreign policy, as distinct from the process of policy formation. Diplomacy has two faces: 1) The vehicle through which a state asserts itself and represents its concerns to the world 2) One of the principal means for conciliating competing national interests.

49 Anarchy International politics is said to be anarchical because no single state or coalition of states has absolute control over the entire system. the absence of a supreme power capable of enforcing order across the entire system means that individual states are in a permanent state of insecurity and must be prepared to do whatever they can to survive in this hostile self-help environment. The relationship between anarchy and war, then, is extremely close.

50 Is there a problem with this ‘ state-centric’ scene of IR?

51 Thanks

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