International Relations

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International Relations

The articles under this heading deal with international relations as a field of study. Major elements of international politics are covered in Foreign POLICY; International INTEGRATION; International LAW; International MONETARY ECONOMICS; International ORGANIZATION; International POLITICS; International TRADE. Methods for the study of international relations are discussed in Communication, POLITICAL; Conflict; Geography, article on POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY; Power; Simulation, article on POLITICAL PROCESSES; Systems ANALYSIS, article on INTERNATIONAL SYSTEMS. Major concepts and policies are analyzed in Alliances; Balance OF POWER; Collective SECURITY; Containment; Crisis; Deterrence; Disarmament; Disengagement; National INTEREST; National SECURITY; Neutralism AND NONALIGNMENT; Peace; Power TRANSITION; Trusteeship. Instruments of international politics are dealt with in Diplomacy; Foreign AID; International CULTURAL COOPERATION; Negotiation; Sanctions, INTERNATIONAL; Technical ASSISTANCE; War. Other relevant material may be found under Military.

I. THE FIELDChadwick F. Alger







International relations is a human activity in which persons from more than one nation, individually and in groups, interact. International relations are carried on by face-to-face contact and through more indirect communications. Usage of the term “international relations” by scholars in the field is not consistent. Some use “international relations” and “international politics” interchangeably, but many prefer to reserve “international politics” for relations between governments and use “international relations” as a more inclusive term. They consider international politics and subjects such as international economics, international communications, international law, international war, and international organization to be subcategories of international relations.

In more popular discourse “international relations” is often used to refer to phenomena about nations that do not involve relations between them. Sometimes the study of foreign nations and foreign governments is called international relations, but this broad usage is diminishing. The study of international relations includes certain aspects of nations and their governments, particularly foreign-policy-making activity. But the more restricted usage that is evolving includes only those characteristics of nations that have the greatest effect on interaction between nations. Advancing knowledge is making possible more explicit boundaries for the field as research more clearly identifies which characteristics of nations cause the greatest variation in their relations with each other.


Although men have written about international relations for thousands of years, only in this century has the field begun to have some of the characteristics of an academic discipline. The publication of World Politics by Paul Reinsch in 1900 is often cited as an early landmark in this development. Before World War I, courses in the field were confined largely to diplomatic history, international law, and international economics. The war stimulated the development of courses in international organization, international relations, and international politics. Often these courses were devoted (and some still are) to the study of current events and to preaching about how the world ought to be organized. By the outbreak of World War II a reaction to these modes of study had developed.E. H. Carr’s The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919–1939 (1939), which was highly critical of research and teaching in the field, and F. Schuman’s International Politics (1933) indicated the beginning of the “realist” (also sometimes called empirical) emphasis in the study of international relations. This trend included both an effort to overcome idealistic bias in research and teaching and an aspiration toward more systematic study. A precursor of future systematic work was Quincy Wright’s monumental study of war from 1500 to 1940, published in 1942.

After World War II the realist position was stated persuasively by Hans Morgenthau in a highly successful and very influential textbook, Politics Among Nations (1948). Morgenthau emphasized the importance of power in the attainment of national objectives. Arguing largely against those who deprecated “power politics,” Morgenthau asserted that the struggle for power occurs in all social relations and that international politics is not excepted from this general proposition. Morgenthau’s book brought on widespread debate between the “realists” and the “idealists.” Although Morgenthau had defined power as the “ability to influence the minds and actions of men” exercised by political, psychological, and military means, there was a tendency for realists to emphasize the importance of military power. Idealists, on the other hand, stressed the importance of assuring that ideological ends not be subverted through the pursuit of tangible instruments of power.

To a considerable degree the realist–idealist debate subverted the initial contribution of the realist school to the development of an empirical science of international relations. For many, realism became a goal toward which they believed policy makers should aspire, rather than an enterprise devoted to the explanation of actual international behavior. But the realist emphasis has left significant legacies. One is the section devoted to the elements of national power that appears in most international relations textbooks. Morgenthau lists the following components of national power: geography, natural resources, industrial capacity, military preparedness, population, national character, national morale, quality of diplomacy, and quality of government. Some writers, Organski, for example, tend to treat national power as something that can be represented by a single measure, through combining measurements of its components (1958).

As power tended to become the central concept in the international relations literature, concern developed about the analytic effectiveness of subsuming so much under one concept. There was particular difficulty in accounting for occasions when smaller nations influenced the behavior of larger nations, thus revealing the limitations of a single measure of national power. The tendency for the concept to become a fad rather than a useful analytic tool was underlined when Denis Sullivan, in an analysis of international relations textbooks (1963), found 17 different usages. The fact that individual authors use the concept in a number of ways compounds the confusion. [SeePower; Power transition.]

As a moderately cohesive discipline of international relations was developing in the first half of the twentieth century, rapid social, technological, and scientific changes that would make much of this effort obsolete were already under way. The number of independent nations has doubled since 1900, reaching some 135 in 1966. By 1964 the number of international organizations had increased to some 1,900 (not including international business enterprises). Approximately 180 of these organizations are intergovernmental. Communication and transportation developments greatly changed the character of international relations and stimulated regional economic integration. Nuclear weapons altered the role of violence as an instrument for carrying out international relations. These changes so dramatically transformed the character of the international system that even the vocabulary of international relations rapidly became obsolete.

The horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and contemplation of the next generation of nuclear weapons’ greater killing capacity brought a dramatic extension of interest in international relations. As a result, men of virtually all academic disciplines began contributing to the study of international relations.

Scientific change has not only affected the study of international relations through the impact of technological change on the data of international relations but also directly affected analytic techniques. While the twentieth-century world was self-consciously pondering the significance of rapidly developing knowledge in the physical sciences, changes of potentially equal importance were taking place in the social sciences. A new generation of international relations scholars, armed with the contributions of an increasingly rigorous social science and aided by new norms for interdisciplinary collaboration, began making significant progress toward the development of a science of international relations. (See, e.g., Sprout & Sprout 1962 and the successive issues of World Politics, founded in 1948.) The concepts and techniques employed in analyzing such topics as decision making, conflict, game theory, bargaining, communication, systems, geography, attitudes, etc., were applied to problems in international relations. Machine data processing and computers extended the range of manageable problems, and man–computer and all-computer simulations permitted for the first time controlled experimentation in international relations.

The state of the field

Decision making

Advances in social science are facilitating the handling of some of the problems that for a long time have troubled international relations scholars. One such problem is discovering the links between the gross characteristics of nations, such as measures of national power, and the specific behavior of individuals acting for nations. While most contributors to the literature on national power would not deny that variation in the individuals and groups making foreign policy decisions sometimes has significant effects, they have not provided analytic tools for assessing these effects.

In 1954 Snyder, Bruck, and Sapin published an influential monograph, Decision-making as an Approach to the Study of International Politics, that provided an analytic scheme suggesting the relevance of work in various areas of political science, sociology, social psychology, communication theory, and organizational behavior to the study of international relations. Their approach conceives of the actions of nations as resulting from the way identifiable decision makers define the action situation. It postulates that national decision-making behavior takes place in a complex organizational setting and can be accounted for by interrelations of three clusters of variables: organizational roles and relations, communication and information, and motivation. Four years later Snyder and Paige (1958) applied the scheme to the United States decision to intervene militarily in Korea in June 1950. This effort stimulated some refinements in the analytic scheme and helped to develop hypotheses linking the variables.

The work on decision making enriched the literature of international relations by demonstrating the relevance of concepts from other areas of social science. However, the collection of data on variables describing a specific decisional group presents methodological difficulties of a different order from those encountered in “measuring national power.” Documentary materials may not even reveal the membership of a decision-making group, requiring the decision-making researcher to move from the library to field work in governmental agencies in his quest for data. Thus, decision-making analysis has stimulated the application of the field-research techniques of social science to the study of international relations. Problems in gaining access to foreign policy decision makers, because of the secrecy that traditionally surrounds their activity, require the international relations researcher not only to borrow field-research techniques of other social sciences but also to adapt them and to develop his own. [SeeDecision making.]

Systems analysis

In 1955 Charles McClelland urged the application of general systems analysis, developed by the biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy, to the study of international relations. This followed applications in physics, physical chemistry, and the social sciences. Bertalanffy developed his general systems approach as a result of perceiving similarities in conceptual schemes developed in fields of knowledge commonly considered to be widely separated McClelland asserted that the application of the concepts and hypotheses of general systems analysis to international relations provides insights beyond those generally afforded by more traditional international relations approaches. For example, he stated that a general systems approach leads inquiry away from a concern with the accumulation of power, that its emphasis is instead on adaptive action. McClelland also believes that a systems perspective draws attention to quiet processes of growth, adjustment, and adaptation, thus overcoming tendencies to give too much attention to spectacular international events as causal factors (1955).

Morton Kaplan (1957) used a radically different method of systems analysis developed by W. Ross Ashby. This approach employs closed and simple systems, rather than general ones, and does not imply either the probability or the improbability of gradual change. Kaplan constructed six possible international systems and specified the environmental circumstances under which each is likely to persist and those under which it is likely to be transformed into one of the other kinds of systems. Kaplan did not provide historical examples of all of his systems, since it is his goal to develop an analytic perspective that can handle all possible kinds of international systems, not just those that have occurred already. In Action and Reaction in World Politics (1963) Rosecrance also cites Ashby as he applies systems analysis to an examination of nine international systems that existed after 1740. From these historical cases he generates nine models.

Theories generated by the application of systems analysis move the study of international relations closer to rigorous comparative study. They provide concepts that can be applied across diverse geographic regions and in numerous historical periods. The propositions embedded within the theories invite refinement or rejection, thus encouraging researchers to move beyond description and on to the development of explanatory theory. [SeeSystems analysis.]


Some taking an international systems perspective have focused on international integration. The development of integration as a major focus of international relations research has been spurred by regional integration, particularly in Europe in the post-World War II period. International relations scholars have a variety of usages for the term “integration.” It is frequently used to mean (1) a specified state of an international system—e.g., a system where nations expect to have no war with each other or where citizens feel a strong sense of community; and (2) a system with certain kinds of central governmental institutions. Common in much of the integration literature is self-conscious concern with development of theory applicable to all international systems, universal and regional, through the study of systems more limited in scope. There also is a wide interest in discerning both the necessary and sufficient conditions for certain kinds of international governmental authority and the processes whereby such authorities can be established.

Case studies have provided the raw material for important integration work, but in contrast to most earlier work in international relations, the cases have not been ends in themselves but tools for the generation of general theory. In a pioneering work Karl Deutsch and Richard Van Wagenen, both political scientists, and a team of historians (Deutsch et al. 1957) examined ten cases of successful and unsuccessful integration in the North Atlantic area, ranging from the formation of England in the Middle Ages to the breakup of the union between Ireland and the United Kingdom in 1921. From these case studies they generated a list of conditions necessary for both amalgamated and pluralistic security communities. This effort borrowed a great deal from communications research.

Ernst Haas has preferred to study integration through firsthand depth research of one international organization at a time, using the organizations as “whetstones” for sharpening theory. His work on the European Steel and Coal Community (1958) and the International Labour Organisation (1964) has given much attention to the process whereby integration in one governmental function “spills over” into another area. The theoretical framework developed by Etzioni (1965) is influenced importantly by his native discipline, sociology. He has worked primarily with secondary sources in applying this framework to the European Economic Community, the Nordic Council, efforts to unite Egypt and Syria, and to the attempted Federation of the West Indies.

While the styles and interests of these contributors to the study of international integration vary a great deal, their efforts to build explicitly on the work of each other, although yet limited, is characteristic of a growing trend among international relations scholars. As they become more interested in general theory and less concerned with the uniqueness of individual cases, the possibilities for cumulative and cooperative development of knowledge are increasing in the whole field of international relations.

The work on integration is affecting traditional perspectives of the role of international organizations in the control of international violence and in the development of world order. Work such as that of Deutsch and his colleagues (1957) on pluralistic security communities (i.e., international systems in which nations do not expect to war with each other) raises serious questions about the validity of the often repeated proposition that world order can come only after the establishment of a world government. Furthermore, their hypotheses about necessary conditions for amalgamated security communities (e.g., mutual predictability of behavior, mutual responsiveness, and mobility of persons in politically relevant strata) have encouraged scholars to supplement traditional concern for ideal constitutional forms believed necessary for world order with empirical research on the necessary and sufficient conditions for the existence of international governmental apparatus.

An earlier alternative to the more grandiose world government schemes had been provided by functionalism, whose best-known advocate was David Mitrany in the 1940s. The key element in functionalism is the belief that international conflict can be diminished by the establishment of international welfare agencies manned by experts who, it is presumed, would be devoted to the achieving of their tasks on the basis of expert criteria, rather than to the acquisition of power. The work on integration, particularly that of Haas, who explicitly builds on the thought of the functionalists, offers some support for and a critique of functionalist theory, particularly in the development of more sophisticated theory linking international welfare activity and national political organization. [SeeInternational integration and International organization.]


Perhaps controlled experimentation in international relations is the most vivid indicator of ferment generated by borrowing from other disciplines. Formerly limited to the study of individual behavior and the study of small groups, experimental techniques have now been extended to decision making in business organizations, community conflict, and international relations. Simulation of international relations has also developed out of military war games. This heritage is recognized by Lincoln Bloomfield and Norman Padelford (1959) and others, who use the term “political gaming” to refer to their simulation efforts.

Some simulations of international relations have used human subjects, under quasi-laboratory conditions, who act for nations that are replicas of either actual nations or nations designed by the experimenter. There are also machine simulations, in which computers are used to simulate both the mental processes of decision makers and the social processes of international relations. Some simulate a specific situation, such as a crisis, whereas others simulate international systems that represent years of real-world time.

Like experimentation in other realms, simulation of international relations permits the student to have more control than he has in the study of the real world. It also permits the study of problems for which data are not available, possibly because the world has not yet produced the situation being studied. For example, in 1960 Richard Brody and Michael Driver ran 16 simulations of a two-bloc “cold war” international system, identical except that each simulation had different decision makers. Each of the 16 simulations began with two nuclear powers and each experienced nuclear proliferation at an identical time (see Brody 1963). This experiment permitted investigation of widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons before it occurred in the real world.

The most sustained effort in international relations simulation was begun by Harold Guetzkow in 1958 (see Guetzkow et al. 1963). His InterNation Simulation is an operating model of prototypic, rather than actual, nations. The model has been utilized in the experimental runs of Brody, as well as others. A variety of techniques is being used to validate the evolving model, including participation of diplomats in the simulation. The Inter-Nation Simulation and modifications of it have been used in research and teaching by a number of institutions in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and the Far East. The rapid spread of simulation activity suggests that controlled experimentation and the construction of operating models have a permanent place in the methodology of international relations. [SeeSimulation.]

Military strategy

The advent of nuclear weapons has stimulated more-widespread attention to military strategy and diminished the gulf that had developed—for both scholars and policy-makers— between military and political factors in international relations. As the destructive power of nuclear weapons increased, intense concern developed over the risks of nuclear war, particularly over the possibility of accidental nuclear war and the escalation of limited conventional wars into nuclear war. [See Limited WAR and Nuclear WAR.] In response, political scientists, psychologists, and economists began applying a wide range of social science knowledge to problems of military strategy. Thomas C. Schelling, an economist, called attention to the mixture of mutual dependence and conflict in relations between international adversaries. In his Strategy of Conflict he saw “enlightening similarities between, say, maneuvering in limited war and jockeying in a traffic jam, between deterring the Russians and deterring one’s own children, or between the modern balance of terror and the ancient institution of hostages” (1960, p. v).

Fear that nuclear-weapons delivery systems, ostensibly developed to deter aggressors, might cause war encouraged the development of a literature on deterrence that enriched international relations discourse [seeDeterrence]. As military planners and scholars attempted to discern how weapons systems could offer a credible deterrent to aggressors and at the same time not cause the war they were intended to prevent, the interdependence of national weapons systems became more apparent. Scholars became concerned not only with actual military capability of nations but also with the perceptions decision makers have of this capability and their inferences about its future use. These perceptions were seen to be influenced importantly by communications systems linking decision makers in different nations. Research on deterrence stimulated the application of social psychology, communications theory, and game theory to military strategy problems.

As deterrence of national military action came to be treated as one of many efforts to influence by discouragement, some began to ask why strategic planning did not include efforts to influence by encouragement. Thomas Milburn (1959) is one who called attention to the findings of psychological research that indicate that reward for desired behavior is sometimes more efficacious than punishment for undesired behavior in influencing human conduct. This kind of thinking encouraged an integration of research on military policy and research on policy utilizing other means of influence. [SeeMilitary policy; National security; Strategy.]


The overwhelmingly destructive power of nuclear weapons brought renewed interest in disarmament and arms limitation. Similar concern had been manifested at the time of the Hague Peace Conference at the turn of the century and also in the late 1920s and early 1930s. But the complex military technology of the nuclear age encouraged greater participation of physical scientists in disarmament discussion. Their involvement was partially a result of the obligation they felt to help control the destructive power they had created. The pages of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists provide evidence of increased participation of physicists in arms-control and disarmament research and discussion. Their contributions to the technology of nuclear-test detection and nuclear-armament inspection began the development of a technology of nuclear control.

Disarmament study in the nuclear age also came to be concerned more with research into the relationship between societies and the organizations for waging war that they create. Machines of war had come to consume such a high proportion of national product in some nations that the economic consequences of disarmament were studied. The realization that disarmament would not bring an end to conflict fostered consideration of alternatives to violence that could be used for waging conflict in a disarmed world (e.g., Millis et al. 1961). This line of inquiry gradually brought a subtle but profound evolution in the interests of some international relations scholars, from concern with the causes of war to study of the causes of peace. [SeeDisarmament.]

Peace research

At the outbreak of World War II one of the pioneers in the scientific study of international relations, Lewis F. Richardson, asserted, “There are many anti-war societies, but they are concerned with propaganda, not research. There is a wide public interest in the subject provided it is expressed in bold rhetoric, but not if it is a quantitative scientific study involving statistics and mathematics. There is no appropriate learned society” (1960, p. 284).

In the 1960s Richardson’s statement would be less true because of the development of the peace research movement. Aspiring to equal the rigor of the physical sciences in the study of the necessary and sufficient conditions for peace, the movement was started primarily by social scientists outside the traditional field of international relations, and physical scientists, also, have been prominently involved. Examples of the better-known products of the peace research movement are Conflict and Defense (1962), by Kenneth Boulding, an economist; The Peace Race (1961), by Seymour Melman, an industrial engineer; and Strategy and Conscience (1964), by Anatol Rapoport, a mathematical biologist.

The peace research movement set up conferences and associations separate from the meetings of established professional societies. Peace research organizations, in the form of both professional associations and research institutes, have been created in a number of nations, primarily in Europe and North America. These developments have taken place in nations in which social science is developed most highly. Within the peace research movement considerable effort has been devoted to the establishment of international collaboration in developing a science of international peace free from national bias. [SeePeace.]

Limited perspective of research

Although international relations research has focused primarily on recent intergovernmental relations of a few great powers, there are tendencies toward more-inclusive interest, partially because of increasing interest in the development of general theory. Work on current regional international systems has made possible modest efforts at comparative international relations. Historical resources also provide opportunity for comparison (e.g., Rosecrance 1963). In Politics and Culture in International History (1960) Adda Bozeman overcomes the customary preoccupation of international relations scholars with Europe and North America. In a work that is global in scope, she assesses historical experience in international relations up to a.d. 1500. Despite these efforts at comparative inquiry, the attention of international relations researchers is still focused largely on a limited number of current intergovernmental relations—those with a high degree of conflict.

International relations research and theorizing has also tended to neglect nongovernmental international relations. There is considerable justification for the neglect, because of the degree to which governments dominate international relations and often exercise great control over nongovernmental international relations. On the other hand, the efforts of governments to control and to influence nongovernmental international relations suggest that officials may consider them more important than do scholars. There are numerous cases in which business investment has had an important effect on international relations, for example, United States business investment in Latin America. As former colonies have achieved independence, the actual and perceived influence of business interests of former governing nations has had a vital effect on intergovernmental relations. Some important research has been done on nongovernmental international relations, for example, Pool’s recent work (1965) on the effect of international travel on national and international images and research by Herbert Kelman (1963) on the reactions of participants in exchange programs. But nongovernmental international relations tend not to be incorporated into the more general theoretical work in the field.

Nongovernmental international organizations also have been neglected, although some seventeen hundred of the approximately nineteen hundred international organizations (excluding international businesses) are nongovernmental. Studies of European integration have indicated the importance of international labor and management organizations in European integration. There are numerous anecdotal accounts of the effects of church organizations and business corporations on intergovernmental relationships. But there has been no concerted effort to study the consequences of variation in the number or character of nongovernmental international organizations on intergovernmental relationships in specific international systems.

Conceptual issues

The neglect of nongovernmental relations is partially a result of the traditional presumption that nations are single actors. The tendency to reify nations is diminishing; many writers now assert that when they say that nations act, this is only a shorthand way of indicating that human beings act for nations. But it is still customary for scholars to study the activities of all actors for a specific nation as if they were those of a single actor and to treat instances of contradictory behavior of different actors, when they are recognized at all, as aberrations.

As more national government departments have become involved in international relations and as participation in international organizations has increased, the number of sites at which a nation’s representatives simultaneously interact with their counterparts from other nations has greatly increased. The ability of foreign offices to control or even to coordinate foreign policy seems to be declining. [SeeForeign policy.] Assuming that nations are single actors inhibits investigation of the effects on international relations of variation in the number, location, and roles of actors that a nation has in the international system. Such variation may importantly affect the capacity of nations to adjust to and control external change.

Acknowledging that nations have multiple actors in international relations leads one to ask whom individual actors represent. Wilson was recognized as the representative of the United States at the Paris Peace Conference, but whom did he actually represent? What portion of a nation’s attention and resources can individual national actors or all of a nation’s actors command? What portion of a nation’s attention and resources are commanded by actors not involved in international relations? These questions lead to the conclusion that nations comprise a variety of international and domestic actors, both governmental and nongovernmental, all acting in the name of the nation. Because some of these actors are domestic, they are part of the environment of the international system. Treating them as environment inhibits the misleading tendency to subsume total populations, resources, and activities of all nations under the rubric of international relations simply because virtually all mankind lives within nations. It is clear that variation in this environment affects the capacity of international actors to adjust to and control changes in the international system.

The future

The study of international relations will continue to be affected by the urgency of war and peace problems and by increasing belief that research can contribute to the understanding and solution of these problems. International relations research will in the near future be even more affected by the twentieth-century revolution in social science than it has been in the past. It is probable that a separate body of international relations theory will not be developed and that international relations will be a part of the broader theoretical framework of intergroup relations.

It is likely that aspects of international relations will be increasingly incorporated into the concerns of each of the social sciences. This development can be observed already, for example, in the pages of the Journal of Conflict Resolution, an interdisciplinary quarterly devoted to research related to war and peace. It can also be seen in the growing number of sessions devoted to international relations at the meetings of professional societies of the different social sciences. The various kinds of human behavior which scholars have traditionally classified as diplomacy will be dissected and studied as cases of negotiation, legislative behavior, representative behavior, political socialization, communication, organizational behavior, etc. [See Diplomacyand Negotiation.] These developments will tend to inhibit the growth of a coherent discipline, but there will be pressures toward coherence as members of different disciplines collaborate. This tendency is manifest in a volume edited by Kelman, International Behavior (1965), with contributions by political scientists, psychologists, sociologists, and an anthropologist. It is also revealed in the founding of the multidisciplinary International Studies Association in 1959.

As the field of international relations is integrated into the main stream of social science, it may be expected that the generalizations that international relations scholars advance will be subjected to rigorous testing through systematic data collection. High-speed computers already have made possible significant efforts to marshal data on hundreds of national social, political, and economic attributes and to analyze their relationship to international relations (see Russett et al. 1964). Quantitative International Politics (Singer 1967) reveals the growing tendency of scholars to use rigorous social science techniques for gathering and analyzing data. Scholars will probably also increase their efforts to gather data through field-research techniques, as a supplement to documentary sources and statistics provided by governments and international agencies. (See, e.g., Alger 1965.)

Continued change in patterns of international relations will, of course, intensify the conceptual problems of the field. The number, size, and importance of intergovernmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations will grow. The increased importance in international activity of social units other than nations will require scholars to develop conceptual schemes and theories that take them into account. This development will be encouraged by the increasing participation of social scientists other than political scientists in international relations research. It will be stimulated also by the increasing interest of political scientists in the relationship between societal characteristics and governmental organization.

It is likely, therefore, that future prescriptions for world order, in contrast to those of the past, will be concerned more with the development of nongovernmental international relations: What kind of international society is needed to support certain kinds of central institutions? Can an international society with certain attributes provide desired restraints on violence and offer mechanisms for peaceful change, perhaps without highly developed central institutions? Insight into these questions is likely to be provided by theories of social control generated by research on intergroup relations in a variety of settings. The pursuit of data to test these theories in international systems will require the international relations scholar to extend his vision to phenomena often neglected: tourism, student exchange, trade, cultural exchange, international nongovernmental organizations (business, religious, philanthropic, professional), international media, etc.

Diligent application of man’s scientific skills and resources to the problems of international relations in the concluding decades of the twentieth century could increase man’s capability for international construction to the point where it will more nearly approximate his highly developed ability for international destruction.

Chandwick F. Alger


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In order to understand the role of ideology in international affairs it is important to distinguish between ideologies in and “theories” of international relations. Ideology is the more or less coherent and consistent sum total of ideas and views on life and the world (belief system, doctrine, Weltanschauung) that guides the attitudes of actual or would-be power holders: leaders of political units, such as nation-states or city-states, or of major organizations or movements, such as churches or political parties. Theory, on the other hand, refers to the more or less systematic entirety of concepts and ideas about international relations held and developed by individuals (such as political philosophers). Yet the connection between theories and ideologies can be close. Leaders, power holders, and movements are often influenced by theorists whose concepts and ideas (although frequently in modified, especially in vulgarized, form) become the basis of their doctrine. In these instances, ideology can be denned either as the Idea (in the Hegelian sense) that tries to obtain or succeeds in obtaining Power or, in pragmatic terms, as theory that has become effective through the medium of social movements or power groups.

Movements or power holders are related to the international environment in two major ways: either their ideas and attitudes concerning the structure and nature of the world and concerning their status in the world form part and parcel of their original ideology or they find themselves subsequently involved in world relations and thus compelled to take a stand. To illustrate from the history of religious movements: Christianity, at first “otherworldly” and without its own international ideology, subsequently developed one (the doctrine of bellum justum, etc.), whereas Islam, possessing one from the outset, became an expanding, crusading movement right away.

In regard to the specific character of international ideologies, we may distinguish between “world-revolutionary” ideologies and all others. Great political movements, in initial stages of success, often develop ideas and expectations of the complete and imminent transformation of the world, including the international environment. The ideologies of both the French and the Bolshevist revolutionaries had such chiliastic expectations during the early phase of their respective revolutions. When these expectations fail to materialize, the world-revolutionary ideology usually changes into an ideology more or less closely tied to the power requirements of the respective units.

Examples of both types of ideology, the world-revolutionary and the more pragmatic, will occur in the survey of historical development that follows. From the vast number of internationally relevant ideologies this survey will select significant ones in three different areas: that of religious movements and churches (Islam, Christianity), that of democratic movements and attitudes (pacific democracy, democratic nationalism, economic liberalism, and internationalism), and that of (in the Western sense) undemocratic or antidemocratic doctrines and movements (integral nationalism, imperialism, and communism).

Historical development

A definition of ideology as a system of thoughts and beliefs that becomes effective in movements or power units implies a connection between ideology and “masses.” We hardly speak of ideology in reference to the motivations of a ruler in the age of monarchical absolutism, even where he is motivated by certain theories (such as that of raison d’ état) in his foreign policy. But we speak meaningfully of ideology where nationalism or socialist ideas imbue entire populations. Ideology thus seems to have emerged when, in an age of modernization and the spread of literacy, masses were being mobilized for the support of movements and policies—that is, in Europe, approximately with the French Revolution. Prior to the rise of the masses to political influence, publics were usually passive followers of elites, which, in turn, were little affected by ideology. However, where efforts are made to instill over-all ideas and attitudes even into passive publics, or where both elites and masses are equally imbued with ideas leading to action, we may also legitimately speak of ideology. Such, in premodern times, was often the function of religious movements.


A prime example of the tremendous effect ideology can have on world affairs is offered by Islam. In contrast to more otherworldly religions, Islam from the outset regarded its function as this-worldly, proselytizing, and crusading. Its aim was to spread its creed over the entire world. The world was ultimately to be ruled by one ruler, the imam, whose authority was at once secular and religious. Until this goal was reached, a ceaseless holy war of conquest (jihad) was to be the instrument of the universalization of religion as well as of the expansion of secular control.

This universalism and exclusivism gave the early expansion of Islam its explosive force. The jihad was a “just war” to transform the Dār ul-Harb (the world of war, outside Islam, inhabited by unbelievers) into the Dār ul-Islām (the world controlled by Islam); participation in it guaranteed the believer paradise. This ideology is the prototype of all doctrines of “universal causes,” where the world has to be saved and mankind is divided into those saved and those damned. It cannot recognize, as Islam did not, the equal status or coexistence of other communities. Therefore, a state of war, not peace, was the normal relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, and even when the initial expansion of Islam had reached its limits, only short intervals of nonwar (up to ten years) were permitted. Subsequently, during what the Western world came to call the Middle Ages, an uneasy coexistence was established among the two Islamic empires and the two Christian empires, complete with balances of power, negotiations, treaties, and even a good deal of mutual toleration. Ideologically, however, nonrecognition of the dar al-harb continued to be a principle of Muslim doctrine [seeIslam].


Christianity, like Islam, aimed at converting all mankind to its creed. But its efforts were less concentrated in time and space, warlike expansion or attempts at expansion occurring only intermittently (for example, Charlemagne’s conversion of the Saxons, the Crusades, some aspects of the expansion of European powers into the non-European world during the age of discoveries). This universalist and proselytizing ideology had a lesser impact for two reasons. One was that Christianity, like Hinduism, arose as an otherworldly creed, concerned with the “inner man” and the salvation of his soul rather than with establishing the millennium in this world. Thus, even after the Christianization of the Roman Empire, when an ideology of the political and spiritual unity of Christendom became established, the Christian polity was conceived as one of peace, even in its relation with the world at large, and war was considered justified on specific grounds only (bellum justum, for example, as defense against an inflicted injury). Under these categories, “wars against infidels,” crusades “to recover the Holy Land,” were at times found to be “just wars,” but the idea of an incessant state of “holy war” with the non-Christian world remained alien to Christianity even at the height of its universalist phase. The second reason Christianity’s universalism remained less potent, in ideology as well as in practice, was that Western Christendom split into secular and spiritual contenders for supremacy. Two universalist ideologies, that of the empire and that of the papacy, neutralized each other, the result being a decline in the universalist idea and in the universalist powers in favor of the rising territorial state.

There remained aftereffects of Christian ideology, the most lasting, perhaps, being its pacifist, “nonviolent” component. Although never fully accepted into the main churches, Christian pacifism remained an undercurrent in more or less esoteric sects and denominations through the Middle Ages and modern times, coming to the fore in nineteenth-century “peace movements” as well as in twentieth-century integral or nuclear pacifism (for example, the “unilateralists” in the British disarmament movement). Here it often merges with secular ideologies of similar nature and purpose [seeChristianity].

Pacific democracy

The modern European state, established on the ruins of medieval Christian universalism, did not at first develop an international ideology of its own. The idea of civitas maxima, of a common bond encompassing all mankind, paled before the interests and conflicts of “sovereign” powers, which, run by small elites of rulers and their aristocratic and bureaucratic aides, could afford to be unconcerned about the ideas and attitudes of people at large. The doctrine of raison d’ état, according to which each unit should consider its specific “national interests” as guideposts for action, determined the policies of these rulers without the intervention of significant ideology, unless one discerns such an ideology in the attenuating idea that some European equilibrium, or balance of power, should be maintained in the chaos of power politics.

With the rise of the European middle classes, however, ideas concerning the role that the “people” should play in the affairs of their countries came to the fore. Democratic ideology, the claim of the people to be the ultimate power in a given unit, produced two ideologies of international affairs, that of democratic nationalism and that of pacific democracy.

The latter arose from a contrasting of democratic aims and ideals with what are thought to be the results of nondemocracy in foreign affairs. Nondemocratic systems and their policies are said to result in perpetual conflict and war, since their elites are interested in their own prestige, glory, and the aggrandizement of their domain, and not in the welfare of the people. The ideology of pacific democracy considers this the deepest cause of the ancient and tragic story of warring mankind. Once the people take over the control of their destiny, all this will change radically: the people at large can only suffer from war, their basic common interest being in peace, and thus universal peace will result from the spread of democratic government over the world. This antinomy of warlike authoritarianism and peace-loving democracy was announced by a spokesman of the first great modern republican revolution, Thomas Paine, was taken up by Jefferson, and can be followed through to Woodrow Wilson (World War I fought “to make the world safe for democracy” and, in this way, to end all wars); it is still an important part of Western democractic ideology [see Pacifism].

Democratic nationalism

Early nationalism is closely related to democratic ideology. Indeed, it may be said to arise logically from democratic premises: exactly as under domestic democracy individuals become self-determining on a basis of equality, internationally, the groups in which individuals are said to congregate “naturally”—nationalities—assert the right to become self-determining, free, and equal nation-states. Accordingly, the right of each nationality to establish itself as an independent political unit is proclaimed as the decisive principle of a new world order. Past systems and policies, under which dynastic rulers disregarded ethnic groups, cut them up, shifted populations hither and thither regardless of their wishes, are said to have led to constant conflict and war. With the recognition of national self-determination and the rise of nationalities to state-hood, international relations will be radically trans-formed. According to the ideologists of early nationalism (Herder, Fichte, Mazzini), nations organized ethnically will live in peace and harmony with one another because none need aspire to anything the others have. Such nations are endowed each with its peculiar traits (”souls,” according to political romanticism); they blossom when free and not interfered with; they are diverse but not superior or inferior, equal in their right to cultural fulfillment. Early nationalism, in intent and ideology, thus is pacific, humanitarian, equalitarian, and adverse to national expansionism and domination.

In its subsequent development nationalism has been beset by two major problems; one is the tendency to develop into the opposite of its original ideology, namely, an exclusivist and aggressive “integral” nationalism (see below), the other concerns the difficulty of agreeing on a simple and unequivocal criterion of what constitutes a nationality group, or “nation.” In particular, could the relatively clear-cut ethnic–cultural criteria of European nationality groups be applied to non-European populations? Or would racial, linguistic, religious, or other standards be controlling? With the rise of the “new countries” to independence, the problem has become of crucial importance. What defines an African nation? Is there an Arab nation? Or one of the Maghreb? Or a Malayan one? In this respect, no unequivocal ideology has as yet been developed by the leaders or populations of the new units. There is some tendency to substitute larger units for “nationalities.” Thus, in Africa, some advocate that entire continents should form the basic international units of the future, whereas others want to unite on the basis of race (négritude), and still others (probably the majority) trust the development of an artificially established unit (based on colonial boundary lines) into genuine nationhood [seeNationalism].

In general, the nationalism of the new nations still partakes of the characteristics of democratic nationalism, Even where expressed in negative terms (“anti-imperialism,” “anticolonialism”), its emphasis is on each nation’s right to a separate national identity. Indeed, through its opposition to ideologies and policies of racial or similar superiority, has made equalitarian nationalism into a truly niversalist ideology. Of this and other adaptations to twentieth-century conditions, the foreign-policy ideology developed by Jawaharlal Nehru in India is an outstanding example.

Nehru believed that a peaceful world of diverse nations is attainable; indeed, it is necessary to attain it, because the new nature of weapons and war and the rising demands of all people for basic needs and services no longer admit of the old game of power politics. But two centuries of applied nationalism have also shown that the harmonious result expected by the earlier nationalist ideology will not materialize easily. Mutual fear drives even self-determining nations into conflict; fear feeds on fear. A radical change of attitudes is therefore demanded from leaders and people, in particular vis-à-vis one’s opponent. Gandhi’s principles of toleration and avoidance of violence here influence Indian ideology. It assumes that in most situations violence can be avoided by the application of the five principles of Panchshila (mutual respect for territory, nonaggression, noninterference in internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence). However redundant these principles are, they indicate the thrust of an ideology that insists on the desirability and feasibility of peaceful international relations even though it realistically recognizes the elements of conflict and strife. To cope with the latter, non-alignment is advisable for nations not desiring to be drawn into the competition between major powers and blocs; this will, so it is hoped, not only protect the “neutrals” but also contribute to the attenuation of conflicts and provide the world with conciliators [seeNeutralism and nonalignment].

Economic liberalism

In addition to pacific democracy and nationalism, there was in the nineteenth century the rise of a third ideology of international peace and harmony, that of economic liberalism. The Manchester school (Cobden, Bright) and other free traders advocated the liberalization of world economic relations not only for its economic benefits but also because they were convinced that only in this way could the political conflicts of nations be eliminated. Thus, like pacific democracy and nationalism, this ideology is characterized by its monocausal nature; one major factor (in this instance, economic nationalism or mercantilism) accounts for the ills of the past: power politics, conflicts, wars. Abolish the cause (in this instance, eliminate the barriers in the path of free exchange of goods and free migration), and political boundaries will become less vital and people and nations the world over interested in peaceful relations rather than in conflict and aggrandizement.

In more recent times, policies of foreign aid and development have often been connected with similar expectations: through such policies the emerging “poor” nations and populations of the world will be enabled to trade on an equal basis with the developed industrial countries; this way the gap between the affluent “North” and the destitute “South” will be closed and the otherwise threatening conflict between the impoverished and the rich turned into a beneficial common war against poverty.


Although a monocausal approach often leads to dogmatism and fanaticism (one has the key to the correct interpretation of world affairs; therefore, one insists that only this key be used to open the door to the world’s improvement), in the course of the nineteenth century many strands of the three pacific ideologies outlined above managed to unite in what may be called the mildly internationalist ideology of virtually all the more progressive forces in the Western world: the labor movement in its various groupings, portions of the trading and industrial (business) elites, Christian and other churches, and the general humanitarian “peace movement.” The aim of this ideology was, and still is, a world in which nation-states continue to be the primary units of international affairs; where, ideally, all are ruled democratically and all are nationally self-determining; and where they settle their disputes peacefully through mediation, arbitration, and the use of international law in a setting of growing contact and cooperation. The experience of two world wars added first the League of Nations and then the United Nations to the list of instruments for the maintenance or enforcement of the peace. The same experience has led other internationalists to advocate more fundamental changes in international relations. Regionalism seeks the federation or integration of the traditional nation-states into larger and more viable units on the pattern of the European integration movement, in order to overcome the increasing splintering of the world of the new countries into an ever larger number of nations still claiming “sovereign equality.” Still more radically, world federalists and others advocate the more or less complete subordination of national sovereignties to a world government, above all for the protection of world order in a disarmed world.

This optimistic “world rule of law” approach, especially in its more moderate version, has characterized much in the attitudes of American, British, and other nations toward international affairs over the last hundred years. But it has been disturbed time and again by the shattering violence of opposite forces and contrary ideologies.

Integral nationalism and imperialism

In the age of the masses, elements that were intent on domination and aggrandizement had to oppose ideologies of the peace and equality of nations with counterideologies of their own. It would no longer do merely to voice principles of power politics. People at large had to be convinced that what was done in their name was right. Thus, toward the end of the nineteenth century, there arose in the major Western countries ideologies that undertook to justify expansion, colonialism, and racism by asserting “natural” superiorities and inferiorities of nations or races and by proclaiming that one’s own group (nation, race) was by nature the superior one and was therefore entitled to control, or at least to lead, others. This claim may be expressed in a doctrine of the “white man’s burden” to raise the other races of mankind to his level of civilization or in a theory of the “manifest destiny” of the Anglo-Saxon variety of white man to control the North American continent. It may extol the role of the Japanese to shape the destiny of Asia or, in its most radical form, may proclaim an “Aryan” supremacy over the entire world.

The last was the ideology of Hitlerism, whose “social Darwinism” was probably the only genuine belief system that underpinned the policies of conquest and extermination carried on by the Nazi regime. Social Darwinism, the application (or, rather, misapplication) of Darwinian principles to international relations, sees mankind divided into racial groups, all, like animal species, engaged in ceaseless struggle for survival; victory shows who is fittest and deserves to dominate. This emphasis on strife and glorification of war and victory in war became the hallmark of the ideology of that “integral” nationalism into which the earlier equalitarian and humanitarian nationalism was transformed in many countries, most significantly, perhaps, in the ideology of Italian fascism, which proclaimed that peace is a “sheep’s paradise” where nations decay, whereas war brings out the virile virtues [seeFascism; National socialism].


Of all recent ideologies, that of communism has, perhaps, had the most profound bearing on world affairs. Communist ideology goes back to Marx, although original Marxism had relatively little in the way of a theory of international relations, stating that all class societies produce wars, that wars represent conflicts, not of nations but of their ruling classes, in which the ruled are used for mere “cannon fodder,” and that the classless society to be established through the solidarity and the world-wide struggle of the proletariat will do away with war, merging nations in socialist brotherhood.

This ideal, as an expectation, was shared by all inheritors of the Marxian doctrine. They split, however, over the question of how to attain it. Democratic socialism, by and large, came to share the tenets of moderate internationalism (see above); communism condemned this approach as “bourgeois illusion,” substituting for it Lenin’s doctrine of imperialism.

Lenin held that imperialism, the expansion of capitalist countries and interests all over the world, marks the final phase of the capitalist system. The conflicts imperialism produces derive from competition over markets, investment opportunities, sources of raw material, and cheap labor; they are, therefore, inherent in the system that thus, sooner or later, results in world-wide wars among the imperialist powers. These wars will afford the proletariat, allied with the exploited masses of the colonial and semicolonial world, a chance for world revolution and for the transformation of capitalism into socialism.

Lenin’s theory, by way of self-fulfilling prophecy, became the ideology of victorious Bolshevism. But the Soviet rulers were soon confronted with a novel question: when, contrary to their initial world-revolutionary expectations, the revolution failed to sweep the world, the problem of the relation between the two worlds of “socialism” (communism) and “imperialism” became crucial. There was no doubt in their minds—as there is none today—that the conflict was irreconcilable, that it would become global, and that it would end in the world-wide victory of communism. But communist ideology has been wavering and unclear about the “strategy” to be used for the attainment of this goal.

Lenin had commented upon “inevitable collisions” between Soviets and encircling imperialists. Stalin harped variably on “peaceful coexistence” and the danger of “capitalist aggression.” Toward the end of his rule, although he reiterated, in Leninist fashion, the inevitability of wars among imperialist powers, he was inclined to consider war between the two camps avoidable in view of the increased strength of the Soviet camp. Khrushchev, claiming that Soviet nuclear might could now deter imperialist countries not only from attacking communist ones but also from warring among themselves, pronounced Lenin’s doctrine of the “inevitability” of war outdated by developments; there is no “fatalistic inevitability”; peaceful co-existence now and eventual nonviolent transition from capitalism to socialism are possible and, since major war threatens the survival of all, preferable. Class struggle on the international plane will continue in the form of economic and ideological competition.

The Chinese communist leadership, on the other hand, while not adhering strictly to the thesis of the inevitability of war either, insists that imperialist aggression can be deterred only by firm, energetic policy. The Chinese claim that a “low risk” policy emphasizing peaceful coexistence merely threatens to encourage such aggression. On the issue of internal revolutions, especially in the “underdeveloped” world (colonial and similar wars of “liberation”), Mao Tse-tung’s ideology stresses the necessity of violence and the responsibility of the communist camp to aid and assist revolutionary forces all over the world. Here, too, Soviet ideology asserts the possibility of peaceful transitions.

Hence, contrary to the dogmatism with which the ideological dispute appears to be carried on, the chief differences between the Chinese and Soviet leaders actually concern issues of strategy and tactics—in particular, the degree of militancy needed to pursue their ideological goals. Both sides agree on the need for the doctrinal unity of the camp. As often before in the history of ideology, inability to agree on who decides in case of doctrinal disunity has led to the actual split, with the Chinese rejecting the Soviet leadership’s claim to ideological primacy [seeCommunism; Marxism].

The role of ideology

The foregoing has made clear the impact of ideology on world affairs. Especially in recent times, there are few issues not carried on in an ideological framework; observers—practitioners as well as theoreticians—have, therefore, focused their attention on the problem of cause and effect. Are ideologies major causes of events and policies or are they secondary phenomena, slogans explaining, justifying, or veiling that which “really” underlies events, namely, strategic, economic, and other interests of nations and power groups? Marxism, for example, which itself has given rise to one of history’s most powerful ideologies, plays down ideology as the mere “superstructure” of economic and class interests. Similarly disparaging attitudes have been expressed by such dissimilar actors as Hitler, Nehru, and de Gaulle.

It is easy to discover interests behind ideology, and the “realistic” trend in recent theory of international politics, emphasizing power and national interest, may account for the prevalence of this interpretation. But it needs more study and refinement, for example, distinction between movements aspiring to power, where the impact of ideology seems often stronger than that of “interest” (accounting for the Utopian elements in such movements), and groups in power, which are more often and more strongly swayed by interests.

Even there, however, policies are only rarely conducted in entirely unideological fashion. They proceed in an environment of ideas, if not ideologies, which shapes the outlook and action of leaders and/or people. All policy is affected by the way in which reality is perceived. There is usually no uniform perception; even the most realistic statesman sees the world through some “prism,” if not in “blinkers,” applying his own interpretative framework to foreign affairs. Thus communist leaders, however realistic and “cold-blooded” they may be in their approach to world affairs, see the world in terms of class conflict, divided into “aggressive” and “peace-loving” forces. Even supposing that Stalin at some point had come to free himself completely from ideological considerations, viewing the world in terms of power interests exclusively, he could not have helped communicating with party, people, and communists abroad through the concepts and in the parlance of communism. Ideology similarly has affected the present Sino–Soviet conflict, which, obvious underlying conflicts of interests notwithstanding, would otherwise hardly be carried on in its peculiar acrimonious fashion, pulling into its vortex communist countries and parties all over the world.

Research problems

Although a good deal of attention is being paid to specific ideological problems (for example, the Sino–Soviet dispute), the general and fundamental study of the relation of ideology to interests and of ideology’s impact on policy is undoubtedly on the agenda of needed analysis and research. In this connection, attention should be paid not only to the national interest—the overriding political interest of the whole nation—but also to economic, social, and other special interests of subgroups within a nation. Careful and detailed research into the relation of specific ideologies to specific class, group, or national interests at a given time and place would seem to be more fruitful than speculations about general “causal” connections between national interests and broad ideologies.

More specifically, the following research areas might be explored: the impact of international events on ideologies (for example, the rise of new centers of power, bipolarity giving way to multipolarity in the international system and the influence of this transformation on the major ideologies); the interplay of different ideologies (for example, communism and the nationalism of the emerging nations); the difference in degree of the impact of ideologies on foreign policy (for example, in totalitarian as contrasted with liberal–democratic regimes); the extent to which publics share in the ideologies of leaders and the ways in which leaders try to mobilize ideological support for foreign policies; the way in which ideology affects the leaders’ assessment of national interests. Also, a typology of international ideologies might be undertaken.

Analysis of this sort could conceivably affect policies. Study of ideology enables one to understand other peoples’ “blinkers” and eventually, perhaps, one’s own. This way the West might come to understand communist policy as based, in part at least, on fears rather than inherent aggressiveness; and communist countries might better understand the preoccupations of the West, particularly in the light of the gradual “erosion” of ideology that some observers see in the communist world. A resulting “deideologization” of foreign policies might dampen their emotional, crusading character, reducing tensions to conflicts over interest, where compromise is easier to achieve than in ideological struggle. The realization of the danger in which nuclear weapons have placed all mankind might contribute to deideologization (as apparently it has done in recent Soviet policy), thereby furnishing one perspective of reality common to all. With the dusk of ideology we might eventually witness the dawn of a true theory and practice of peace.

John H. Herz

[See alsoColonialism; Ideology; Imperialism; Revolution; Social movements.]


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During the 1950s, a new and rather vigorous area of specialization emerged that might loosely be called the “social psychology of international relations.” The exact boundaries of this emerging field are hard to define, and it necessarily spans several disciplines. It is characterized by the systematic use of social-psychological concepts and methods in the development of theory, research, and policy analyses in international relations.

The concern of psychologists with problems of international relations did not, by any means, originate in the 1950s. Research efforts in this general area go back at least to the early 1930s, when studies on attitudes toward war and related matters were initiated. During the following years came various studies on national stereotypes; on attitudes toward war, war prevention, nationalism, and international affairs; and on sources of aggressive attitudes (for reviews, see Klineberg 1950 and Pear 1950). The steady development of public opinion research during these years also led to an accumulation of data relevant to national images and attitudes toward foreign policy issues (for an integration of opinion data, see Almond 1950). In addition to these research efforts, there were various attempts to develop theories of war and peace in Psychological Aspects in psychological terms, using either psychoanalytic frameworks (e.g., Glover 1946) or general psychological frameworks, particularly the theory of learning (e.g., May 1943). Finally, psychologists and social scientists in related disciplines addressed themselves to the psychological barriers to peace and determinants of tension and offered recommendations for tension reduction and international cooperation (e.g., Society ... 1945).

Despite this activity, one certainly could not speak of an area of specialization in the social psychology of international relations. The total volume of research on these problems was exceedingly small and touched only indirectly on the actual interaction between nations or their nationals. There was hardly any research designed to examine the interactions between individuals representing different nationalities on either an official or an unofficial basis, or to trace the psychological processes involved in international politics. Even the work on images and attitudes was largely done in the context of general attitude research or personality research, rather than in the context of internation behavior and the foreign policy process.

It is not surprising, therefore, that much that was written by psychologists and psychiatrists on questions of war and peace tended to be at a level removed from the interaction between nations. It did not grow out of specialized study of the psychological aspects of international relations but, rather, involved the application to the international situation of psychological principles derived from other areas of work. Such applications are highly relevant insofar as they deal with general psychological assumptions that might influence international policy. An example of a relevant application of this kind is the conclusion that there is no support from psychological research for the assumption that war is inevitable because it is rooted in human nature (cf. Society ... 1945, p. 455). It is also possible to apply psychological principles derived from work in other areas to certain specific problems in international relations—such as the effects of stress on decision-making processes. Any attempt, however, to conceptualize the causes of war and the conditions for peace that starts from individual psychology rather than from an analysis of the relations between nation-states is of questionable relevance.

One might, therefore, question the assumption made by some psychological writers that one can understand the causes of war by examining the determinants of aggressive behavior in individuals. It is true that the behavior of states ultimately consists of the behaviors of individuals, but state behavior is the aggregation of a variety of behaviors on the part of many individuals who represent different roles, interests, and degrees of influence on final decisions and contribute in very different ways to the complex social processes that eventuate in a final outcome such as war. One cannot, therefore, expect that the behavior of a nation will be a direct reflection of the motives of its citizens or even its leaders. Although war involves aggressive behavior on the part of many individuals, it is not necessarily at the service of aggressive motives. Leaders may engage in aggressive behavior for strategic reasons, for example, and the population at large for reasons of social conformity. Even where aggressive motives are involved in predisposing national leaders to precipitate war and segments of the population to support it enthusiastically, their role in the causation of war cannot be understood without an examination of the societal (and intersocietal) processes that are involved in the decision to engage in war and of the way in which different elements of the society enter into these processes.

The emphasis on personal aggression is the most obvious limitation of some of the conceptualizations of war and peace that use individual psychology as their point of departure. The problem, however, is of a more general nature. Even a more complex analysis which recognizes that a variety of motives play a part in individuals’ preferences for war or willingness to accept it is not a proper starting point for the study of war. War is a societal and intersocietal action carried out in a national and international political context. What has to be explained is the way in which nations, given various societal and political conditions, arrive at various international policies, including war. Part of this explanation involves motivations and perceptions of different individuals (including “the public”) who play various roles in the larger societal process. But only if we know where and how these individuals fit into the larger process, and under what constraints they operate, will we be able to provide a relevant psychological analysis. Thus, a psychological analysis can never be complete and self-contained and be offered as an alternative to other theories of war (such as economic or political theories). It can contribute to a general theory of international relations only when the points in the process at which it is applicable have been properly identified.

The tendency, particularly in some of the earlier psychological and psychoanalytic writings on war and peace, to focus on aggression and other motives of individuals, without taking the societal and political context into account, has caused some specialists in international relations to question the relevance of psychological contributions. There is no inherent reason, however, why psychological studies cannot start from an analysis of international relations at their own level, and they are increasingly doing so. Relevant systematic contributions of this kind are particularly likely to come from social psychology, which tends to view individual behavior in its societal and organizational context and to take deliberate account of the institutional processes that shape the behavior of individual actors and are in turn shaped by it.

Major approaches

The shortcomings of earlier work have not been entirely overcome, but there has been a change of such proportions since the 1950s that one is justified in saying that the social-psychological study of international relations has reached a new stage in its development. In absolute terms, the amount of research on these problems is still very small, and little dependable evidence has been accumulated. But the volume of work has greatly increased in recent years, and there has been a concomitant growth in quality and sophistication. There are now a number of research centers and research programs focusing partly or entirely on social-psychological aspects of international relations. The earlier work on international attitudes and public opinion continues at a greater rate and with greater methodological refinement, and attempts to link it to the foreign policy process have increased. In addition, there have been numerous studies of cross-national contact and interaction. There have been various mattempts to study international conflict and its resolution experimentally and thus to deal more directly with issues of foreign policy making. Many of the investigators are acutely aware of the problems of generalization that this kind of research entails, and they make serious attempts to explore the international situation to which they hope to generalize and the conditions that would permit such generalization. In recent theoretical formulations, there is a greater tendency to start with questions at the level of international conflict and the interaction between nations, and then to see where psychological concepts can contribute to answering these questions. This has meant a decline in global approaches to the psychology of war and peace, with greater attention to the psychological analysis of specific subproblems. Similarly, psychological contributions to policy questions have tended to be more specific and more directly related to concrete issues in foreign affairs.

In short, we seem to be in the initial phase of a newly emerging area of specialization—a social psychology of international relations that deals with the problems of interaction between nations and the individuals within them at their own level, rather than as extensions of individual psychology. This area must be seen in the context of a broader development: the emergence of the behavioral study of international relations, in which social-psychological concepts and methods play an integral part. It is neither possible nor desirable to draw sharp lines between a social-psychological approach and this larger field, which by its very nature is interdisciplinary—not only in the sense that it represents a collaboration of investigators based in different disciplines but also in the sense that its concepts and methods represent a genuine pooling of the resources of different disciplines. Thus, social-psychological approaches are used not only by psychologists and sociologists but also quite frequently by political scientists, sometimes by anthropologists, economists, and mathematicians, and occasionally by historians. To a very large extent, it is precisely because current psychological work on international relations is embedded in a larger interdisciplinary effort and has close ties with political science that it is qualitatively different from the work of earlier years.

In addition to its interdisciplinary character, there are two other features that distinguish the behavioral study of international relations. One is the use of a variety of methods—laboratory experiments, simulation studies, surveys, observational studies, content analyses of historical documents, organizational studies, and interviews with informants—and the readiness with which investigators alternate the methods and combine them. The other is the combination of a variety of purposes and the absence of sharp divisions between concern with theory building and concern with practical application, between an interest in developing a methodology and an interest in dealing with policy issues.

Social-psychological approaches to international relations are part of this developing field and contribute to it. The types of social-psychological contributions that have been made will be summarized in terms of four interrelated categories.

(1) “International behavior” of individuals

The study of the “international behavior” of individuals is concerned with the ways in which individuals relate themselves to their own nation and other nations, to the international system as a whole, to problems of foreign policy, and to the broader issues of war and peace. It also includes the study of actual interactions between individuals across national boundaries. The relevance of research in this category to international politics varies greatly, depending, for example, on whether it focuses on attitudes and interactions of diplomats and national decision makers or on those of average citizens contemplating foreign policy questions or traveling abroad. In any event, research on “the human dimension in international relations” (Klineberg 1964) is of interest in its own right and represents the most obvious and most direct contribution of social psychology. The following types of research within this category have been conducted in the 1950s and 1960s.

(a) Images or stereotypes of other nations. Studies have been concerned with the cross-national comparison of national images, the development of such images in children, the sources of images in personal experiences, the effects of cross-national contacts on images, their relationship to the political alignments between the nations in question, and their effect on the perception of individual nationals. Personality dispositions to like or dislike foreign nations in general and the personal meanings that images of a particular nation may have for different individuals have also been explored. But there has been only little systematic effort so far to relate images to national and international events and, in particular, to explore in detail the way in which they are affected by and in turn affect the relations between nations. Another area requiring more research is the relationship between images of other nations and images of their nationals, which are obviously interdependent but not completely so. (For reviews and bibliographies, see Duijker & Frijda 1960; Kelman 1965, part I.)

(b) Attitudes toward international affairs. Recent studies in the United States and Canada have intensively questioned national samples on a whole range of foreign policy issues, thus supplementing data from opinion polls, which generally use only one or two structured questions on a given issue. Such studies make it possible to explore the relationships between different sets of attitudes and images, between general policy orientations and reactions to specific issues, and between attitudes and various demographic variables.

There have also been a number of studies, usually focusing on special samples (such as students or residents of a particular geographical area), assessing attitudes in response to a specific international situation, such as the Cuban crisis in 1962, or in relation to a specific policy issue, such as civil defense. In such studies, it is possible to examine in greater detail the way that reactions to specific issues are linked to the more general attitudes of individuals and groups toward foreign affairs. General attitudes, particularly the readiness of individuals to adopt a belligerent stand in international relations, have also been examined in a number of studies and related to the social characteristics and personality dispositions of the respondents, as well as to their reactions to communications about international events.

Finally, there is research under way to develop scaling procedures for international attitudes, which would, among other things, permit periodic attitude measurement as one indicator of the state of the international system. One crucial line of research, which is just beginning to take shape, is the investigation of the dynamics of attitudes on international affairs, focusing on the psychological and social processes involved in the development of general orientations toward foreign policy issues within a society and the crystallization of reactions in specific cases. The direct application of research on communication and attitude change to the area of international attitudes is a related research need. (See Christiansen 1959; Paul & Laulicht 1963; Scott 1965; Janis & Smith 1965; Rosenberg 1965.)

(c) National and international loyalties. A key area for social-psychological research is the study of the relationship of the individual to the nation-state, which in turn defines his relationship to the international system. There have been some studies of psychological aspects of nationalism, and the research on ethnocentrism certainly has some relevance here. But very little has been done on the nature of the commitment of the individual to the nation-state, his definition of the rights and duties of the citizen, the kinds of satisfactions he derives from his relation to the state, and his conceptions of the position and purposes of the nation in the international system. What is needed here is research on national ideology as it is communicated by the national system and interpreted by individuals and groups; on the way this ideology develops; on the kinds of behaviors it calls forth under various conditions of arousal (including various national symbols); and on the implications of different kinds of national ideology for international cooperation, participation in international organizations, and the willingness to surrender sovereignty to international bodies. A closely related area of research is the study of the determinants of an internationalist ideology, and particularly of the conditions for the development of multiple loyalties. One type of research to which increasing attention is being paid is the study of special subgroups within the population, such as the extreme right or the peace movement, that have special definitions of the role of the national vis-à-vis the nation-state and of the nation vis-a-vis the international system. The developing nationalism in emerging nations, the problems of dual loyalty for employees of international organizations, and the ideological underpinnings for such supranational agencies as the European Economic Community are all problems to which social-psychological research will increasingly address itself. (See Deutsch 1960; Perry 1957; Katz 1965; Alger 1965.)

(d) Cross-national contacts. In recent years there have been numerous studies of cross-national contact, dealing with the processes of interaction between nationals of different countries, the problems of adjustment in a foreign culture, and the effects of personal contacts on images and attitudes. Most of the studies have dealt with foreign students in the United States, but there have also been studies of foreign students in European countries as well as studies of American students, scholars, businessmen, and Peace Corps volunteers traveling abroad. There has been an interest in various applied problems in this area, such as the evaluation of international exchange programs, the selection of personnel for overseas work, and the conduct of international conferences. It would be very useful to link research on cross-national contacts with research on national and international loyalties by studying interactions among representatives of different countries in more official contexts, including international and supranational organizations, and the effects of such interactions on their integration into an international network. (See Pool 1965; Mishler 1965; Alger 1965.)

(2) Foreign policy and international politics

Research on foreign policy and international politics refers to the behavior of nations or of decision makers acting for their nations. It is concerned with the determinants of policy and their effects on the national and international systems, and in particular with international conflict and its resolution. This research is by no means specifically social-psychological, but social-psychological concepts and methods can contribute to a multidisciplinary attack on these problems. The following types of research within this category have been conducted in recent years.

(a)Public opinion. Public opinion research has much relevance to the study of internation behavior, provided that deliberate attention is paid to the way in which public opinion (both in general and on specific kinds of issues) affects the formulation and conduct of foreign policy. This, in turn, requires an analysis of the broader assumptions and purposes which serve as the context for foreign policy and within which public opinion can therefore influence the probability of various choices, and an analysis of the roles played by different segments of the public in the policy process.

Studies on the distribution of attitudes toward foreign policy issues in the population at large can be useful insofar as they give an indication of general “moods” that decision makers are likely to share and to take into account (cf. Almond 1950). Public opinion studies become more directly relevant if, as is increasingly true, they focus in whole or in part on certain elite groups. Some recent studies examined in detail the sources of attitudes of special elite groups toward specific foreign policy issues and the way in which these attitudes feed into the decision-making process. In addition to opinion studies per se, there has also been some research on the way in which different segments of the public relate themselves to foreign policy issues: the distribution of information, interest, and activity relating to foreign affairs within the general population; the characteristics of those who constitute attentive publics and opinion leaders; and (to a lesser extent) the way in which opinions on foreign policy matters circulate within the public.

There is a need for more detailed research on the actual processes whereby public opinion affects foreign policy decisions. Social-psychological studies might explore the conditions that generate a particular mood in the public, determine the choices it perceives, and mobilize certain segments of it into various kinds of action; or they might focus on decision makers and explore their general conception of the role of public opinion in the policy process, how they assess the shape of public opinion in any given situation, and the impact it has on their decision behavior. (See Hero 1959; Paul & Laulicht 1963; Rosenberg 1965; Robinson & Snyder 1965.)

(b) Individual actors. A recent focus for conceptualization and research in internation behavior has been the behavior of the individual actors who participate in the formulation and execution of foreign policy. Particular emphasis has been placed on the intellectual and organizational processes—the definition of the situation, the problem-solving procedures, the exercise of leadership, and the flow of communication and influence—that come into play when responsible decision makers choose between alternative actions to be taken by the state (cf. Snyder et al. 1962). This line of research is often, although not necessarily, based on the assumption that the decision makers in any given situation are the state and that the study of the decision-making process is therefore the most direct way of studying state behavior. This assumption is particularly appropriate where research focuses on specific major decision cases, as in the extensive and detailed study of the United States decision to resist aggression in Korea (see Snyder & Paige 1958).

A somewhat different approach to the study of international decision making has been used by another group of researchers, who have developed detailed methods of content analysis in terms of a number of psychological dimensions (North et al. 1963). This approach has been applied, for example, to a reconstruction of the events culminating in the decision to go to war in 1914 (see Zinnes et al. 1961). The emphasis here is on the relationship of the perceptions and emotional reactions of key individual actors in different countries to policy outcomes, in contrast with the Snyder model, which stresses interactional and organizational variables. Both approaches generate hypotheses about the process and outcome of decision making under varying conditions. They have also been applied outside of the context of specific decisions, both in the study of the assumptions and perceptions of individual decision makers that underlie their policy orientations and in the study of the goals and decision processes that characterize organizational units with foreign policy responsibilities.

Research on individual actors in the foreign policy process, in addition to representing a way of operationalizing the behavior of states, may also be designed to explore some of the links in the chain that eventuates in certain state acts. Here the assumption is not that the individuals observed constitute the state for the purposes in question but that they are important participants in and contributors to state action. By the same token, such research need not focus on the key decision makers but could deal with diplomats and other officials who play a variety of roles in the total process. Thus, there has been some research on individual participants in the foreign policy process both within national foreign policy organizations, like the U.S. Department of State, and within international organizations, like the UN. The research has concerned itself with the kinds of assumptions and role definitions that these individuals bring to their tasks, the kinds of actions and interactions in which they engage in the course of their work, and the ways in which these feed into the foreign policy process and, directly or indirectly, have an impact upon it. (See Robinson & Snyder 1965; Pruitt 1965; and Alger 1965.)

(c)Processes of interaction. A research area that has blossomed within the past few years is the experimental study of interaction between individuals or groups, with an eye to illuminating processes of conflict and bargaining, of competition and cooperation, in the international arena. The experiments attempt to create laboratory situations that are analogous to the international situation—not by reproducing the international situation exactly but by incorporating some of its crucial features—and that permit controlled observation of some of the interaction processes which also characterize the relations between nations.

Three types of experimental approaches can be distinguished. The first, exemplified by the Inter-Nation Simulation (Guetzkow et al. 1963), involves the ambitious attempt to create, in the laboratory, simulated nations with varying characteristics. The subjects do not behave as individuals, as in small-group experiments, but play the roles of decision makers representing their nations and responsive to their constituencies. Various foreign policy moves on the part of decision makers (such as armament-disarmament, trade, aid, or alliance) and various outcomes for the international system (such as tension level, international cooperation, and the outbreak of limited or nuclear war) can be observed. With the introduction of experimental interventions and variations into the natural flow of the process, laboratory simulations can provide tests of specific hypotheses about the effects of various strategies, military and political conditions, and states of the international system, as well as the effects of different values, as reflected in personal and cultural characteristics of the decision makers.

The second type of experimental study is more remote from the interaction between nations but tries to reproduce some of its distinctive features. It takes the form of relatively simple two-man games, so structured that mixed (cooperative and competitive) motives are brought into play. Choices of strategy in this type of conflict situation, processes of explicit and tacit bargaining, and outcomes for each party have been studied as a function of such independent variables as the nature of the pay-offs, the characteristics of the players, the definition of the situation, the opportunity for communication, and the availability of threats. The players in these games behave as individuals, but the kinds of choices they must make have some structural similarities to those with which national decision makers are confronted. Various procedures have been developed for extending experimental games of this sort so as to incorporate an ever-growing number of the characteristics of international conflict.

The third type of experimental study involves the investigation of intergroup conflict, its manifestations, and its resolution in deliberately devised laboratory or field situations. In these studies, subjects actually behave as members and representatives of their experimentally created groups engaged in intergroup conflict. Although these groups are at a different level from the nations to which one would hope to generalize (characterized, among other things, by face-to-face interaction both within and between groups), they may provide some insights into international relations. Similarly, naturalistic studies of intergroup conflict and conflict resolution at different levels, such as studies of industrial or racial conflict, can serve as sources of insight about international conflict, provided that they are supplemented with research directly at the international level, along the lines of some recent studies of international negotiation. (See “Game Theory ...” 1962; Sawyer & Guetzkow 1965; Pruitt 1965.)

(3) The development of theory and methodology

Traditionally, the discipline of international relations has tended to place its emphasis on historical, descriptive, and normative approaches. In recent years, however, many scholars in the field have become increasingly oriented toward the formulation of general propositions about internation behavior, grounded in empirical observations. This has led to the development of theoretical models and to a general concern with the problem of theory construction in international relations and with the search for a suitable methodology. Social-psychological approaches (along with others based, for example, in economics or sociology) are contributing to this process. Thus, concepts of motivation, perception, trust and suspicion, definition of the situation, stress, communication, leadership, influence, norm formation, role prescription, group cohesiveness, and loyalty enter importantly into various general conceptualizations of the interaction between nations and foreign policy making. Typically, these conceptualizations focus on the behavior of individual actors and their interactions, and this gives investigators some leverage for analyzing state behavior as well as the international system itself and facilitates the translation of theoretical variables into operational terms and, hence, the empirical testing of propositions.

The use of social-psychological concepts, therefore, has gone hand in hand with the use of social-psychological methods, such as survey research, intensive interviewing, systematic observation, laboratory experiments, and content analysis in terms of psychological variables. There are many unresolved issues surrounding the role of social-psychological concepts and methods in international relations, such as the question of the proper unit of analysis in this area and the question of generalization from the laboratory to real life, but they do represent potentially useful tools at the present stage of theoretical and methodological development. (See Knorr & Verba 1961; Snyder et al. 1962; North et al. 1963; Guetzkow 1957; Hoffmann 1959; Schelling 1960; Whitaker 1961.)

(4) The formulation of policy recommendations

Psychologists and other behavioral scientists have taken an increasingly active part in the foreign policy process during recent years by bringing their specialized knowledge or analytic approach to bear on concrete policy issues (see, for example, Russell 1961). This has involved policy-oriented examinations of the psychological assumptions underlying cold war strategies, such as the doctrine of deterrence, or negotiation procedures; of the psychological mechanisms that reinforce cold war tensions by blocking adaptive responses or promoting perceptual distortions; and of the implications of various existing or proposed programs, such as civil defense or foreign aid. Moreover, psychologists have developed specific proposals for new approaches to international relations designed to promote disarmament, tension reduction, and international cooperation and based, at least in part, on psychological considerations, such as Osgood’s proposal for graduated reciprocation in tension reduction (1962). Some attention has also been paid to the all-important problem of the psychological and social conditions on which the viability of a disarmed world depends.

The value of social-psychological contributions becomes greatly enhanced to the extent to which policy recommendations .can be backed up by re-search specifically designed to explore their implications. Along these lines, recent efforts to put some of Osgood’s propositions to the experimental test can serve as an example. Social-psychological research can also contribute to the policy process by obtaining data that are directly relevant to certain policy questions. For example, research is now being initiated to determine the degree to which public opinion would tolerate foreign policy innovations. Policy-oriented research, particularly in the area of international conflict, faces many barriers, but it is the foundation on which social-psychological contributions to the policy process must ultimately rest.

Herbert C. Kelman

[See alsoBrainwashing; Conflict; Foreign Policy; International Politics; Propaganda; Psychological Warfare; Public Opinion.]


The major periodical source for contributions summarized in this article is the Journal of Conflict Resolution. Another important source is the Journal of Social Issues. Many relevant papers are reprinted in Rosenau 1961. Detailed reviews of special research problems can be found in Kelman 1965.

Alger, Chadwick F. 1965 Personal Contact in Inter-governmental Organizations. Pages 523–547 in Herbert C. Kelman (editor), International Behavior: A Social-psychological Analaysis. New York: Holt.

Almond, Gabriel A. (1950) 1960 The American People and Foreign Policy. New York: Praeger.

Christiansen, Bjørn 1959 Attitudes Towards Foreign Affairs as a Function of Personality. Oslo Univ. Press.

Deutsch, Karl W. (1960) 1961 Toward an Inventory of Basic Trends and Patterns in Comparative and International Politics. Pages 450–468 in James N. Rosenau (editor), International Politics and Foreign Policy: A Reader in Research and Theory. New York: Free Press.

Duijker, H. C. J.; and Frijda, N. H. 1960National Character and National Stereotypes. A trend report prepared for the International Union of Scientific Psychology. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Co. Game Theory, Bargaining, and International Relations. 1962 Journal of Conflict Resolution 6, no. 1:1–99.

Glover, Edward 1946 War, Sadism and Pacifism: Further Essays on Group Psychology and War. London: Allen & Unwin.

Guetzkow, Harold (1950) 1961 Long Range Research in International Relations. Pages 53–59 in James N. Rosenau (editor), International Politics and Foreign Policy: A Reader in Research and Theory. New York: Free Press. → First published in Volume 4 of the American Perspective.

Guetzkow, Harold (1957) 1961 Isolation and Collaboration: A Partial Theory of International Relations. Pages 152–163 in James N. Rosenau (editor), International Politics and Foreign Policy: A Reader in Research and Theory. New York: Free Press. → First published in Volume 1 of the Journal of Conflict Resolution.

Guetzkow, Harold et al. 1963 Simulation in International Relations: Developments for Research and Teaching. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Hero, Alfred O. 1959 Americans in World Affairs. World Peace Foundation, Studies in Citizen Participation in International Relations, Vol. 1. Boston: The Foundation.

Hoffmann, Stanley H. (1959) 1961 International Relations: The Long Road to Theory. Pages 421–437 in James N. Rosenau (editor), International Politics and Foreign Policy: A Reader in Research and Theory. New York: Free Press. → First published in Volume 11 of World Politics.

Janis, Irving L.; and Smith, M. Brewster 1965 Effects of Education and Persuasion on National and International Images. Pages 190–235 in Herbert C. Kelman (editor), International Behavior: A Social-psychological Analysis. New York: Holt.

Katz, Daniel 1965 Nationalism and Strategies of International Conflict Resolution. Pages 356–390 in Herbert C. Kelman (editor), International Behavior: A Social-psychological Analysis. New York: Holt. Kelman, Herbert C. (editor) 1965 International Behavior: A Social-psychological Analysis. New York: Holt.

Klineberg, Otto 1950 Tensions Affecting International Understanding: A Survey of Research. Social Science Research Council, Bulletin No. 62. New York: The Council.

Klineberg, Otto 1964 The Human Dimension in International Relations. New York: Holt.

Knorr, Klaus E.; and Versa, Sidney (editors) 1961 The International System: Theoretical Essays. Princeton Univ. Press.

May, Mark A. 1943 A Social Psychology of War and Peace. Published for the Institute of Human Relations. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press; Oxford Univ. Press. Mishler, Anita L. 1965 Personal Contact in International Exchanges. Pages 550–561 in Herbert C. Kelman (editor), International Behavior: A Social-psychological Analysis. New York: Holt.

North, Robert C. et al. 1963 Content Analysis: A Handbook With Applications for the Study of International Crisis. Evanston, 111.: Northwestern Univ. Press.

Osgood, Charles E. 1962 An Alternative to War or Surrender. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

Paul, John P.; and Laulicht, Jerome 1963 In Your Opinion: Leaders’ and Voters’ Attitudes on Defence and Disarmament. Clarkson, Ontario: Canadian Peace Research Institute.

Pear, TOM H. (editor) 1950 Psychological Factors of Peace and War. New York: Philosophical Library. Perry, Stewart E. (1957) 1961 Notes on the Role of the Nation: A Social Psychological Concept for the Study of International Relations. Pages 87–97 in James N. Rosenau (editor), International Politics and Foreign Policy: A Reader in Research and Theory. New York: Free Press. → First published in Volume 1 of theJournal of Conflict Resolution.

Pool, Ithiel De Sola 1965 Effects of Cross-national Contact on National and International Images. Pages 106–129 in Herbert C. Kelman (editor), International Behavior: A Social-psychological Analysis. New York: Holt.

Pruitt, Dean G. 1965 Definition of the Situation as a Determinant of International Action. Pages 393–432 in Herbert C. Kelman (editor), International Behavior: A Social-psychological Analysis. New York: Holt.

Robinson, James A.; and Snyder, Richard C. 1965 Decision-making in International Politics. Pages 435- 463 in Herbert C. Kelman (editor), International Behavior: A Social-psychological Analysis. New York: Holt.

Rosenau, James N. (editor) 1961 International Politics and Foreign Policy: A Reader in Research and Theory. New York: Free Press.

Rosenberg, Milton J. 1965 Images in Relation to the Policy Process: American Public Opinion on Cold-war Issues. Pages 278–334 in Herbert C. Kelman (editor), International Behavior: A Social-psychological Analysis. New York: Holt.

Russell, Roger W. (editor) 1961 Psychology and Policy in a Nuclear Age.Journal of Social Issues 17, no. 3:1–87.

Sawyer, Jack; and Guetzkow, Harold 1965 Bargaining and Negotiation in International Relations. Pages 466–520 in Herbert C. Kelman (editor), International Behavior: A Social-psychological Analysis. New York: Holt.

Schelling, Thomas C. (1960) 1961 The Retarded Science of International Strategy. Pages 178–185 in James N. Rosenau (editor), International Politics and Foreign Policy: A Reader in Research and Theory. New York: Free Press. → First published in Schelling’s The Strategy of Conflict.

Scott, William A. 1965 Psychological and Social Correlates of International Images. Pages 71–103 in Herbert C. Kelman (editor), International Behavior: A Social-psychological Analysis. New York: Holt.

Snyder, Richard C.; and Paige, Glenn D. (1958) 1961 The United States Decision to Resist Aggression in Korea: The Application of an Analytical Scheme. Pages 193–208 in James N. Rosenau (editor), International Politics and Foreign Policy: A Reader in Research and Theory. New York: Free Press. → First published in Volume 3 of the Administrative Science Quarterly.

Snyder, Richard C. et al. (editors) 1962 Foreign Policy Decision-making: An Approach to the Study of International Politics. New York: Free Press.

Society For The Psychological Study Of Social Issues 1945 Human Nature and Enduring Peace. Third Yearbook of the Society. Edited by Gardner Murphy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Whitaker, Urban G. JR. 1961 Actors, Ends, and Means: A Coarse-screen Macro-theory of International Relations. Pages 438–448 in James N. Rosenau (editor), International Politics and Foreign Policy: A Reader in Research and Theory. New York: Free Press.

Zlnnes, Dlna A.; North, Robert C.; and Koch, Howard E. 1961 Capability, Threat and the Outbreak of War. Pages 469–482 in James N. Rosenau (editor), International Politics and Foreign Policy: A Reader in Research and Theory. New York: Free Press.

International Relations

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The term "international relations"—subsuming "international affairs" and "foreign affairs"—refers to interactions among nation states, and includes such diverse topics as international law, international trade, and the international monetary system. Although international corporations and non-governmental organizations influence these interactions, and international bodies such as the United Nations help manage them, the primary actors remain nation states. Insofar as nations carry and articulate values, and find their powers conditioned by changes in science and technology (from military effectiveness and productivity to means of communication and bureaucratic organization), international relations also function as an important site for science, technology, and ethics interactions.

Historical Transformations

Following the Peace of Wespthalia (1648) and acceptance of the nation state as the sovereign arbiter of values and power within its borders, questions arose about how to manage interstate relations. The assumption, shared more by theorists than political leaders, from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries was that all nations desired peace, which was to be achieved through international law, which laid out the rules of the game for managing the balance of power through international treaties. The failure of this system in World War I, in which technological destructiveness exceeded civilized control, and the subsequent rise of state actors empowered by new techniques of organization, driven by aggressive ideologies in Russia and especially in Germany committed to the marshaling of science and technology for violent conquest, challenged the classic consensus. As Hans J. Morgenthau (1948) observed, peace and security is the ideology of satisfied powers.

The study of international relations grew after World War II into a major focus of social science to encompass these new realities, new states, and new issues, and developed in two directions. In the first case, social scientific studies endeavor to understand why state actors behave as they do, including how technology helps to determine their capabilities. In the second case, advances in science and technology became integral aspects of the relations between and among states including, among others, their role in war and peace, in the management of conflict, in the promotion of economic development, and in the analysis of decision marking.

Other less spectacular but equally far-reaching changes have been the ability to reach any telephone instantaneously and inexpensively worldwide, increased dependence of weapons systems on competitive technological innovation, the relevance of scientific competence to national economies, and the immediacy and global reach of television. Advances in the technologies of transportation, communication, and information thus contributed measurably to such phenomena as the fall of Soviet Communism and the end of the Cold War (1990), public demands for international humanitarian action, the increased unification of Europe, and economic globalization. Still others underline causal connections between local actions and global consequences, such as destruction of stratospheric ozone as a result of the widespread use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the far-reaching consequences of a disruption in energy supplies or a failure of information systems, and the climatic effects of the accumulation in the atmosphere of waste gases. (International response to the CFC problem in the form of the Montreal Protocol for their elimination has become one of the success stories of multi-state cooperation in response to issues both engendered and identified by science and technology.) The transnational impacts of space exploration and environmental issues, plus the post-Cold War rise of non-state actors adapting technologies for terrorism are further examples of new science and technology-related issues altering international affairs.

Yet the international significance of science and technology goes beyond physical power. The intellectual currents of the Enlightenment, which was largely a product of the experimentation and rationality of the scientific revolution, have stimulated massive forces for change in the West—and have been interpreted as forces involved in a post-Cold War "clash of civilizations" (Huntington 1996).

Moreover, science and technology are not static. By 2003 worldwide investment in research and development (R&D) had risen to $750-800 billion per year, leading to rates of innovation that defy accurate forecasting, let alone estimation of their social effects. There is now in place a formidable and growing system for dedicating human ingenuity to the rapid expansion of knowledge and the production of new technologies to serve perceived or speculative needs. Not only do the results of this system have significant international implications, its very operation favors the creation of global markets. Science and technology may not cause changes in international affairs, but their interaction with a mosaic of social, economic, and political factors clearly does so.

The present and future implications for the international system may be summed up in a cliché: Advances in science and technology and their application have led to an unprecedented degree of interaction and mutual dependence among nations in their economies, social structures, and security relationships. The result has moved nations to a new level of interdependence. Nevertheless, the fundamental principles and organization of the international system have not been altered substantially. Although multilateral and transnational organizations have increasingly important roles to play across the spectrum of issues from security to economies, this does not imply the end of nation-states. The world is still organized as a system that retains the basic structure of states, each jealous of its independence, seeing itself in competition with others, attempting to maintain maximum freedom of action, and committed to enhancing national welfare and influence. At the same time the state capacity to act as an independent unit increasingly depends on the breadth and depth of its links to other states. Indeed, degrees to which states are intertwined with others may affect internal matters as well. And the frequency with which domestic and foreign policies related to science and technology are confronted with ethical issues concerning the effect of policies on other states and peoples is a product of such intensive linkages.

Ethical and Political Issues

Changes in international relations resulting from interactions with science and technology have raised ethical and political issues that range in scale and consequence from minor inconveniences in travel or communication to decisions that may dictate the immediate violent deaths of thousands of people or choices that have long-term, potentially large, but uncertain effects.

WEAPONS SYSTEMS. Perhaps the most obvious instance arises from the development of weapons systems that directly or inadvertently target civilian populations as well as military forces. The most dramatic are the nuclear weapons used by the United States against Japan to end World War II but not used since. In 1945 there was some debate in government circles and the scientific community about using a weapon with such destructive power and unleashing a means of warfare that would have a profound effect on international relations.

That decision remains controversial, but at the time the imperative to end the war and avoid large losses of American lives in an invasion of Japan was irresistible to the U.S. president. Moreover, a different technological weapon—incendiary bombs—had already been used against both Germany and Japan with equivalent loss of life; the atomic bomb did not appear radically different in terms of the number of lives at risk. There are other arguments about the moral use of this weapon, but these were decisive at the time (Alperovitz 1996).

The decision to proceed with development of the hydrogen (fusion) bomb in 1950 was likewise fraught with moral and political consequences because of the extent of the destruction it could unleash (Bundy 1988).

The policy of nuclear deterrence that is based on the destructive power of nuclear weapons—that is, the paradoxical threat of use in order to avoid use—has been highly controversial. Conventional weapons systems that cause considerable "collateral" damage—the death and destruction of noncombatants—raise moral issues as well, though on a smaller scale.

Other weapons-related programs and policies that have been proposed and questioned on ethical grounds include nuclear test ban treaties and ballistic missile defense. The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963) and subsequent proposals to limit testing in space and underground have necessarily involved politicians working closely with scientists and engineers on programs that had wide moral support. In the case of President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative or "Star Wars" program to create a shield against nuclear armed ballistics missiles, a program revived by President George W. Bush as the National Missile Defense, there have been important questions about feasibility and functionality in which science, technology, and ethics are intimately intertwined.

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE. A major environment-related ethical issue of international significance is the threat of global climate change or warming, which (like CFC emissions) became an issue only as a result of theoretical calculations made by scientists, not evidence of actual damage. Based on computer models and solid evidence of the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other atmospheric greenhouse gases, scientists have warned that more solar radiation will lead to a growing heat burden for the planet. Depending on the timing and magnitude of the effects, the impact could be very large, with a major effect on low-lying nations (because of sea-level rise) and on agricultural production, especially in developing countries. The calculations of the scientists are controversial, but the relevant scientific community has accepted the validity of the threat. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international panel of scientists from many countries charged by governments to assess the danger, increasingly accepts the existence of the phenomenon and in its last assessment predicted a temperature rise between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Centigrade by the end of the twenty-first century (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001).

International negotiations have been proceeding since the "Earth Summit" in Rio in 1992, itself a major science and technology related international event, with a Framework Convention on Climate Change that was negotiated that same year and entered into force in 1994; in 1997 the Kyoto Protocol was accepted for ratification (Skolnikoff 1999, O'Riordan and Jager 1996). The United States under President Clinton signed the protocol, but President George W. Bush withdrew the signature and has refused to consider ratification. The U.S. Administration argument is that the science is not proven, the developing countries that eventually will be major producers of carbon dioxide have no obligations under the protocol, and the costs to the American economy would be too great. Modest alternative policies, largely voluntary, have been pursued instead by the Administration. Regardless of the merits of the general arguments, the ethical issue is stark: Does the United States, which is by far the major producer of greenhouse gases (25 percent or more of global emissions), have the right to ignore an issue that could have a catastrophic effect on other countries and peoples? The United States will suffer from global warming, but its wealth will make it relatively easy to adapt to the effects of changes in climate. That is not true for other countries, especially the poorer ones.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) raise significant ethical questions. These organisms, which so far have been used largely in the agriculture domain, are familiar crop strains (corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton) modified by biotechnological techniques to have valuable new characteristics, such as reduced sensitivity to herbicides and better cold-weather stamina (Thompson 2002). The new strains have been introduced widely in the United States but have been resisted in some other countries, particularly in Europe.

Companies that market GMO products in the United States assert that the resultant food is indistinguishable at the consumer level from unmodified food; Europeans respond that the evidence is inconclusive. Moreover, consumers in Europe insist that food should be labeled so that they have a choice about whether to buy modified food. The United States takes the position that labeling would destroy the market for the American-produced food, that there is no scientific evidence of danger, and that the European position is a ploy to protect European agriculture from less expensive imports. Some African countries, desperately in need of food aid such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, and Angola have refused U.S. food on the grounds that their crops would become "contaminated" and thus unable to be exported to Europe (Bohannon 2002). The United States is taking the issue to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the grounds that the E.U. policy is a form of protectionism. Yet Europeans argue that the United States is attempting to impose its values in an area that will be irreversible once the modified crop strains are in widespread use. Does one nation have the right to make such a decision regardless of the validity of the political and economic arguments?

FOREIGN WORKERS. An issue that is a perennial focus of criticism of multinational corporations is variance in the standards of treatment of workers in different countries. Is it ethically appropriate for corporations to follow identical standards regardless of local wages or living and employment conditions, or should there be differences that take account of variations in income or environment? U.S. corporations often have been the focus of protest, especially when they pay workers in developing countries wages much below American scales or do not provide equivalent working conditions.

The subcommission for protecting and promoting human rights of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has been drafting a code on norms of responsibility for multinational corporations, the draft of which was approved in August 2003 (Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights 2003). If the draft ultimately is approved by the full commission and accepted by the member states, it will for the first time create a standard for the ethical behavior of multinational corporations. Final approval will not create an enforcement mechanism but should have considerable influence, particularly on larger corporations that are vulnerable to public pressure and protest.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS. An issue with similar characteristics is the general subject of intellectual property rights (IPR). Patents, including those in the pharmaceutical industry, copyrights, and trademarks are issued to provide a protected monetary return for an inventor or artist and thus to encourage innovation and performance. Ethical issues arise when intellectual property is pirated or when royalties or fees are too high for developing countries.

Often new technologies are not available in developing countries because of the cost. When copying of intellectual property is easy and low-cost, as in the case of copying videos or music records without paying the copyright fee, the result has been wholesale reproduction and sale at a fraction of the original price. This would seem to be clearly unethical. Many argue, however, that it is the IPR regime that is unethical and that intellectual property should be considered a public good, freely available or available at a low cost, to anyone. That position is not likely to be accepted in countries that produce most of the intellectual property, which argue that without a chance to recoup costs, innovation and artistry would dry up. It is particularly important for the United States, which is increasingly dependent on high-technology and innovation-intensive goods. The Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) of the WTO represents an attempt to reach international agreement on this issue, so far with limited success.

Another IPR debate focuses on the patenting of genetically engineered organisms and of products found in the wild for use in pharmaceutical research and development. In the case of genetically engineered organisms, the European Union is much more restrictive on this practice than the United States, thus raising an IPR issue that requires international harmonization. The patenting of biological discoveries in what are sometimes called "gene-rich" poor countries by corporations based in so-called "gene-poor" rich countries has been criticized as a form of "biopiracy" that fails adequately to compensate the country from which these new resources are derived.

TERRORISM. A more recent issue has arisen from the fear of terrorists' use of scientific data. Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has sought to limit the publication of the results of research that might benefit terrorists. This has revived issues of the proper boundaries of government imposed scientific secrecy that were prominent during the Cold War but had abated since, and is particularly relevant in the case of fast-moving biological research but also affects other areas with weapons potential, particularly in the nuclear and chemical fields. Scientists are resisting such regulations on the grounds that they would degrade the scientific enterprise and make it difficult to counter possible weapons development or acquisition by terrorists. Should it be possible to publish in a journal or on the Internet any information, such as the methodology for producing biological agents or the design of a nuclear weapon, that could be misused even though the information is otherwise available and is not classified? What is the ethical (and political) judgment? The issue has not been settled (Skolnikoff 2002), although a number of biology journals have agreed to institute a review process to flag potentially dangerous articles and consider how the suspect material might be reduced or eliminated. No recent cases of "prior" censorship outside classified areas have reached the courts.

Other Issues

Weapons systems, global climate change, genetically modified organisms, foreign workers, intellectual property rights, and terrorism constitute six representative international relations issues intimately engaged with science and technology. Many others might be mentioned, from population growth, economic development (the rich/poor divide and the proper parameters of foreign aid), and world health, to biodiversity loss, the allocation of resources in international waters (as provided for in the Law of the Sea Treaty, 1982) and space (including communication satellite orbits), and remote sensing of countries and individuals from space without their permission.

Issues of these kinds arise ubiquitously and are a natural product of advances in science and technology and the use of those advances in national and international policies. In recognition of this fact, the U.S. National Research Council (1999) argued strongly for major innovations in the department of state to more effectively deal with these issues. Improved education and personnel policies for regular foreign service officers, creation of a new post of science adviser to the Secretary, and recruitment of more scientists and engineers to the department's ranks were advocated and most of the recommendations approved by the then Secretary. Additionally, all sciences and technologies are "dual use" in the sense that they can be used for benign or malevolent purposes. Inevitably, they will often pose choices that raise ethical as well as social, political, and economic considerations. Some of those choices will be minor and insignificant, but others will require careful thought and almost surely will be controversial.


SEE ALSO Atomic Bomb;Baruch Plan;Global Climate Change;Genetically Modified Food;Globalism and Globalization;Intellectual Property;Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;Montreal Protocol;Terrorism.


Alperovitz, Gar. (1996). The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb. New York: Vintage. A controversial analysis of the decision to drop the a-bomb that argues the primary purpose was to influence future negotiations with the Soviet Union.

Bohannon, John. (2002). "Zambia Rejects GM Corn on Scientists' Advice." Science 298(8): 1153–1154.

Bundy, McGeorge. (1988). Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years. New York: Random House. Superb account of the policy process and decisions surrounding nuclear weapons by the special assistant for national security affairs to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2001). Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Cambridge, UK: Author. The third assessment report to the international community from scientists appointed by some fifty governments. The most authoritative single voice, though controversial among a minority of scientists.

Keatley, Anne G., ed. (1985). Technological Frontiers and Foreign Relations. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Of special interest are Simon Ramo's "The Foreign Dimensions of National Technology Policy," Richard N. Cooper and Ann L. Hollick's "International Relations in a Technologically Advanced Future," and C. W. Robinson's "Technological Advances—Their Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy Relative to the Developing Nations."

Lee, Thomas H., and Proctor P. Reid. (1991). National Interests in an Age of Global Technology. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. The emerging global technical enterprise is altering relations among nations.

Morgenthau, Hans J. (1948). Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. New York: Knopf.

O'Riordan, Tim, and Jill Jager. (1996). Politics of Climate Change: A European Perspective. London: Routledge. An analysis of European views by two knowledgeable environmentalists.

Skolnikoff, Eugene B. (1993). The Elusive Transformation: Science, Technology and the Evolution of International Politics. A Council of Foreign Relations Book. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. On how international politics has been changed by science and technology advance since World War II. For an earlier, more restricted overview: Science, Technology, and American Foreign Policy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1967).

Skolnikoff, Eugene B. (1999). "The Role of Science in Policy: The Climate Change Debate in the United States." Environment 41(5): 42–44. A political analysis of the climate change debate in the U.S. that shows how and why the scientific evidence plays a much lesser role than would be expected in this quintessential science-related subject.

Skolnikoff, Eugene B. (2002). "Research Universities and National Security: Can Traditional Values Survive?" In Science and Technology in a Vulnerable World, ed. Albert H. Teich, Stephen D. Nelson, and Stephen J. Lita. Washington, DC: Association for the Advancement of Science. On threats to American research universities posed by the attempts to keep potentially dangerous scientific information out of the hands of terrorists.

Thomson, Jennifer A. (2002). Genes for Africa: Genetically Modified Crops in the Developing World. Landsdowne, South Africa: University of Capetown Press.

United Nations Commission on Human Rights. (2003). Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights. E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/12 Minneapolis: Human Rights Library, University of Minnesota.

U.S. National Research Council. (1999). The Pervasive Role of Science, Technology, and Health in Foreign Policy: Imperatives for the Department of State. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Wines, Michael. (2004). "Angola's Plan To Turn Away Altered Food Imperils Aid." New York Times: March 30, p. A3.

International Relations

views updated May 11 2018

International Relations





International relations (IR) is the study of relationships among the actors of international politics. Such actors include nation-states, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and multinational corporations. The field is also sometimes called international politics, international studies, or international affairs. In the United States, IR is a branch of political science, while it is considered its own interdisciplinary field in the European and British academy. What makes IR unique from other forms of political analysis is that international politics is characterized by anarchyor the absence of any authority superior to the nation-state. Sovereign states are thus the primary, though not the sole, important actors in the international system, because historically states are the organizations with the legitimate authority to use force within their geographically recognized areas.


IR theorists do not all share the same epistemology (ways of knowing) or methodology (analyzing what they know) for approaching the puzzles of world politics. There are generally three epistemological perspectives in the field of IR. A plurality of IR scholars are positivists, and assert that the only way to know something about the world is to approach it scientifically, by producing models that approximate the reality of international politics. These models are tested with facts in order to predict the future behavior of international actors. Interpretivists disagree with this approach, in that they do not aim to predict the behavior of international actors, but to interpret and understand the motives behind that behavior. Interpretivists see a world of intersubjective understandings and ideas to be interpreted rather than used for prediction. Post-positivists think that both interpretation and causal analysis is inappropriate, and that the theories and models developed by IR theorists could instead be used to control global populations. Post-positivists seek to emancipate oppressed groups by deconstructing the relationships and concepts taken for granted in world politics to reveal how they are not natural but forms of power and discipline.

Epistemology influences the methodology various scholars use. For instance, most (but not all) positivists use quantitative, statistical techniques to test their models, whereas interpretivists and post-positivists use qualitative techniques (such as discourse analysis or process tracing) to illustrate their arguments.

There are several theoretical approaches in IR, as well as substantive subfields of study, as noted below.

Realism Realist IR theorists argue that the condition of anarchy in international politics results in one motivation for state actionsurvival. Because power helps states ensure their own survival, state interests are defined in terms of power. This means that cooperation among states will be rare, and plans to overcome such tension will ultimately fail. Classical realists like Hans Morgenthau (1946), John Herz, Raymond Aron, and E. H. Carr conceptualized power in a variety of waysboth materially (the military, the economy, geography) and strategically (diplomacy, prestige). While much of the defining literature of classical realism was produced in the immediate decades after World War II (19391945), later scholars such as Anthony Lang, Richard Ned Lebow, and Michael C. Williams (2004) resurrected the critical nature of classical realist work.

Liberalism Liberalism assumes that while states operate within anarchy and are primarily self-interested, this self-interest leads to cooperation rather than conflict. Institutional liberalism posits that international organizations and regimes facilitate cooperation by reducing uncertainty among states and increasing transparency. Economic or commercial liberalism asserts that open trading systems make cooperation more likely because the benefits of trade outweigh the costs of going to war. Political liberalism assesses the likelihood of cooperation or conflict based upon the nature of a countrys political system. Political liberalism has developed into a separate research program known as democratic peace theory, which posits that democratic countries are less likely to go to war with one another because of the structural and cultural nature of democratic decision-making. Liberalism is often termed idealism, but this label is inaccurate in that all IR perspectives focus upon certain ideals over others. Yet liberalism is an admittedly more optimistic view of international politics than most other perspectives.

English School (Grotian or International Society) The English school has been a viable approach to the study of IR theory since the late 1950s and early 1960s. Representatives of this school include Herbert Butterfield, Hedley Bull, Adam Watson, R. J. Vincent, Martin Wight, and more recently Barry Buzan, Timothy Dunne, Robert Jackson, Nicholas Wheeler, and Barak Mendelsohn. The name English school refers to the location where many of the founders of the school first congregatedthe London School of Economics. These scholars acknowledge the role that material forces play in international politics, but also how rules, principles, and ideas augment these material forces. Thus, while states cannot escape anarchy in their calculations with other states, certain rules of membership govern state relations. Therefore, international politics resembles an anarchical society where sovereignty as a principle is usually respected because states value order to ensure their survival (see Bull 2002).

Constructivism Constructivism is a sociological approach to social relations, rather than a specific theory of international politics. IR constructivists see the relations and patterns of nation-states and nonstate actors as socially constructed, or made up of intersubjectively shared ideas. Constructivists explore the manner in which identities, discourse, and rules shape and are shaped by states. They claim that states seek to do more than survive in a condition of anarchy; states also seek to socialize with other nation-states. Because ideas are intersubjectively shared among states, ideas can change and thus so can the interests of nation-states. This does not mean, however, that constructivists deny the importance of conflict. IR constructivists include such mainstream scholars as Alexander Wendt, Martha Finnemore, and Michael Barnett, as well as critical theorists such as Nicholas Onuf (1989) and Friedrich Kratochwil (1989).

Neorealism and Neoliberalism Neorealism (sometimes termed structural realism ) and neoliberalism both represent attempts to develop classical realism and liberalism into scientific theories of international politics to make them more amenable to causal analysis. The defining publicationsfor neorealism, Theory of International Politics (1979) by Kenneth Waltz; for neoliberalism, Power and Interdependence (1977) by Robert Keohane and Joseph Nyeboth attempted to develop systemic analyses of international politics. Both neorealists and neoliberals argue that states are units that act rationally to survive in a realm of anarchy, and such a universal motive produces regular behavior that can be predicted through hypothesis testing and theoretical development similar to that found in the physical sciences. The principal disagreement between the two approaches is whether states are concerned with relative gains (i.e., how a state performs relative to other states) or absolute gains.

Foreign Policy Analysis Foreign policy analysis seeks to understand the ways in which foreign policies are enacted by individuals or small groups of decision makers. International politics, from this perspective, is grounded in decisions made by leaders and elites. This subfield of IR borrows heavily from other disciplines in social sciencemost notably psychology. Much of this work views elites as having, for various reasons, imperfect rational capabilities, and thus attempts to make intelligible how individuals interpret incoming information and produce decisions that result in varied and sometimes disastrous outcomes. Although much foreign policy analysis focuses on individuals, it also accommodates the influence of domestic political entities (such as parties and coalitions) and bureaucracies on the foreign policy decisions made by elites. Scholars who have shaped this approach include Richard Snyder, James Rosenau, Harold and Margaret Sprout, Margaret Hermann, Charles Hermann, Richard Herrmann, Stephen Walker, and Martha Cottam.


Critical theorists seek to challenge the core concepts and commonsense or prevailing wisdoms of mainstream IR approaches. Such theorists posit that mainstream approaches are problem-solving theories that through predictive analysis seek to form solutions to the most prevalent puzzles of international politics. Critical theory, on the other hand, is meant to develop an understanding of how theories and assumptions in IR are formed in the first placeand to reveal how some of these assumptions (like the permanence of nation-states) might instead be responsible for much of the suffering that occurs in international politics. Several forms of critical theory are discussed below.

Poststructuralism Poststructuralism draws on the social theory of philosophers like Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault to reveal how forces and power operate in subtle ways. Poststructuralists problematize even the idea that history is connected in any meaningful way. Notable IR post-structuralists include Richard Ashley, David Campbell, and James Der Derian.

Neo-Marxist and Gramscian Theory World-systems theory and dependency theory are forms of what is known as neo-Marxist IR. Such perspectives focus less upon states and more upon the forces of capital and production in the international economic system. Gramscian perspectives (derived from the work of early twentieth-century Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci), defined by Robert Cox (1981) and Stephen Gill, have focused upon the ways in which social relationships work in conjunction with market forces to produce certain processes and patterns evident in the international economy. It is not enough, Gramscian scholars posit, for the forces of capital to create the inequality that exists in international politics. It is also necessary for individuals and groups to believe in the market itselfand thus such internalization (ideas plus materials) makes change much more difficult and inequality more permanent.

Feminism Feminist IR is a subset of feminist social theory. As a form of critical theory, it challenges the mainstream assumptions of IR. For instance, feminist IR scholars such as J. Ann Tickner (1992), Spike Peterson, Elizabeth Hutchings, Christine Sylvester, and Cynthia Enloe have explored the masculine assumptions (war, aggressive behavior, etc.) that underpin how the nation-state is conceptualized in IR theory.


All these perspectives, to varying degrees, encompass important subfields in IR. Security studies, also known as international security, focuses on threats to states and the state system that stem from the environment, health (such as pandemics like HIV-AIDS), nuclear weapons, and transnational terrorist organizations. Certain scholars in this subfield use formal modeling and game theory to understand the strategic patterns of state behavior. Civil society studies focuses upon the manner in which nongovernmental organizations influence the state system. Another normative turn in IR theory has produced vibrant work on international ethics. Much of this work focuses upon phenomena such as humanitarian intervention, human rights doctrines, just war theory, genocide and ethnic conflict, and economic deprivation. The field of international political economy examines the relationships between nation-states and the international market, as well as how multinational corporations use the global economy to further their material goals. And international law remains an important subfield of interest for IR scholars. For instance, many constructivists and English school theorists have used the development of international laws to demonstrate their arguments regarding the presence of identity communities or an international society.

SEE ALSO Constructivism; Just War; Liberalism; Nation; Neoliberalism; Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs); Peace; Positivism; Poststructuralism; Realism; World-System


Bull, Hedley. [1977] 2002. The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics. 3rd ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

Cox, Robert. 1981. Social Forces, States, and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 10 (2): 126155.

Keohane, Robert O., and Joseph S. Nye Jr. [1977] 2000. Power and Interdependence. 3rd ed. New York: Longman.

Kratochwil, Friedrich V. 1989. Rules, Norms, and Decisions on the Conditions of Practical and Legal Reasoning in International Relations and Domestic Affairs. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Morgenthau, Hans. [1946] 1978. Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. 6th ed. New York: Knopf.

Onuf, Nicholas 1989. World of Our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

Tickner, J. Ann 1992. Gender in International Relations: Feminist Perspectives on Achieving Global Security. New York: Columbia University Press.

Waltz, Kenneth N. 1979. Theory of International Politics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Williams, Michael C. 2004. The Realist Tradition and the Limits of International Relations. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Brent J. Steele

International Relations

views updated May 21 2018

International Relations



Diplomats. European governments through the eighteenth century conducted international diplomacy with each other largely by means of amateur diplomats. Diplomats were usually, but not exclusively, from the nobility, and foreign language skills, not bloodlines, determined one’s fitness for the job. A multilingual ambassador could converse with foreign dignitaries, eavesdrop on court conversations, and intercept and read people’s mail. Information gleaned by spying frequently proved critical when negotiating treaties. Some diplomats such as France’s Charles Maurice de Talleyrand or Austria’s Count Klemens von Metternich were incredibly charismatic and possessed exceptional diplomatic skills. By the nineteenth century, diplomats (and diplomacy) were becoming increasingly professional. European states formally exchanged ambassadors and established a permanent infrastructure of diplomacy (for example, telegraph machines, typewriters, mail and messenger services, permanent embassy buildings, and honor guards) in each others’ countries.

Alliances and Neutrality Pacts. The wars against Napoleon I had been conducted largely through a series of fragile coalitions. Initially, Napoleon had been able to divide the allies from one another by making a quick peace with some of the countries in the coalitions and then ruthlessly attacking the others. By 1813 Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia had become wise to this strategy. As a result the last coalition against Napoleon

did not fall apart but agreed to fight until France was defeated and Napoleon was deposed. The coalitions of the Napoleonic Wars (1793–1815) were essentially defensive alliances in which the signatories pledged to defend each other if attacked. This form of diplomatic agreement was effective, but it limited the freedom of the individual states within the coalition by tying their foreign policies together. By the 1860s coalition alliances were being mixed with far more flexible agreements, such as the neutrality pact. In a neutrality pact the states involved simply pledged not to interfere with each other’s foreign or domestic affairs. Otto von Bismarck utilized a series of complex and flexible neutrality pacts to diplomatically isolate his enemies (especially France). The Austro-Prussian War (1866) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871) were both preceded by months of feverish diplomacy in which Bismarck skillfully and ruthlessly deprived his enemies of any possible allies. In this way, Bismarck’s opponents were always forced to fight Prussia alone.

Three Emperors League. Perhaps the zenith of Bismarck’s diplomatic achievements was a renewable series of neutrality pacts between Austria, Germany, and Russia known as the Three Emperors League (1873-1878, 1881-1890). Bismarck recognized that after the Franco-Prussian War France would be looking for an opportunity for revenge against Germany. To Bismarck the most dangerous political alignment was one in which France and Russia became allies. In this situation Germany would face a potentially disastrous two-front war. To head off this possibility, Bismarck bound both Russia and Austria to Germany with generous neutrality pacts. Russia was accorded a free hand in the Caucasus and in the Balkans against the Turks, while Austria was given a similar guarantee in the Balkans. Germany agreed to mediate disputes in case Russian and Austrian aims collided. In this way Bismarck restricted France’s potential pool of allies and thereby reduced the possibility that France would attack Germany. Bismarck himself, however, sowed the seeds of the collapse of the Three Emperors League in 1879 when he penned a secret defensive treaty with Austria that specifically stated that German arms would support any Austrian claims in the Balkans. In 1882 Italy joined the pact, making it the Triple Alliance. When Russian diplomats learned of this secret treaty, they began to worry that their Balkan interests were being compromised.

Triple Entente. French diplomats recognized the fragility of the German/Russian neutrality pact and worked hard to undo it. French investment in Russia increased dramatically in the 1880s and 1890s, especially in the development of railways, mines, and foundries. By 1914 25 percent of all foreign investment in Russia was French. Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany died in 1890. His son and heir, Wilhelm II (ruled 1890-1918), was young, arrogant, and headstrong. Wilhelm II forced Bismarck


Otto von Bismarck’s neutrality treaties were master-strokes of diplomacy. The Three Emperors League treaty was arguably one of his finest creations. Note how the treaty carefully balanced the interests of Germany, Russia, and Austria, especially in the case of conflicting Austro-Russian claims in the Balkans.

18 June, 1881

The Three Emperors League

The Courts of Austria-Hungary, of Germany, and of Russia, animated by an equal desire to consolidate the general peace by an understanding intended to assure the defensive position of their respective States, have come into agreement on certain questions . . . .

With this purpose the three Courts . . . have agreed on the following Articles:

ARTICLE I. In case one of the High Contracting Parties should find itself at war with a fourth Great Power, the two others shall maintain towards it a benevolent neutrality and shall devote their efforts to the localization of the conflict.

This stipulation shall apply likewise to a war between one of the three Powers and Turkey, but only in the case where a previous agreement shall have been reached between the three Courts as to the results of this war.

In the special case where one of them shall obtain a more positive support from one of its two Allies, the obligatory value of the present Article shall remain in all its force for the third.

ARTICLE 2. Russia, in agreement with Germany, declares her firm resolution to respect the interests arising from the new position assured to Austria-Hungary by the Treaty of Berlin.

The three Courts, desirous of avoiding all discord between them, engage to take account of their respective interests in the Balkan Peninsula. They further promise one another that any new modifications in the territorial status quo of Turkey in Europe can be accomplished only in virtue of a common agreement between them.

Source: Petr Aleksandrovich Saburov, Memoirs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1929).

to resign in 1890 over a nasty incident in which Wilhelm overheard Bismarck refer to him as an “impudent whelp.” After 1890 Bismarck’s firm hand no longer guided German diplomacy. Wilhelm II allowed the Three Emperors League to lapse in 1891, and by 1892 Russia and France had signed a mutual-defense treaty against the Triple Alliance. The Anglo-German rivalry, especially over the presence of a sizable German war fleet in the Baltic, eventually pushed Great Britain into the Franco-Russian pact, creating the Triple Entente. Thus, in 1913 Europe stood divided into two powerful alliance blocks. Perhaps the most important aspect of the situation was that for the first time in more than forty years France was not diplomatically isolated. Instead, Germany faced the real (and soon to be realized) threat of a two-front war.


James Joll, The Origins of the First World War (New York: Longman, 1984).

Lawrence Lafore, The Long Fuse (New York: Praeger, 1965).

George F. Kennan, The Fateful Alliance: France, Russia, and the Coming of the First War (New York: Pantheon, 1984).

Augustus Oakes, The Great European Treaties of the Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1918).

J. L. Richardson, Crisis Diplomacy: The Great Powers Since the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

George H. Rupp, A Wavering Friendship: Russia and Austria, 1876-1878 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1941).

Petr A. Saburov, The Saburov Memoirs, or Bismarck and Russia: Being Fresh Light on the League of the Three Emperors, 1881 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1929).

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International relations