International relations: Theories of international relations

International relations  is the study of political, economical and legal environment on a global level. IR is also known as international affairs (IA).The scope of international relations entails issues such as globalization, diplomatic relations, state sovereignty,  nationalism, economic development, global finance, international security and human rights.

Theories of International Relations

The study of international relations involves theoretical approaches based on solid evidence. Theories of international relations are essentially a set of ideas  that aim at explaining how the international system works. The following are the  three major theories of international relations are realism, liberalism and constructivism:


Realism focuses on the notion that states work to increase their own power relative to other states. The theory of realism states that the only certainty in the world is power. Therefore, a powerful state via military power will always be able to outdo its weaker competitors. Self-preservation is a major theme in realism, as states must always seek power to protect themselves. In realism, the international system drives states to use military force. Although leaders may be moral, they must not let morality guide their foreign policy. Furthermore, realism recognizes that international organizations and law have no power and force, and that their existence relies solely on recognition accepted by select states.

Liberalism (Idealism)

The theory of liberalism in international relations on the other hand involve less use of military power. It is also known as also known as theories of complex interdependence. Idealism approaches to the study of international relations, , suggest that the consequences of military power outweigh the benefits and that international cooperation is in the interest of every state. It also claims that exercising economic power over military power has proven more effective. Although the liberal theory of international relations was dominant following World War I while President Woodrow Wilson promoted the League of Nations and many treaties abolishing war, realism came back into prominence in the Second World War and continued throughout the Cold War.


Constructivism rests on the notion that rather than the outright pursuit of material interests, it is a nation’s belief systems (historical, cultural and social) that explain its foreign policy efforts and behavior. Constructivists also argue that states are not the most important actors in international relations. That is  international institutions and other non-state actors are also valuable in influencing behavior through lobbying and acts of persuasion. For this reason, constructivism has become a popular and important theory in recent decades . Further, non-state actors like international organizations such as Amnesty International, OXFAM, and Greenpeace have gain political influence. International organizations play a role in promoting human rights and making them an international standard to which countries are suppose to conform.




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