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Evolution of International Relations Theory

International relations is relations among nations. International Relations theory starts with the emergence of nation states. Nation states were formally recognized for the first time in ‘Treaty of Westphalia 1648’. This treaty ended 30 years war in Europe. Treaty of Westphalia led to the recognition of nation states.
Before nation state, Europe was under the system of Roman Empire, a confederation. This form of political life was replaced by nation states. Nation states represent 1) Centralized authority. 2) Fixed territory. 3) Sovereignty. [ Territorial integrity and sovereignty can be used interchangeably. They are considered to be the sacrosanct principles in international politics. The fundamental national interest. ]

Nature of the discipline of international relations.

It is righty called as ‘American Social Science’. It was started by American scholars, is dominated by American scholars, and revolves around US Foreign Policy. Even the theories are written with the perspective to maintain US hegemony.
The first chair of international politics was established at University of Wales 1919, known as Woodrow Wilson chair. 1919 denotes the end of 1st WW. 1st WW could be ended only with the intervention of USA. After war, the then US president Woodrow Wilson suggested certain ideas.For the purpose of establishment of ‘new world order’. New world order denotes the existence of old world order. Old world order means Westphalian world order.
Up till 1st WW, international politics was hardly international. It was essentially ‘Politics among European nations’. Because USA was following the policy of isolationism aka Munro Doctrine and rest of the world was colony.

Nature of politics among European nations.

European states were consistently in the state of war. The fear of war and the need to protect the territories, led European states to go for ‘balancing’. Balancing can be done in two ways. Internal (increasing its own power e.g. by acquisition of arms) and external balancing (by forming alliances.).
Thus, the first fundamental rule of international politics was ‘balance of power’.

Balance of power promotes arms race, alliances, which may lead to the local wars turning into world wars. Hence Woodrow Wilson proposed certain ideas in his speech known as ’14 points speech’. Among the major ideas were 1) Establishment of League of Nations.  2) Replacing balance of power with the idea of ‘collective security’.  3) Maintain free trade.  4) Freedom of navigation on high seas.  5) Promotion of democracy.  6) Recognition of people’s right to self determination.  Above principles are the core principles of US foreign policy. The most capitalist nation in the world. These principles were pronounced as the principles that can establish the new world order. These principles are based on the philosophy of capitalism, aimed at building US hegemony. Hence the first school of international politics is the school of liberalism. It was described that the objective of these theories is to establish peace on enduring basis. Thus the objective of the discipline of international politics was made the achievement of peace. We can call these theories as peace theories.

Phases of international politics

1st Phase: From 1648 till 1st WW 1919. Westphalian world order.

Features of Westphalian world order.
Politics among European nations (thus international politics was essentially the regional politics.).
Politics in Europe was shaped by the policies of great powers. Hence it is rightly said that international politics is great power politics.

Billiard Ball model

Given by Arnold Wolfers. Based on Westphalian world order.
There are 4-5 great powers but no superpower. (In that case, this model will not hold). Universal actor is also absent. i.e. world government or international actor. (League of Nations, or UN). Hence we can call it as a situation of anarchy.
Each country will have to depend on itself for its survival. (Impact of anarchy). Hence, nations will go for internal and external balancing to maintain the balance of power. Nations will consistently collide with each other like the free standing balls with hard shell in game of billiards.
The model also shows that there are no permanent friends and enemies.

2nd Phase: Interwar period.

Attempts were made to change the manner in which politics is conducted among states.
As suggested by Woodrow Wilson, League of Nations was established. It was expected that new world order will come into existence. Collective security will eliminate the balance of power.
However new world order could not come into existence.
USA could not join League of Nations because of opposition from US Congress. As USA did not join League of Nations, the responsibility was on Britain and France. They neither had any experience nor motivation for collective security. They accepted the idea only under the pressure of USA but were skeptical about the idea. They continued with their old politics.
In 1917, Communist revolution took place in USSR, frightening the capitalist world. In this context, France and Britain preferred appeasement of fascist powers against the threat of communism. Hence they overlooked expansionist actions by Italy, Germany and Japan. They allowed League of Nations and collective security to collapse. Hence the vision of new world order given by Woodrow Wilson proved short lived, the old style of politics 1) Protectionism,  2) Arms race  3) Alliances and counter-alliances started giving rise to 2nd WW.

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Origin of realist school of international politics

The experience of the implementation of the new ideas led to the emergence of realist school. Realist school is based on the fundamental concepts of Westphalian world order. E H Carr, the famous realist historian and the author of ‘Twenty Years Crisis’, challenged the fundamentals of the liberal school. Liberal school came to be called as idealists or utopians in international politics. Why they were called as idealists? Impracticality of their ideas like nations will not go for arms race, nations will leave balance of power, will rely on collective security. This has led to the first great debate in international politics i.e. the debate between realists and idealists.

3rd Phase: Cold War

After the end of 2nd WW, we see the beginning of cold war. How cold war world order was different from the Westphalian world order? 1) Cold war world order has seen the rise of superpowers. The status of superpowers is different from great powers. Superpower denotes extraordinary power. It means other nations not even in combination can challenge the superpower. The status of other states will be reduced to the status of satellites. Satellites denote the loss of sovereignty in real sense, sovereignty of the states became just a formality.
The second defining feature of cold war was the collapse of the traditional balance of power politics giving rise to the nuclear deterrence i.e. nuclear balance of power to avoid war.
International politics became ‘international’ in true sense. Westphalian world order was multipolar, cold war world order was bipolar.

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4th Phase: End of Cold War

The then US president H.W. Bush declared the new world order. Then new world order denoted the global world order. Global world order denotes interdependence. Following changes are witnessed in international politics. In the views of Baylise and Steve Smith, we have moved away from state centric geo politics to geo centric global politics (geopolitics – acquire land & use of military/war).
According to the Baylise and Steve Smith, the world looks like multiplex. As territories are becoming irrelevant, domestic and international politics is going interdependent or overlapping. Billiards ball model is now replaced by ‘Cobweb model’. (Complex interdependence).

Present Scenario

Since 2008 Global Financial Crisis, we are witnessing the decline of liberal world order, and countries are returning to the old style. State-centric geopolitics. e.g. In 2014 Russia militarily annexed Crimea.

Joseph Nye explains the present world order as ‘3D Chess Board’.
World is unipolar in militaristic sense.
World is multipolar in economic sense.
There is no pole rather diffusion of socio-cultural power among numerous organizations, groups etc.

John Burton has given the concept of ‘cob-web’ model in place of ‘billiards ball’ model.

Billiards ball modelCobweb model
State centricSociety centric
Only one channel of communication. i.e. through stateMultiple channels of communication. It is primarily the impact of information technology. (society?)
States are like hard shells.States have become porous. i.e. their surveillance capacity has declined.

In cobweb model, people are connected with each other through multiple threads or channels that it looks like spider’s web. 
// Andrew Haywood’s book Global Politics intro… contains this in detail.

Test Your Knowledge!

1] The Nation States were formally recognized for the first time in?
a) Treaty of Westphalia
b) Treaty of Vienna
c) Treaty of Geneva
d) Treaty of New York

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Ans: a) Treaty of Westphalia

2] Which among the following are the essential features of Nation States?
a) Centralised Authority
b) Fixed Territory
c) Sovereignty
d) All of the above

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Ans: d) All of the above

3] Monroe Doctrine’ was related to –
a) Space Policy
b) Political independence of American countries
c) Third world countries
d) War rules

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Ans: b) Political independence of American countries

4] Who among the following is related to the ’14 Point Speech’?
a) Winston Churchil
b) Hitlor
c) Woodrow Wilson
d) John Burton

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Ans: c) Woodrow Wilson

5] Billiard Ball model of international politics is given by
a) Andrew Heywood
b) Arnold Wolfers
c) E.H.Carr
d) Steve Smith

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Ans: b) Arnold Wolfers

6] Which Perspective/School of international politics is called an ‘Idealist’ ?
a) Liberal
b) Marxist
c) Functionalist
d) Realist

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Ans: a) Liberal

7] “Consider the following statements.
1) Westphalian World Order was Bipolar.
2) World Order during Cold War Era was Multipolar.”
a) 1 only correct
b) 2 only correct
c) Both 1 and 2 are correct
d) Both 1 and 2 are incorrect

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Ans: d) Both 1 and 2 are incorrect

8] Present world order is compared to ‘3D Chess Board’ by
a) Joseph Nye
b) John Burton
c) E.H.Carr
d) Steve Smith

Show Answer

Ans: a) Joseph Nye

9] Concept of ‘Cobweb Model’ is given by
a) Arnold Wolfers
b) John Burton
c) Michael Sandel
d) Andrew Heywood

Show Answer

Ans: b) John Burton

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Ramnivas Gurjar

Sir who says post cold war phase is post international politics.



Nitish Kuma Tyagi

It’s true

Nitish Kuma Tyagi

Actually good for revision


any short notes of paper 2 like that of p1 already shared


thread not threat


Thank you so much for such a great initiative
This website help me so much in concept clarity
Thanks a lot to the team

mustafa raza

Is these contents enough for part 2 of psir with supplement with current affairs??

Himanshu Kaul

Greetings..Just a correction..It’s Andrew H”e”ywoods.

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