Dive into the field of international relations, a branch of political science concerned with relations between nations, primarily in terms of foreign policies. International relations, or international affairs, also involves nonstate actors such as the United Nations (UN) and Amnesty International.
This interdisciplinary field ties together political science, geography, history, economics, law, sociology, psychology, and philosophy at the global level. Issues central to this discipline include diplomatic relations, globalization, state sovereignty, ecological sustainability, nuclear proliferation, nationalism, economic development, global finance, international security, terrorism, and human rights.
There are two major approaches to international relations: realism and liberalism. Realism in international relations is based on a belief that the desire for power over other states is the motivating principle in a state’s foreign policy, with a strong focus on self-preservation. Foreign policy is based on a state’s ability and willingness to use military force; morality is not a guiding principle under this philosophy. Liberalism, on the other hand, focuses on the interconnectedness of states and their interests, which must necessarily result in the decreased use of military power to achieve foreign policy aims. Instead, international cooperation is emphasized.
International relations scholars typically break down their analysis in one of four ways: (1) system level, specifically how the international system affects the behavior of nation-states; (2) state level, which examines how a state’s characteristics determine its foreign policy behavior; (3) organizational level, or analysis of how organizations within a state influence the state’s foreign policy behavior; and (4) individual level, which examines the impact of leaders of states on their states’ foreign policy.