International Relations (IR) is the study of relationships between countries. The author in this reading goes into detail on the origins of IR and how they fit into our society today. Key topics that are talked about are state sovereignty, state system, the security dilemma, hegemony, balance of power. IR can affect many things from wars to the economy, as was seen with WWII and The Great Depression. The main reason we study IR is the fact that the entire population of the world is living independent states. Together these states form a global system.
States are independent of each other, but that does not mean that they do not rely on each other. Most states find a way to co-exist simply because of international markets, which effects the wealth and welfare of their citizens. When states are isolated and cut off by the state system, the people usually suffer as a result, ie Burma, North Korea, Iraq. IR conventionally dates back to the early modern era (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) in Europe, sovereign states were initially established. Most states are friendly and peace loving, but a few states may be hostile.
This usually leads to the age old problem of national security. Most states have a military, this allows the states to co-exist without intimidation from another. Unarmed states are very rare and many states enter into alliances with other states to increase their national security. Three other basic values states are usually expected to uphold are freedom, order and justice. Freedom is expected by the people because of the sacrifices they have to make to their country such as paying taxes and military service. In return the people expect a free country. States have a common interest in establishing and maintaining nternational order so that they can co-exist and interact on a basis of stability. States are also expected to uphold international law.
There have been moments in modern history that have shown us how the basic values of IR can effect our lives. One such case is the oil shock during the 1970s when it became clear that North American motorist rely heavily on overseas oil suppliers and that conflict in these countries can effect the price at the pumps in ours. The IR state system is not without its flaws, countless men, woman, and children in third world countries uffer from no education to hungry. For this reason the state systems credibility to provide the very basics for its people is put into question. Some even say the international system tolerates human suffering and that the system should be changed so everyone can flourish.
This has lead to discussions on alternative IR theories. Like anything the state system has its advantages and disadvantages. The state system is not something that has to exist, in fact like many social organizations it can come or go during a certain time in history. Even thou the state system didn’t come into ffect until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe, there were formal agreements between ancient political communities which date back as far as 500-100 BC. This is known as the state system of Hellas and unlike the state systems of today that are based on international law, freedom etc. That system was based on a shared language and a common religion more than anything else. From 500-1500 was Christendom which was more like an empire than a state system.
States existed, but they were not independent and there were no clearly defined territories or borders. During this time ar was often feudal and local and was fought between rival groups of knights whose leaders had a quarrel. The political change from medieval to modern basically involved consolidating the provisions of these values within the single framework of one unified and independent social organization. One of the major effects of the rise of the modern state was its monopoly of the means of welfare. The political change from medieval to modern thus basically involved the construction of the independent territorial state. Today the state system is a global institution that affects the loves of virtually verybody on earth whether they realize it or not.
Which means the twenty-first century has to accommodate to a variety of states with many different cultures, religions, languages, governments, economic power, and military power just to name a few. Within this state system we have strong states and weak states with the most powerful being the United States of America. Other countries that are considered strong states are France, UK, and Japan. Countries that are considered weak states are Russia, Iraq, and Pakistan. This distinction between the countries is important because it helps us how the differences between the almost 200 independent states of the world. Some states be it large or small are solid and capable organizations, most states in the western world are more or less like that.
Other states may be large in land or population but they are so poor and so corrupt that they are barley able to carry on an effective government. Technology plays a key role in IR because of the effect it has on a countries military. Technology has also brought the world closer together with advances in IT which allows people of other states to communicate and see what’s going on in other parts of the world.
It also allows governments to help educate their people which allows them to expand their activities into more and more specialized spheres of society and economy. Despite all of the differences between all of the countries in the world most of the time states cooperate with each other more or less routinely, and without much political drama, for mutual advantage. In short the state system will uphold thru order and justice but as long as there are still military’s there will still be wars. Not every country in the world will always get along and there will always be an armed conflict over something.
In saying that just because two states at are war doesn’t mean that they are not connected thru IR, like what was pointed out earlier we may depend on a country we do not have good relations with, for things like oil. It is important to have good IR relationships with very developed countries because of the economic impact it can have for things like exports and imports, exchanging scientific and technological knowledge, tourists, and travelers from other countries. Finally the system of states is also a socioeconomic system; wealth and welfare is a core concern of most states.
We have in mind the ollowing activities which might bypass states, increasing international trade and investment, the growth of the internet, expanding and ever extending transportation networks, exploding travel and tourism, massive human migration, and many more. The biggest questions is if the state system is worth upholding and defending or if it should be replaced by another system. In closing my thoughts on the authors article for the most part I agree with his view on the importance of IR in today’s society and the impacts it can have on the market place, wars, travel, and even just day to day living.
The one thing that I found that was not talked about was how religion was not one of the main strains on IR in today’s world, it was talked about a bit during the medieval time period but not much after that. In my opinion in today’s world religion is what is causing most the conflicts in the world and if not for religion I think IR with most countries would be very strong and some countries who are very poor could develop into a very prosperous economy. The article does give a very good description on how IR started and how it progressed over time to become the state system that it is today.
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