Posts Tagged ‘Nation State’

UN-flagsInternational Relations, as Madeleine Albright (Former US Secretary of State) famously said in February this year, is not like a game of chess, where people sit quietly, thinking out their strategy, taking their time between moves. It is rather more like a game of billiards, with a bunch of balls clustered together.

‘International Relations’ is by far one of the most imprecise disciplines in the Social Sciences. It is a bag of assertions as well as contradictions. Over the span of its existence as an academic field of study, it has seen the embodiment of several ideas into theories and counter-theories. In recent times, there has also been an effort to bring to light those ideas which pre-date the known ones and have been waiting to be uncovered from years if not centuries.

In the realm of International Relations, amidst the disagreements and contestations, there exist some key objects that need to be studied. The tremendous importance that these objects hold is something that, in a lot of cases, cuts across the boundaries of different ideologies and theories. The first and foremost actor is the State or Nation-State. “The nation-state is the central actor in the international system. Not everyone agrees with this premise. There is growing evidence that sub-state and transnational actors and forces in the international system are increasing in importance, and, in many cases, challenging the cohesiveness and effectiveness of national governments. Nonetheless, the nation-state appears unlikely to surrender its preeminent position in the international system anytime soon” (Bartholomees Jr., July 2004). In the realist point of view, State is the single most important actor. It suggests that to understand global politics one must simply study the States and their quest for security and power . Even Liberalism, which is though a proponent of Individualism, recognizes the importance of State as the key player in International Relations.

The second important object is Power. Power may not tangibly exist in itself, but is still an important object that shapes the relations between nations of the world. Hans J. Morgenthau in his book ‘Politics Among Nations’ says, “International politics, like all politics, is a struggle for power”. While Realism projects Power as something that is fiercely sought after by the Nation-States, Neo Liberalism uses this object in a different way. Neo liberals claim that Power can sometimes end up stabilizing the world if it exists in certain ways or patterns, as the case of hegemonic stability provided by the US post-cold war. Thus, it is very useful to study the power equations in world politics in order to understand the behaviour of States and consequently, the relations between States.

The third object is IGO, i.e., International Governmental Organization. While United Nations is the paramount IGO in the world, successful regional organizations like the European Union and ASEAN have also gained huge prominence in understanding the way the nations are interacting today. Some other existing regional groupings in world are the NATO, African Union, SAARC and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Function specific organizations exist too, such as IMF, NAFTA, GATT, WTO, WB, OPEC, Artic Council, etc. Organizations, such as those mentioned here, are pivotal in the understanding global politics from the view point of neo liberalism. This is evident, for example, from an influential article published in 1995 by Robert Keohane and Helen Milner titled, “The Promise of Institutionalist Theory.”

Soft Power is another object of interest in the field of international relations. Soft Power differs from Hard Power in that it does not deal with the material interests and capabilities, but rather focuses on ideas, identities and perceptions. The importance of Soft Power is in a way stressed upon by the Constructivists who believe that social reality is not assumed to be given, but is constructed. It is important how States see each other, and how people of one State see the other State, its culture and ideas.

Apart from the objects mentioned above, there are other objects which may not be in the core of studying international relations but nevertheless have become increasingly important factors influencing world politics. Firstly, there has been a surge in the number of International NGOs like Amnesty International, Transparency International, Green Peace, etc., since the end of World War II. They have a huge impact on both domestic and foreign policies of several nations. Secondly, giant MNCs for example Google, Microsoft, Unilever, JP Morgan Chase, etc., who are major players in today’s globalized world also play a role in influencing the decisions of many nations. Thirdly, there also exist some religious and ethnic organizations which have joined the world stage. Lastly, we also see many terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda or more recently the ISIS, who have increasingly made their presence felt in the international space.