International Relations Defined
International relations is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of the interaction of the actors in international politics, including states and non-state actors, such as the United Nations (UN), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and Amnesty International. One of the key features of the international system is that it’s a state of anarchy – each state in the system is sovereign and does not have to answer to a higher authority.
Imagine living in a confined space with a group of other people with limited resources. Further imagine that there is no law enforcement and that the only ‘law’ is agreements between individuals and self-help is the only means of enforcement. In short, every person can do whatever he or she wants only subject to what the others in the space will do as a result. This situation gives you an idea of the world in which states live.
International relations involves the study of such things as foreign policy, international conflict and negotiation, war, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, international trade and economics, and international development, among other subjects. As you may expect, international relations’ broad scope requires an interdisciplinary approach, drawing upon the fields of economics, law, political science, sociology, game theory, and even psychology.