International Relations Research Paper

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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

international 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

suffer 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

effect 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

war 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...
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