Although ‘international relations’ is at the core of the activities of the United Nations, the Charter refers to the phrase only once (Article 2 (4)), where it states that ‘all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations’.
However, the adjective ‘international’ appears numerous times prefixed, in the overwhelming majority of instances, to ‘peace and security’ but also to other nouns to such as organization, ‘International’ Court of Justice, machinery, law, disputes, co-operation, problems, trusteeship, friction, enforcement action, agencies, responsibilities, conferences, instruments and agreement.
In general terms, international relations refers to the interaction between and among (sovereign) states, and more broadly, to the workings of the international system as a whole.
In so far as the sovereign state is the primary subject of international relations, international relations can be traced to the Treaty of Westphalia, which gave rise to the sovereign state.
Although emphasis is on relations between states, other collective actors such as international organizations, inter-governmental organizations and multinational corporations play a role in international relations. Other ‘interest groups’ such as non-governmental organizations – generally referred to as ‘civil society’ – have also come to play an increasing role in international relations.
International Relations (IR) (capitalized) is meant to distinguish the academic discipline from the phenomena of ‘international relations’. International Relations may include the sub-fields: ‘International Studies’ and ‘Area Studies’.
International Relations can be regarded as a multidisciplinary field, gathering together the international aspects of such disciplines as politics, political science, economics, history, geography, philosophy, law and sociology and psychology.
The principal fields of study for International Relations include international political economy, international organization, international law, foreign policy, diplomacy, strategic or security studies, conflict prevention, management and resolution, globalization, state sovereignty, economic development and sustainability, the environment, disarmament and nuclear proliferation, global financial issues, international terrorism, organized crime and human rights.
International Relations theories are largely influenced by normative considerations, such as studying ways and means of maintaining international peace and security and increasing international cooperation rather than merely seeking to describe the behaviour of states.
International Relations developed after World War I. Pioneers in teaching the discipline were University of Wales, Aberystwyth (renamed Aberystwyth University), London School of Economics, Graduate Institute of International Studies (now Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva)), Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and University of Chicago.
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia