The history of international relations is often traced back the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, where the modern state system was developed. Westphalia encouraged the rise of the independent nation state, the institutionalization of diplomacy and armies. The contemporary international system was finally established through decolonization during Cold War. However, this somewhat over-simplified.


International Relations as an art occur when a nation make a relationship with the other nations. For instance when a nations decide to work together in trading or military with the others.

One of the most significant problems in work on the history of IR is that these histories have failed to address question, how one should write the history of IR in the field? Describing the history of IR as if a complete consensus existed on the essential dimension of the field’s evolution is not easy at all, the absence of any significant controversy concern “how the field has developed” must be devoted. That’s why nobody knows “when or where” international relation began at the first time. But all of we knew that the achievement of the art of IR that a nation successfully fulfill its nation interest by its relationship with the other nations.


IR as a science is when we learn IR as a discipline study or science.

Initially, international relations as a distinct field of study (science) were almost entirely British-centered. In 1919, the Chair in International Politics establishment at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth (in 2008, renamed Aberystwyth University) from an endowment given by David Davies, became the first academic position dedicated to IR.

In the early 1920’s, the London School of Economics’ department of IR was founded at the behest of Nobel Prize winner Philip Noel-Baker. That is the defining moment of IR as a science.

There is a strong conviction that significant development in international politics (such as: war) shaped the development of IR as a science. It is characteristically as a reaction of World War I.


1. The First Debate (1920-1930)

Utopian (liberalism) vs. Realism

It talked about ontology[i], the essential of the study of IR.

Liberal International Relations Theory arose after WW I in response to the inability of states to control and limit war in their international relations. Early adherents include Woodrow Wilson and Norman Angell who argued vigorously that states mutually gained from cooperation and that war was so destructive to essentially futile. It’s supported by W. Wilson as the president of USA that day.

The conception of Utopian is a man endowed with reason by nature; his actions are governed by norms and ideals founded in reason and therefore intelligible. It means that man is throwing into the contradiction of norm and reality. This situation instills fear; fear is countered by effort to achieve security by means of the acquisition, demonstration, and argumentation of power (over others).

Unlike realism, it focuses on state security and power above all else. Early realist such as E. H. Carr, Daniel Bernhard, and Hans Morgenthau argued that state is self-interested, power-seeking[ii] rational actors, who seek to maximize their security and chances of survival, balance of power (BOP) [iii].


–          US Senate refused to allow the US to join and at first the original members refused to allow Germany or indeed Russia to become members. W. Wilson failed to sell his ideas.

–          1930s saw economic collapse (colonialism and imperialism).

–          Rise of dictators in various countries.

–          From 1839 to 1878 the international system was afflicted by 19 wars (William K. Domke: War and the Changing Global System, Yale U. P 1988).

Achievement: Utopian’s achievement is PBB, but all the failure caused liberalism led realist dominance following WW II.

2. The Second Debate (1950-1970)

Traditionalism vs. Behaviorism (scientism)

It talked about methodology[iv], how to learn IR?

Traditionalism: politics is a specific social form of action full off sense and values; an art which can be learned on the basis of the historical examples. Historical and social phenomena can be clearly distinguished from natural phenomena; thus, they are not susceptible to scientific explanations.

Behaviorism (scientism): they advise to those who govern and political education of those who are govern and political education of those who are governed; evaluating comments, norm-based opinions, and recommendations; for action regarding present political decisions on the basis of respective scientific research results.


The real problem of the second debate was striving for an ‘understanding’ of politics on the insight into and of knowledge of historical-social developments and process.

Finally, there is no winner on this debate.

3. The Third Debate (1980-now)

Neorealism + Neoliberalism vs. Neomarxis

It talked about axiology[v], how to use IR as science in the field.

Background: linguistic turn in IR; Cold War

Neorealism/ structural realism is a theory of international relations, outlined by Kenneth Waltz in his 1979 book “Theory of international Politics”. Waltz argues in favor of a systemic approach: the international structure acts as a constraint on state behavior, so that only states whose outcomes fall within an expected range survive. Unlike realism’s (anthropological: man as a security and power-seeking agent), the foundation premises of neorealism is structural: anarchy of the international system. Neorealism developed largely within the American political science tradition, seeks to reformulate the classical realist tradition of E. H. Carr, Hans Morgenthau, and Reinhold Niebuhr into a rigorous and positivic social science.

Neoliberalism is a response to neorealism; while not denying the anarchic nature of the international system, neoliberals argue that its importance and effect has been exaggerated. Neoliberalism argues that even in an anarchic system of autonomous rational states, cooperation can be emerge through the building of norms, regimes, and institutions.

Both theories, however, consider ‘the state and its interest’ as the central subject of analysis. Neoliberalism may have a wider conception of what those interests are.

Marx believed that the identity of a social class is derived from its relationship to the means of production (as opposed to the nation that class is determined by wealth alone).  Marx describes several social classes in capitalist societies, including primarily:

–          The proletariat (those individuals who sell their labor power and who, in the capitalist mode of production, do not own the means of production). According to Marx, the capitalist mode of production established the condition that enables the bourgeoisie to exploit the proletariat due to the fact that the workers’ labor power generates a surplus value greater than the workers’ wages.

–          The bourgeoisie (those individuals who own the means of production and buy labor power from the proletariat, thus exploiting the proletariat).


–          Individualist disagrees with the basic approach of Neomarxism that of viewing all people acting under the influence of socio-economic forces and instead focus on the differences and unpredictable actions of individuals.

–          In the other hand, neomarxism critics neoliberalism and neorealism.

  1. They (neoliberalism and neorealism) need not to synthesize their ideologies.
  2. Their ideologies are too luxurious.
  3. They supposed to talk about nations of the third world.

Finally, no one won the debate.

4. The Fourth Debate (1980 until now)

Positivism vs. post-positivism

It talked about classic science and the freedom of thought.

Positivism is the philosophy that the only authentic knowledge is knowledge that is based on actual sense experience. Ex: realism, liberalism, Marxism, rationalism (reflection theories).

Post-positivism or also known as empiricism or is a metatheoretical stance following positivism. One of the main supporters of post positivism are John Dewey and Nicholas Rescher. It is a stance that recognizes most of criticisms that have been raised against traditional-logical positivism and similar foundational. Ex: critical theory, post modernism, feminism[vi], environmentalism, peace studies, etc (mainstream perspective).

Termination: there is no termination yet


I think that there are so many problems with the conventional story about IR. Some of the more recent work on history of IR of the field are nothing more than myths. In my opinion in order for the investigation of history of field to receive the same intellectual respect as other areas of research, more attention should be placed on theoretical and methodological assumption. The absence of such attention in much of the existing literature on the history of the IR’s field had served to reinforce the history of IR is self-evident.


–          Schmidt, Brian C. 2002. On the History and Historiography of International Relation. “Handbook of International Relations”. London: Sage Publication Ltd

–          Fearon, James & Wendt, Alexander. 2003. Rationalism vs. Constructivism: Skeptical View. Handbook of International Relations. London: Sage Publication Ltd

–          University of Airlangga Roadmap

–          Angel, Norman. 1909. The Great Illusion. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

–          http://dictionary.com (diakses tahun 2008)

–          http://hfienberg.com/irtheory/neorealism (diakses tahun 2008)

[i] Ontology is the branch of metaphysics that studies the nature of existence or being that such.

[ii] The concept of ‘power in international relations’ can be described as the degree of resources, capabilities, and influence in the international affairs. It is often divided up into the concept of hard power and soft power. Hard power is relating primarily to coercive power, such as the use of force. Soft power is commonly covering economics, diplomacy, and cultural influence. However, there’s no clear dividing line between the two forms of power.

[iii] BOP exists when there is parity/ stability between competing forces. It expresses the doctrine intended to prevent anyone nation from becoming sufficiently strong so as to enable it to enforce it will upon the rest.

[iv] Methodology is a set of system/ methods, principle and rules for regulating a given discipline, as in the arts of science.

[v] Axiology is the branch of philosophy, dealing with values as those ethnics, aesthetics, or religion.

[vi] Feminism in international relations is a broad term given to work of those scholars who have sought to bring gender concern into the academic study of international politics. However, it would be a mistake to think that feminist IR was solely a matter of identifying how many groups of women are positioned n the international politic system. From its inception, feminist IR has always shown a strong concern with thinking about men, and in particular, masculinities. Indeed, many IR feminist argue that the discipline is inherently masculine in nature.


About Devania Annesya

Devania Annesya, born in 1989 email us at devania.annesya@gmail.com

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