Meaning, Nature And Scope Of International Relations (2023)

What are International relations? This post has given all answers to your questions regarding the meaning, nature, and scope of International Relations.

International relations literally refer to the interrelationships of states. There is no state in the world today that is completely self-sufficient or isolated from others. Each state is directly or indirectly dependent on the other.

Thus, in the international arena, interdependence has been created between the states. In view of this interdependence of states, a separate topic called ‘International Relations’ has been created for the purpose of discussing in detail how to establish peace and prosperity in the world through cooperation, avoiding conflicts, wars, etc.

The scope of international relations is wide and its basis is mainly interdependence. The pace of international relations has intensified with the development of information technology.

International Relations as a separate academic discipline emerged at the beginning of the twentieth-century basically after World War I. The decree on peace of the Soviet Union in 1917 and the 14-point principles of US President Woodrow Wilson in 1918 are known as important documents in international relations.

The first University Chair that formally established in the discipline was the Woodrow Wilson Chair of International Politics at the University College of Wales in 1919.

Table of Contents

Meaning, Nature and Scope of International Relations

Meaning, Nature And Scope Of International Relations (1)

Meaning and Definition

International Relations as a separate curriculum discusses international events and world issues between states are discussed in the context of the international system.

Its main topics are the role of the state, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and multinational corporations. It is both an academic and government policy field, and it can be either empirical or normative, as this branch of knowledge is used in both foreign policy analysis and formulation.

There is no specific definition of international relations. Experts have defined it on their own perspectives. There is also a problem with the definition of international relations. Many times international relations are considered synonymous with world politics and international politics.

Definition of International Relations by Palmer and Perkins

Palmer and Perkins are the most important name in international relations because of their relevance in terms of definition and subject matter In International relations.

According to them, International relations discusses the forces, pressures, and processes that control the nature of human life, activities, and thought in all human and group relations in the world community. That is, the discussion of international relations involves both political and non-political issues.


They defined International Relations in this way- “International Relations is the objective and systematic study of international life in all its aspects”.

Definition of International Relations by Scholars

Many scholars define International relations differently. Here I have mentioned most important definitions of IR (International Relations) given by three eminent scholars.

Hans J Morgenthau

Hans J Morgenthau used the term International Politics and defined it as “International Politics include analysis of political relations and problems of peace among nations…it “is struggle for and use of power among nations”.

Quincy Wright

According to Quincy Wright, International Relations includes “relations between many entities of uncertain sovereignties” and that “it is not only the nations which international relations seek to relate. Varied types of groups-nations, states, government, people, regions, alliances, confederations, international organizations, even industrial organizations, cultural organizations, religious organizations-must be dealt with in the study of international relations, if the treatment is to be realistic”

Jackson and Sorensen

Jackson and Sorensen said that “at one extreme the scholarly focus is exclusively on states and inter-state relations; but at another extreme IR includes almost everything that has to do with human relations across the world. Therefore, IR seeks to understand how people are provided or not provided, with the basic values of security, freedom, order, justice and welfare”.


He opines that International Relations basically “concerns the relationship among the world’s governments”. But he also argues that IR is not just a relationship between governments. IR needs to be understood in terms of activities of Non-state actors also.

Acceptable Definition

Finally, an acceptable definition of international relations is that international relations is a separate curriculum that deals with the interrelationships of the various states of the world, non-State organizations, international organizations, war and peace, disarmament, alliance formation, terrorism and the whole international system.

International relations have a profound effect on world politics, and the research and practice of the subject matter ranges from contemporary to modern politics, the relationship between multiple states and political ideologies on economic and global issues, mutual exchange, cooperation and debate.

Nature of International Relations

The nature of a subject refers to the characteristics of that subject. In that sense, the natures of International relations are in the following –

Changing Nature of International relations

The nature of international relations Is dynamic. International relations is a thorough analysis of what is happening in world politics.

The post-World War II period saw a huge shift in world politics. World politics was divided into two poles, such as the NATO led by the USA and the Warsaw Pact led by the USSR. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led to a kind of single polarity in world politics.

However, economically growing Asian countries such as China, India, Singapore, Vietnam and various South American countries such as Brazil are all significantly influencing world politics. So it is clear that international politics is moving towards multi polar again.

Then growing importance of non-state actors like NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), MNC (Multinational Companies) etc, are also discussed in the field of International relations.

International Relations as an academic discipline discusses the changing pattern of contemporary world.

As an Interdisciplinary Subject

All social science subjects are interdisciplinary in nature. International Relations also is an interdisciplinary field of study in which other disciplines in social science such as history, economics, political science, philosophy, geography, culture, etc, are interconnected.

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State is the primary actor in IR

In the field of international politics State is the sole and unitary actor. The state has always been a major player in international relations. The state’s behavior as a major driving force in international politics is also studied in international relations.

National Interest and power are the core of IR

The protection of national interests is the main goal of the state. With this goal in mind, the state engages in relations with other states and the national power of the state will be able to satisfy its national interests.

Thus, it is seen that the issues of national interest and the role of national power in fulfilling those interests are considered as the core of IR.

Struggle for Power

According to Morgenthau, International politics is the struggle for power. I have already said that power is the means of national interest. So power politics is the key theme of IR.

Continuous Interaction among Nation States

No state in the present world is self-sufficient. Every state is dependent on each other. Hence the need for interconnectedness and that is possible only because of the interaction among different states.

International Relations also discuss the foreign policies of different states and how they behave each other.

Analytical and Empirical Study for Theory Building

International Relations uses analytical and empirical method as well for the theory building.

There are several theories in IR. For example, Idealism and Neo-Liberalism is the result of the analytical study, and Realism and Neo-Realism are the result of an empirical study.

Must Read- Realism Theory In International Relations In Detail

Scope of International Relations

The international community is the instrument of international relations. The unimaginable changes in the international community over the past seventy years have drastically changed inter-state relations.

International relations as a distinct curriculum has followed that trend in international society since the 1930s. For this reason, it is not possible to draw a permanent line on the scope of international relations.

In the discussion of the nature of international relations, you already get the idea that what the scope of international relations. The scope of international relations are mentioned below-

Study of the behavior of States in International Politics

Just as when a nation builds good relations for the sake of its overall development, it becomes the subject of international relations, just as when there is a conflict of interest, bitterness develops among itself and that too becomes part of international relations.

Thus international relations consist of both cooperation and conflict. International relations are also a matter of forming alliances and dealing with the crisis.

Role of Non-State Actors in International Field

The content of international relations does not revolve only around the activities of the state and its formal institutions. The state is not the only active actor in the international community. There are many non-state actors whose activities affect international relations.

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Multinational Corporations (MNCs), European Economic Community, Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, NATO, SEATO, WARSAW PACT, ASEAN, Organization of American States, different terrorist organizations, Religious Organizations are the examples of the non-state elements in international relations.

Question of War and Peace

Today, international relations are not free from the discussion of the determination to save mankind from war. What was utopian in the past is becoming more and more realistic today.

The main purpose of establishing the United Nations is to ensure world peace and security. Large, and regional powers are often exchanging views to create an atmosphere of peace and security. All kinds of contacts for the welfare of various exchanges and globalization process in cultural and other fields are Gradually increasing. All this has become the subject of international relations.

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Study of Foreign Policy

Another important issue in international relations is foreign policy. In the past, kings or prime ministers or a few individuals played an active role in determining foreign policy.

Today, not only statesmen but also the legislature and many citizens are involved in the formulation of foreign policy. The state of affairs or ideology in foreign policy and the ideological issues of the respective regimes are important parts of international relations.

Study of Nation States

The ethnic composition, geographical location, historical background, religion or ideologies of different states are not the same at all. And because of all these differences, the relationship between different states is different.

So international relations need to discuss all these differences in detail. When the social environment is different, his reaction falls on international relations.

International Organizations

The role of national and international organizations in international relations is no less important. People from different countries are involved with the US Congress of Industrial Organizations, the US Federation of Labor, the French Labor Organization, and the Women’s International Democratic Federation Engagement Organization.

The non-governmental organizations are also involved in the activities of the Coalition and its various expert organizations, such as UNESCO, the International Labor Organization and the World Health Organization. Therefore, international relations also discusses all national and international organizations.

Global Environmental Issues

Issues of the environment are one of the key matters of international relations now. During the 1970s the environmental politics only focused on the question of resource issues.

But from the 1990s the environmental politics focused on the issue of ‘Climate change’ brought about through global warming. To overcome this issue, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the Paris Agreement on climate change, etc, have initiated.

So, global environmental issues affect every state in the world. For the protection of this beautiful world all the states are trying their best by reduction of the usage of greenhouse gasses and that is why it is considered as the most important part of international relations.

Role of People in International politics

The importance of public and public opinion in the international arena is also expanding rapidly. The end of imperialism, from international, disarmament, political and economic, has inspired movements and protests by the people of different countries. U.S. scientists, intellectuals-people from different societies have demonstrated against the Vietnam War.

So what do people think about the international situation or their views also come under international relations.

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Role of the Third World

The third emergence in recent world politics has brought about qualitative change. Most people in the world are third generation. In 1986, 101 countries participated in the Eighth Non-Alignment Conference.

The growing role of non-aligned countries in building new international systems, easing tensions between the East and the West, disarmament, ending colonial rule, etc. is significant.

Therefore, the role of the third world in world politics is also the relevant point of discussion in international relations.

The scope of international relations is becoming wider as it discusses various issues of dynamic nature. All the domestic policies that affect or are likely to affect other countries are now being covered by international relations. International relations currently discuss various decision-making processes.

In the past, these issues were not related to international relations. Therefore, it can be said that the scope of international relations has expanded.

Importance or Purpose of the study of International Relations

International relations have become an essential part of social science in every country. The importance of international relations is growing not only as a subject included in the political science curriculum, but also as a separate academic discipline. Even many universities have linked it to the history curriculum at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Reasonably, the question arises,

  • What is the reason for this growing importance of international relations?
  • what is the usefulness and purpose of the international relations lesson?
  • why study international relations?

One thing will become clear if we look at the current world map and analyze the real situation, each country has become incomprehensible in the international interdependence.

It is not possible to solve the problems of a country in isolation or to meet the growing needs of different kinds. In order to meet its own economic, cultural, and other needs, each state has to voluntarily enter into bilateral or multilateral agreements with other states. Instead of extreme self-reliance, therefore, an environment of interdependence and cooperation has developed.

There is currently no doubt about the usefulness of the international relations lesson. From a broadly constructive perspective, we can gain knowledge about how international relations will work, what issues need to be eliminated or accepted and considered, and how friendship can be established between different states.

International relations make people aware of important issues such as war and peace, mutual security, disarmament, international law and trade, peaceful resolution of inter-state disputes, imperialism, colonialism, national liberation movement, etc.

The history of international relations has given each country a wealth of experience in formulating and implementing its foreign policy. The breadth of its reading has created initiative and enthusiasm about the need to build an international community.

Just as international relations have inspired people towards the possibility of international society, so too it has presented the nature of disunity among different nations. International relations cannot be analyzed by mere sentimentality. Differences in the socio-economic structure of different countries are bound to affect their national and international policy.

Establishing the usefulness of international relations on a broad basis requires, on the one hand, an objective review of real events, and on the other hand, one needs to be proactive in building a proper analytical approach and theoretical basis.

The vast potential that the advancement of science and technology has created in other branches of sociology needs to be applied to international relations as well.


From the above discussion on Meaning Nature and Scope of International Relations, it can be concluded that From the above discussion on Meaning Nature and Scope of International Relations, it can be concluded that from the past or the time of the ancient empires to modern times i.e. post-World War II world politics and systems, globalization, the Soviet extinction or the famous Cold War and the Third World system, and the international nuances that are still constantly changing and circulating.

(Video) Definition Nature and Scope of IR: international relations

That is why the nature of international relations, like economics, political science and sociology, is changing. This issue needs to be considered in the light of this variability.

Let me share your experience with what you have learned in“Meaning Nature and Scope of International Relations”.

Share this with the needful students as much as you can.


  1. Palmer, Norman D., and Howard C.Perkins, International Relations-The World Community in Transition, AITBS Publishers, New Delhi, 1997.
  2. Wright, Quincy, The Study of International Relations, Appleton Century Crofts, New York, 1955.
  3. Goldstein, Joshua S., International Relations, Pearson Education, New Delhi, 2006.
  4. Jackson, Robert and George Sorensen, Introduction to International Relations-Theories and Approaches, Oxford University Press, London, 1999.
  5. Ghosh, Peu. International Relations. Prentice-Hall of India, 2016.


What is the meaning nature and scope of International Relations? ›

International Relations is an important branch of Social Science. The Scope of International relations is the complex relations existing among the sovereign states of the world. It is mainly concerned, among other things, with the study in depth of all events and situations affecting more than one state.

What is the nature of International Relations? ›

The study and practice of international relations is interdisciplinary in nature, blending the fields of economics, history, and political science to examine topics such as human rights, global poverty, the environment, economics, globalization, security, global ethics, and the political environment.

What do you mean by International Relations answer? ›

International relations attempts to explain the interactions of states in the global interstate system, and it also attempts to explain the interactions of others whose behavior originates within one country and is targeted toward members of other countries.

What is the nature and scope of International Politics? ›

I.P. can be defined as a study of those aspects of International Relations which include the conflicts and controversies at international level and their resolution. Power is both a means and an end in I.P. Conflicts are a condition of I.P.

What is the meaning of international relations PDF? ›

International relations can be defined as political activities and other kinds and aspects of. interactions among two or more states. The academic field of international relations is a. branch of political science that is concerned with the study of relations between states, th.

What is the scope of studying international relations? ›

Career Paths in International Relations After Graduation

Multilateral and intergovernmental organisations. Non-government organisations (NGOs) Banking and accounting services. Local and national governments as government relations consultant.

Why is international relations important? ›

International relations imparts transferable skills in history, politics, analysis, and research. These skills allow you to critically interpret the contemporary world, and analyse the shifting complexities that dynamically occur in politics.

What is international relations introduction? ›

An Introduction to International Relations is a comprehensive introduction to the history, theories, developments and debates that shape the dynamic discipline of international relations and contemporary world politics.

Who is father of international relations? ›

As the father of the realist theory of international relations, Hans Morgenthau consistently argued that international politics is governed by the competitive and conflictual nature of humankind.

What are the types of international relations? ›

International relations features different types of scholarship. These types are metaphor, history, theory, engineering, and pattern recognition.

What is the meaning and nature of International Politics? ›

International Politics basically involves the art of preserving or securing goals of national interests by using control over other nations. It is the process by which each nation tries to safeguard and secure its interests in conditions of conflict with other nations.

What is the scope of international law? ›

The objective of the International Law is to achieve global justice and resolve the dispute amicably, that ultimately helps individuals. The development of many areas in the International Law such as International Human Rights Law with the objective to protect the interest of the individual.

What is the meaning and definition of International Politics? ›

International Politics is about the world we live in, the challenges we face, power and struggles, and the opportunities and the obstacles for relations among peoples, societies, states, organsiations.

What is international word? ›

1 : of, relating to, or affecting two or more nations international trade. 2 : of, relating to, or constituting a group or association having members in two or more nations international movement. 3 : active, known, or reaching beyond national boundaries an international reputation.

What is the major international relations? ›

International relations is an interdisciplinary major dealing with today's global problems and potential solutions. You may choose to focus on world trade and development; peace and security; global environment, health and natural resources; or peoples and nationalities.

What is the origin of international relations? ›

History of international relations. Studies of international relations start thousands of years ago; Barry Buzan and Richard Little consider the interaction of ancient Sumerian city-states, starting in 3,500 BC, as the first fully-fledged international system.

What is the scope of international relations in India? ›

Job Opportunities

International Relations professionals can become political journalists and analysts of diplomatic relations. In the government sector, boundless opportunities are available as policy analysts, Indian foreign services and in the diplomacy department.

What is international relation discuss its scope PDF? ›

It is a major determinant of the policies of the leading states of the world and of international relations generally. In international relations one studies the nature, elements and measurement of national power, balance of power, power equations and limitations on national power.

Who sets international law? ›

Since most international law is governed by treaties, it's usually up to the individual nations to enforce the law. However, there are a few international organizations that enforce certain treaties. The most notable example is the United Nations, which has 192 member states.

Which course is international relation? ›

The subject is often categorised as either political science or interdisciplinary. These degrees cover areas of politics, law, history, geography and economics.

Who founded international relations? ›

This first meaning of the term 'international' relations was coined by Jeremy Bentham – it makes it first appearance in his 1789 book Principles of Morals and Legislation.

What are the types of realism? ›

realist thought can be divided into three branches: human nature realism, state-centric realism and system-centric realism.

When did international relations started? ›

The field of international relations emerged at the beginning of the 20th century largely in the West and in particular in the United States as that country grew in power and influence.

What are the 3 main IR theories? ›

This article identifies Realism, Liberalism, and Constructivism as the three major branches of IR theory. These three branches have replaced the earlier realism-idealism dichotomy.

What are the four IR theories? ›

The five main theories of international relations include: realism theory, liberalism theory, Marxism theory, constructivism theory, and feminism theory.

Why is IR theory important? ›

IR theory helps describe how policy makers see the world and how this influences policy making. Theory influences their perspectives and inform their biases and thus, deserve study and analysis. Three predominant schools of thought attempt to explain the way states behave: realism, liberalism, and constructivism.

What is the nature of International Politics? ›

International Politics basically involves the art of preserving or securing goals of national interests by using control over other nations. It is the process by which each nation tries to safeguard and secure its interests in conditions of conflict with other nations.

What are the scope of international organizations? ›

Meaning and scope of international organizations
  • I. Its origin is based on multilateral international agreement.
  • II. The institution has a personality of its own, which is distinct from that of its individual members.
  • III. It has permanent organs which carry out common aims.
Apr 8, 2012

What are the importance of international relations? ›

International relations imparts transferable skills in history, politics, analysis, and research. These skills allow you to critically interpret the contemporary world, and analyse the shifting complexities that dynamically occur in politics.

What are the 4 main functions of international organizations? ›

International organisations function in the following ways:
  • Articulation and aggregation.
  • Norms creation.
  • Recruitment.
  • Socialisation.
  • Rule-making.
  • Rule-application.
  • Rule-adjudication.
  • Information.
Mar 5, 2015

What are the two types of international organizations? ›

There are two types of international organizations: governmental and non-governmental.

What is the meaning of international organization? ›

An international organization is one that includes members from more than one nation. Some international organizations are very large, such as business corporations. Others are small and dedicated to a specific purpose, such as conservation of a species. Intergovernmental Organizations.


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