International Relations Theory and United Nations Peace: Essay

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International Relations Theory and United Nations Peace:

International Relations (IR) field normally focuses on the study of how various state systems can be made to work more efficiently to improve the power of law, maintain order, manage interstate affairs peacefully, and lessen prospects of war. The word relation in this field is used to denote the inclusion of more than political affairs to aspects like conflict and peace. International relations field is closely linked administratively to political science departments (O'Connor, 2010). Actually, the field of international relations traces its origin from various subfields including international law, diplomatic history, and international economics. While it's still early to consider international relations as a sovereign field of study, it has broken from the analytical procedures of economics and law as well as the ongoing process of breaking from political science. Consequently, this field has become an important facet because of the conceptualizations of governments, nations, states, and regimes. International relations theory has developed to become a critical aspect of the United Nations contribution to peace.

The Field of International Relations:

As an aspect that is developing to become an independent field of study, international relations field has various basic content areas such as the policy and policymaking of states, nations, governments, and regimes. This field also consists of government organization, state building techniques, levels of governance, globalization, governance and accountability, and types of power structures, economic systems and belief systems. International relations field is an assorted area of study that borrows ideas from various study areas like psychology, sociology, cultural studies, criminal justice, philosophy, and anthropology.

The field of International Relations reflects complexities across the globe resulting in the use of several exhortations, concepts, and theories by IR scholars to explain it (Goldstein, 2007). Since its inception, this field has been a policy-oriented discipline that not only seeks to evaluate foreign policy but to assist in formulating it. Consequently, researchers normally make value judgments or conclude certain issues because of the use of the general normative perspective. The few basic principles that shape the field of International Relations are within the various global complexities that it reflects.

International Relations field basically revolves around one major problem i.e. how groups can serve collective interests in the wake of the need for their members to forgo their individual interests. The problem of conflicting interests among group members as compared to shared interests is known through various names in different contexts. In the modern society, International Relations field is a very wide concept that not only incorporates relations between states but it also involves non-state organizations like multinational corporations (Wilkinson, 2007, p. 1).

International Relations Theory:

International relations theory basically focuses on organizing generalizations regarding international politics, which is a huge field. As a huge field, international politics explore everything such as wars, global human rights' demand, revolutions, international trade, and global gender inequalities. Apart from presenting the various happenings in the outside world, International Relations theory is basically a collection of global stories about international politics (Weber, 2009, p. 2).

In the field or discipline of International Relations, there are various controversial general theories or theoretical perspectives (Korab-Karpowicz, 2010). Though it's always explained as the theory that seeks to describe the past and future state behavior, International Relations theory is usually difficult to define. However, this definition of international relations theory regarding state behavior has become a controversial explanation among many theorists. Traditionally, theories on International Relations can generally be classified based on their focus on state, state systems, and human beings as the main source of conflict (Cristol, n.d.). International Relations theory has several major branches including


This is also known as political realism and it's a perspective of international politics that focuses the conflictual and competitive side. This perspective was the dominant theoretical tradition during the entire period of the Cold War. The realism theory of international relations portrays international affairs as the battle for power between self-interested states. Realism is also pessimistic about the possibility of eradicating war and conflict in international affairs. This concept was dominant during the Cold War period because it offered simple yet powerful explanations for imperialism, cooperation obstacles, alliances, and war.

However, this concept is not a single theory since it incorporates the neorealist theory that focused on the impacts of the international system and disregarded human nature (Walt, 2000). The international system that was
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impacted by the neorealist theory consisted several great powers that were seeking to survive. Realism assumes that the international system is anarchic since it considers the basic actors in international affairs to be sovereign states instead of international institutions.


Liberalism theory of International Relations believes in giving people more freedom and liberty would result in the disappearance of authoritarian political patterns, flourishing of democracies, and the guarantee of world peace. Generally, proponents of this concept normally support representative democracy, collective rule of law, and constitutional government. As compared to realism, liberalism emphasizes co-operation and developed as a principle challenge to realism. Liberalism concepts of International Relations theory imply that cooperation is more all-encompassing than the defensive version of realism. Actually, liberalism view peace as the institutionalization of political, economic, and social aspects for cooperation, governance, and regulation (Richmond, 2008, p. 9).


Unlike realism and liberalism concepts of international relations theory that focus on material factors like trade or power, the constructivism theory emphasize on the impact of ideas. This notion focus on the identities and interests of states as highly compliant products of specific historical processes rather than disregarding state and assuming that the states seek to survive. The theory focuses on the prevailing discourses in society because they reflect and shape norms of behaviors, beliefs, and interests.

Constructivism is an international relations theory explores state behaviors in the context of the characteristics of states. This is largely because all states are unique and consists of various political, economic, social, religious, or cultural characteristics that have huge impact on foreign policies. As part of its focus on the independence of states, these states have identities that define their behavior in the international system (Newmann, n.d.). Similar to liberalism and unlike realism, the main focus of constructivism is international cooperation as critical aspects of the international affairs and system.

One of the most notable aspects of this concept is that it developed because of the perceived weaknesses of realism and liberalism. The main assumptions underlying in this approach is that norms, cultures, and identities are significant aspects that play important roles in world politics. States' identities and interests are not merely determined structurally but they are created by cultures, norms, institutions, and interactions (Tan, 2010). Therefore, process is the main factor that determines state interactions instead of structure.

International Relations Theory and UN Peacekeeping:

The United Nations peacekeeping initiatives have risen to prominence as instruments of international action because of its promise of the usual reversal of politics and the establishment of a more equitable world. Practices that developed in the organization's traditional peacekeeping have developed a peacekeeping culture that reinforced the belief through the association of strategic policy and operational actions (Rubinstein, 2010, p. 1). The United Nations was created for the purpose of promoting and sustaining international security, which incorporates several commitments to re-envisage the world in a more equitable way. Following its inception, the United Nations played a critical role in decolonization and established peacekeeping as a means of minimizing and ending conflicts.

The United Nations peacekeeping initiatives were based on the established set of practices that form the peacekeeping culture and have become recognized across the globe. Consequently, the organization's peacekeeping practices and culture as instruments for international action have obtained and sustained legitimacy. Peacekeeping became more rapidly used in a broad range of situations towards the end of the Cold War more than it was initially designed. Currently, peacekeeping is increasingly being outsourced and used as a means of boosting national interests and propagate the neoliberal perspective of good governance.

Peacekeeping and the protection of people became the organizing model for the United Nations responsibility as a collective security organization in the new millennium. This task by the United States has also developed to include human security as the legitimizing principle for intervention. As an international security organization, United Nation's main goal is not only to ensure the stability of the global legal order through military deployments and diplomacy but also involves calming the risk of harmful events that affect the lives of populations (Zanotti, 2010, p. 2).

Therefore, the contribution of the United Nations to peace across the globe cannot be underestimated because they are significant. The United Nations contribution to peace can be explained through the International Relations theory in the following ways

Third-party Intervention:

Third-party interventions normally become a prerequisite in the process of peacekeeping and conflict resolution because conflicting parties are usually least equipped to design a solution and end fighting. The term third-party interventions is one of the ways through which international relations theory explains United Nations' contribution of peace…

Sources Used in Documents:


Ahmed, S. Keating P. & Solinas, U (2007), 'Shaping the Future of UN Peace Operations: is there

A Doctrine In the House?' Cambridge Review of International Affairs, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 11-28, viewed 26 November 2011,

Cristol, J (n.d.), International Relations Theory, Oxford Bibliographies Online, viewed 26

November 2011, <;jsessionid=13BE65FA0ABD1A54057C83C4FD6FDB1C>

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