Subject Matter or Actor of International Relations

The participants in international relations, often called actors, have a great influence on the relationships between nations and on world affairs. The major participants include the nations themselves, the leaders of those nations, sub-state actors (groups or organizations within a nation), transnational actors (organizations operating in more than one country), and international organizations.

  1. Nations: International Relations study the relations between two or more Nations, which are influenced by a variety of geopolitical, historical, racial, religious, ideological, strategic and leadership factors. It deals with inter-state or international relations rather than intra-state or domestic action. It is a study of inter-state relationship and regional affairs and such an academic concern is also known as area of studies. The relationship of state and its impact in the world politics is a subject matter. Like relationship of Israel and Palestine, its impact in the Middle East Asia as well as interests of UAS and its role for peace talk is a current subject matter of the International Relations.

The nations themselves are the most important actors in international relations. A nation is a territory with a defined border and a government that answers to no higher authority than its own. All or part of the population shares a group identity, often based on a combination of common ancestry, language, or culture. In 1997 there were 186 recognized nations in the world. There also are a number of political entities sometimes thought of as nations. These include territories that function independently, such as Taiwan, which is officially considered a province of China; colonies, such as Martinique; and nations that are not yet recognized, such as Palestine. Also included in this list is Vatican City, which does not fit into any of these categories.

Nations vary in size and power—from the United States with a $7 trillion economy and China with more than 1 billion people to nations with fewer than 100,000 people, such as Andorra and Greenland. Size and power are two important variables in determining a nation’s relationships with other countries and its influence in international affairs. The handfuls of the most powerful nations that control most of the world’s military and economic strength are called great powers. The great powers include the United States, Great Britain, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), France, China, Germany, and Japan. These powers are the most important actors in international relations.

  1. Leaders and Government of Nations: The most important individual actor within a nation is the top leader of that country. The top leader is the person who has the primary political power or authority in country. For example, the top leader in Great Britain is the prime minister, who is the head of government and has the most political power, even though the king or queen of that country is considered the head of state. The top leader in the United States is the president.

The interactions of the governments of two or more sovereign states can take place within a multi-state system for different proposes and that will be a subject matter for the international relations. Like the relationship of Bhutan and India, China and Taipei, Italy-Monaco and Vatican City etc.

  1. Sub-state Actors: Besides the top leader of a nation, there are other groups and individuals within that nation that influence its international relationships. These domestic actors, called substate actors, include particular industries with distinct interests in foreign policy (such as the automobile or tobacco industry) and ethnic constituencies with ties to foreign countries, as well as labor unions, cities, and regions. All of these actors may be affected by international events differently from each other or the country where they operate. These groups can influence a nation’s foreign policy in several ways, such as by lobbying political leaders, donating money to political candidates or parties, or swaying public opinion on certain issues.

Foreign trade is an important instrument to build the political and economical relation among the states. Various international regulations affect foreign trade one way or the other. Economic aid policies and practices of the develop countries, as well as the developing countries, commodity agreements, tariff barriers, exchange regulations, international economic agencies like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund etc., are some of the issues that concern the students of international relations.

Politics divide world community in different group on the basis of ideology, race, culture and regional and economic interests, like the communist countries, the non-aligned countries, the Arab world, African countries etc. International relations studies the factors that contributes to the growth of political and military alliances within the different groups, the degree of their unity and the resulting impact on the balance of power situation among the states concerned. These types of political and military alliances are created because of the defense interests of the state too.

  1. Transnational Actors or International Institutions and Organization: The international organizations provide forums for cooperation and conflict-resolution and are governed by their own rules. These organizations are formed with a view to foster economic, military, cultural cooperation among the member states. Some are regional groups and some are global organizations. Because, all of these organizations have inter-state relations, they form a subject matter of international relations of their geographical area.

Organizations operating in more than one country are known as transnational actors. They often have specific interests in international issues that differ from those of any nation. Transnational actors include multinational corporations. They also include nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as Planned Parenthood and the Roman Catholic Church, which promote their interests across international borders. NGOs often align themselves with particular nations that support their interests, and come into conflict with those that show lack of support. Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) are groups whose members are national governments. Examples of intergovernmental organizations include the European Union (EU) and the Intelsat Satellite Consortium. They are usually created to promote cooperation between different nations on a particular issue or in a particular geographic region. Nongovernmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations together are called international organizations.

  1. Foreign Policy: Every state has their own foreign policy to deals with other states. International relations study the foreign policy and its formulation factors to deals with the nation concerned. Various agencies contribute to the shaping of a country’s foreign policy. Some states are mostly influenced by their own domestic affairs/pressure to shape their foreign policy.
  2. Power: International politics is a “struggle of Power” and international relations are a core of international politics, so “Power”, which will guide the state to maintain their relations in world community, was also an important subject matter. It studies elements of national power that contribute to the state’s strength internally and the balance of power situation that setting its power position externally.
  3. Evaluating the Influence of Actors:

Scholars of international relations have divided the various influences on international events into different categories, or levels of analysis. There are three widely used levels of analysis: (1) individual actors, (2) domestic influences, and (3) interstate influences. Some scholars also study a fourth level of analysis, global influences.

In the individual level of analysis, scholars study the concerns, perceptions and choices of the individual people involved—great leaders, crazy leaders, activists, or individual citizens. For example, if the assassin of Archduke Francis Ferdinand in 1914 had bungled the job, World War I might not have broken out when it did.

In the domestic level of analysis, scholars look at how international relations is influenced by domestic actors, including special interest groups, political organizations, and government agencies. Scholars study how different kinds of societies and governments behave, such as democracies versus dictatorships. They also look at the politics of ethnic conflict and nationalism, both of which can lead to international conflict and war. The domestic level of analysis is also called the state or societal level.

In the interstate level of analysis, scholars focus on the interactions of states themselves, without regard to their internal makeup or the particular individuals who lead them. For realists, this is the most important level because it looks at how a nation’s relative power compared with other nations affects its behavior. The interstate level of analysis is also called the international or systemic level of analysis.

Some scholars also look at the global level of analysis. In this analysis, scholars study how global trends and forces, such as technological change and the global environment, affect international relations. They also study how the lingering effects of colonialism influence international relations.

Elements Of International Relations:

It is a fact that the international affairs condition domestic of a state. Domestic policy and foreign policy must be co-existensive and co-existing complementary to each other. It would be a damaging for a country to have different policies for its internal and external affairs, because what a state does at home is bound to be reflected in its dealings with other countries. Not even a single State can adopt a foreign policy which is detrimental to the Interests of the world community. But there are certain factors which are essentially responsible for determination of the foreign policy of a country in relation to other States and the international relations are largely affected by these factors. Following is the classification of the factors