Is it worth studying International Relations today?

At the beginning of 2015, the world looks more confused than ever. So one would assume that we do need a lot of good specialists to bring a sense of clarity and transparency to what is happening in Global Politics. Alas, what we see is that a lot of people in most countries give up understanding the chaos, resigning in the face of too much complexity. This includes decision makers who are skeptical re. the interference of self-appointed specialists. Plus, media reporting on global affairs is about as simplistic as the reality is complicated.
So why should young people today start a career by studying International Relations/ Global Politics? What can they expect from such a degree? What can taxpayers expect from such an investment? And politicians from these experts?

  1. Shen Dingli 4 days ago

    The reason why contemporary international relations are complicated or even confusing is that they are not “science”. Sciences are defined as patterns repeatable under the same condition. However, international
    relations or global politics cannot be measured as science with the latter’s “scientific sampling or measuring”. As a social science, it doesn’t have exactly the same samples so the patterns could never be understood with perfection. For instance, history will never exactly repeat itself. Therefore, though political science is called “science”, it is “scientifically” different from that of the natural sciences.

    Despite this, such a unique feature of social science gives no reason why it shall not be studied well. Aristotle used to state that “political science is the science of all sciences”, as it is the subject that affects all dimensions of our society and life. Clearly, one has to explore what underlies political sciences such as international politics. For a long time, people tended to explain international relations through the lens of different schools of thought such as realism, idealism, constructivism etc. To be honest, all these make sense but none of them could be uniquely sufficient.

    Just as the causes of climate change are still subject to debate within the scientific community, with the change of time, the causes of social science are also undergoing constant scrutiny. In terms of international politics, such studies have traditionally been combined with economics, sociology, law and history. Contemporary international relations need to be further integrated with statistics, psychology etc. While modern international relations are increasingly intertwined with many other disciplines, each individual statesman, political scientist and journalist is increasingly less capable of commanding all disciplines and all information to qualify as a master scholar. This may partly explain why the world is more confusing, but it precisely demands us to conduct more pertinent study so we won’t be confused.

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  2. Alexei Voskressenski 4 days ago

    I do believe that now is a time for young people to choose IR and International Politics to make our world better. Though the world is indeed in disarray, there are two main reasons for that: the new complexity of the world and our inadequacy to understand this complexity. Both reasons imply new intellectual and practical challenges to answer this complexity: a need to reformat the discipline, to de-Westernize it, to infuse new methods and to make it really interdisciplinary. To make our world better and safer, we need new, better trained people in the discipline, a new generation of practitioners. It is wiser for taxpayers to spend money on this purpose than on armor, rockets and guns. And it is also a challenge for young people to succeed where we have failed.

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  3. Hildegard Müller 3 days ago

    Understanding of complex interrelationships, profound knowledge of other countries, political systems, and different mentalities, an interest in people and the ability to combine this knowledge: this seems to me these days as a set of tools that is needed. This will benefit not only politics. Companies are operating in an increasingly international environment and have to deal with geopolitical issues and cultural differences. Thus, expertise can play an important role in making business decisions. One could say that “soft skills” are becoming ever more important for deciding hard facts.

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  4. Panayotis Tsakonas 1 day ago

    Studying International Relations/Global Politics is actually about organizing one’s observations and knowledge of an ever-changing world in a coherent, structured and systematic way as well as about being equipped with the methodological tools for understanding and, most importantly, explaining complex social and international phenomena.

    Apparently, to study how to carefully observe, record and analyze the results of data-gathering in order –through testing– to discard, modify, reformulate or confirm a hypothesis is worth the effort for the young people’s future endeavors either in academia or in the policy making realm –when they are commissioned to conduct research for governments, foundations, and NGOs that want specific questions answered.

    However, why should young people invest in studying IR by getting a degree and even start a career by studying international relations? Is there a return from such an investment for a state’s taxpayers?

    Well, young people are living in a world of (independent) states, which profoundly affects the way they live. Yet today’s state system, mainly challenged by the forces of globalization, struggles to find ways to adapt to new challenges so as to keep providing its people the core values that states are expected to uphold, namely security, freedom, order, justice and welfare. IR scholars and specialists are exactly what a modern state needs most: the ones who can provide a true sense of clarity and rational thinking and contribute to the general public awareness and understanding about how things work in today’s complex world, and how a state should organize itself in order to keep providing its people with the aforementioned core values.
    Although IR specialists can hardly manage to make a fortune out of this undertaking, such a demanding task always proves interesting, if not exciting. It can also be immensely personally and professionally rewarding, particularly when one’s ideas can be translated into policy.

    Furthermore, IR specialists have much to offer to foreign policy practitioners and a better linkage and interaction between them can produce a more effective foreign policy.
    Examples: By making their theory-related work more accessible to policy makers, IR specialists can turn themselves into “public entrepreneurs”, who can advocate new ideas, define and reframe problems, specify policy alternatives, broker ideas among many policy actors, mobilize public opinion, and help set the decision-making agenda.
    The input of Area and/or Country Experts that underlines the peculiarities of a region and/or a country is invaluable to decision makers for it prevents them from making misperceptions or fallacious estimates as well as from simplistic and misleading assessments through analogizing.

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2 Comments

  1. Terry Muvanya-Wischman 3 days ago

    Hopeless as it seems I still think hope is not lost.The double standards of some states in dealing with international relations makes it almost a joke to study theories of solving World conflicts.How can we make senseof it all if a dictator all he needs to say to fight freedom fighters is to label them terrorists? How sane are some of the decisions made by people who studied this discipline in the Oslo accord and in the security council? The situation is more compounded by biased Media owned by political party financiaers.Iwillnot be suprised that the same”undergroundempire”has also infiltrated institutionsof higher learning to influence theories with lies.Alarming as it sounds Istill think scholars of good will, will wither this storm and equip students with unbiased theories that will create more harmony in the all seemingly murky world of international relations.

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  2. Yang xiaoping 3 days ago

    Only true interest and sincere curiosity to THIS world would be the right motivations for you to choose IR as the majoy for your master or ph.d degree. If your goal is to make a lot of money to change your physical life, it’s better for you to step away from this research. It could not make you earn a lot of money, but instead it will make your life meaningful, fullfillful and think independently, for what you consider everyday is how to make this world better, how to make people expand their shared interest, and how to sell your ideas to those policy-makers to re-think NATIONAL INTEREST in a broader way. You are still nothing, but who knows, maybe one day one of your ideas could change the bi-lateral relations, even the world.

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