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Looking Through International Relations

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Abstract

It is always discussed whether international relations is a discipline or only a part of political science. International Relations, as an independent discipline, still requires efforts to prove its quality in the eyes of scholars, politicians and with a great importance, the students. Although it is easier to accept it as a discipline, it is still necessary to tell and keep the story of its evolution on the scene as it is now one of most required area of study in this era. Now, the assumptions of IR theories are much more needed, its future prospects have more potential to analyse the world politics since the nature of international politics is evolving. The aim of this study is to tell a short history of international relations and the sources of IR as a discipline including how much IR owes to its Great Debates. As a part of the story, it is argued that the nature of international relations is cyclical which is now turning back to the starting point, to the times when international relations did not even exist, in a different form. ÖZ Uluslararası ilişkilerin bir disiplin olup olmadığı, ya da siyaset biliminin bir parçası olduğuna yönelik bir tartışma mevcuttur. Uluslararası İlişkilerin, ayrı bir disiplin olarak, akademisyenler, siyasetçiler ve öğrencilerin gözündeki önemini ortaya koymak hala önemli bir çaba gerektirir. Artık disiplin olduğu kabul edilir olsa da; çağımızın en önemli çalışma alanı olarak, Uluslararası İlişkilerin geçirdiği evrimin hikâyesinin anlatılması gereklidir. Uluslararası İlişkiler teorilerinin varsayımlarına ve dünya politikasını analiz etmek için yapacağı gözlemlere, günümüzde daha çok ihtiyaç vardır. Bu çalışmanın amacı da uluslararası ilişkilerin kısa tarihini anlatmak ve bir disiplin haline gelmesinde Büyük Tartışmaların yerini de göstererek, Uluslararası İlişkilerin kaynaklarını ortaya koymaktır. Bu hikayenin bir parçası olarak, uluslararası ilişkilerin doğasının döngüsel olduğu ve uluslararası ilişkilerin var olmadığı kabul edilen zamanlara, başladığı yere, yeni bir formda, dönmekte olduğu tartışılmıştır.
LOOKING THROUGH INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Zeynep Selin BALCI*
ABSTRACT
It is always discussed whether international relations is a discipline or only a part of political science.
International Relations, as an independent discipline, still requires efforts to prove its quality in the eyes
of scholars, politicians and with a great importance, the students. Although it is easier to accept it as a
discipline, it is still necessary to tell and keep the story of its evolution on the scene as it is now one of
most required area of study in this era. Now, the assumptions of IR theories are much more needed, its
future prospects have more potential to analyse the world politics since the nature of international
politics is evolving. The aim of this study is to tell a short history of international relations and the
sources of IR as a discipline including how much IR owes to its Great Debates. As a part of the story, it
is argued that the nature of international relations is cyclical which is now turning back to the starting
point, to the times when international relations did not even exist, in a different form.
Key Words: Great Debates of IR, history of international relations, international relations, IR theories,
West-centrism
* PhD student and research assistant at Department of International Relations, Ege University, Izmir, Turkey.
Makale Gönderim Tarihi: 9.10.2020
Makale Kabul Tarihi: 11.12.2020
ULUSLARARASI İLİŞKİLERE BAKIŞ
ÖZ
Uluslararası ilişkilerin bir disiplin olup olmadığı, ya da siyaset biliminin bir parçası olduğuna yönelik
bir tartışma mevcuttur. Uluslararası İlişkilerin, ayrı bir disiplin olarak, akademisyenler, siyasetçiler ve
öğrencilerin gözündeki önemini ortaya koymak hala önemli bir çaba gerektirir. Artık disiplin olduğu
kabul edilir olsa da; çağımızın en önemli çalışma alanı olarak, Uluslararası İlişkilerin geçirdiği evrimin
hikâyesinin anlatılması gereklidir. Uluslararası İlişkiler teorilerinin varsayımlarına ve dünya politikasını
analiz etmek için yapacağı gözlemlere, günümüzde daha çok ihtiyaç vardır. Bu çalışmanın amacı da
uluslararası ilişkilerin kısa tarihini anlatmak ve bir disiplin haline gelmesinde Büyük Tartışmaların
yerini de göstererek, Uluslararası İlişkilerin kaynaklarını ortaya koymaktır. Bu hikayenin bir parçası
olarak, uluslararası ilişkilerin doğasının döngüsel olduğu ve uluslararası ilişkilerin var olmadığı kabul
edilen zamanlara, başladığı yere, yeni bir formda, dönmekte olduğu tartışılmıştır.
Anahtar Kelimeler: Batı-merkezcilik, Büyük Tartışmalar, uluslararası ilişkiler, uluslararası ilişkiler
tarihi, Uluslararası İlişkiler Teorileri,
1. INTRODUCTION
In the history of humankind, the biggest threat is always the one against its survival. Scarcity,
hunger, pandemics, being out of shelter and most of the time, as their cause, war are the biggest
threat for humanity. For this respect, the main purpose of the commonality, gathering around
common history and goals, happens to be finding ways of protection from wars. Along this
purpose, humankind has built different systems, structures or chains of relationship. In today’s
world, there is firstly, the need of a system in order to explain and understand the structure of
economics, politics, society and law, and the relationship amongst them. This system is
obviously constructed between the nations but the naming, has changed throughout the history.
The quality that it happens between nations and involves interactions of all actors defined the
system. This kind of relational chain which is now appropriate to call “world system” or “global
system” is named “international system” or “states system”. The international system is a
network of interactions within predetermined boundaries which has flexible sides lacking a
coercion mechanism though having strict rules and including relationships of its supposedly
main actors, states, with each other and non-state actors. The flexibility and non-uniformity of
the system depends on the actors’ relations with each other. Economic and political
environment inside the system cause renewal, loose or tightening. International system, in this
regard, is constituted generally by the international relations.
The term “international relations”, naturally, brings up the interactions of nations to the mind
at first. The reason why this definition seems lacking is the fact that there had not long been a
discipline of international relations. As a result, it is a necessary point to discuss the process of
its evolution towards a discipline. Most of the international relations students still need the
descriptive definition of what International Relations is as a discipline before starting to
understand the nature of international relations analytically. In this sense, after the start of the
IR discipline, it is valuable to tell the history of the theories which tries to describe and explain
the nature and how it ought to be, and the great debates these theories started. The International
Relations which is now a discipline and has its own theories brings the need to analyse its
evolution, together with the necessity to the ability of answering to the question of what
international relations is.
It is argued in this study that international relations is itself a cycle which seems like going
backwards in the hands of dominant actors. In this regard, in order to project any kind of future
of the discipline and relational aspect, it needs to be understood how the history of international
relations and the discipline evolves and how it can be characterized as a cycle. For this reason,
it starts with explaining the history of International Relations as a discipline and the phases of
becoming a discipline. After acknowledging why it should be accepted as a discipline, it is told
the story of international relations and its shape before its existence starting from the times of
Antiquity and then Middle Ages, continuing with Modern Age. Taking all this history into
account, then it gives the situation of cycle today with a prospect for the future.
2. THE DISCIPLINE OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1970’li yıllarda Robert O. In order to understand the current conditions of International
Relations in Social Sciences or Humanities, this chapter explains the discipline of International
Relations. In this respect, it answers the questions of what a discipline is, how international
relations became a discipline. First and foremost, it starts with the observable quality of
international relations in writing. Then, it gives the definition of a discipline followed by the
process of study of international relations to become a discipline.
To differentiate the disciplinary side of international relations from relational side, there is
writing code. It is written “international relations” – with small letters , when used in relational
context. As a discipline, on the other hand, its initials are written with capital letters as
“International Relations”. In most of the literature, this differentiation is pointed out in
footnotes. However, as a response to the discussions over IR on whether it is a discipline or
interdisciplinary or a part of multi-disciplines, it needs to openly highlight the standpoint of the
author.
Quincy Wright, a political scientist, refers that there is an awareness of area’s existence and the
boundaries separating it from other studies and there are exclusive research methods, when he
defines a discipline. (Wright, 1995, s. 28) Given the definition that requirements of a discipline
are a community of scholars and a defined and certain focus of this community, International
Relations is one and single discipline. This discipline can be defined as “the whole of a
community who defines themselves as workers of international relations”. (Yurdusev, 2004, s.
24) It is pursuant to think that the studies necessary for the birth of International Relations
started with “An Introduction to the Study of International Relations” book edited by Arthur
James Grant, in 1916, right after the start of World War I (WWI). However, the community of
scholars commenced in 1919 when the Woodrow Wilson Chair of International Politics was
found in the Aberyswyth University, Wales, UK with Alfred Zimmern as its chair. The purpose
of its foundation was to prevent a new war and preserve the peace. The maturing period started
with the foundation of Chair of International Relations at London School of Economics (LSE)
under Lord Philip Noel-Baker and of Los Angeles University of International Relations under
Robert English in 1924, followed by founding “Montague Burton Chair of International
Relations” in UK, starting at University of Oxford in 1930 and at LSE in 1936. (LSE15; Abel15;
Oxf15; SIR15) In this era, it used to be common to see “International Relations and Political
Science” under sections of “International Politics”.
The second central feature of a discipline, the construction of theories started with the first great
debate created unintentionally by Edward Hallett Carr. Carr’s novel book of “Twenty Years’
Crisis (1919-1939)” starts with a chapter on “Science of International Politics” although he
claimed that his purpose was not to write about international relations. However, he pointed out
the reality that war was not anymore a business of soldiers but of diplomats and statesmen,
together with international politics to include political parties, intellectual circles and
universities. As he accepted that international politics was evolving into being science and for
that reason, he claimed to explain the international politics, not international relations
1
. (Carr,
1939/1981, s. 3-4) His perspective on international relations without being a discipline was
more common than today as it was thought that it was a part of multidisciplinary study area
which includes International Politics, International Economy, Political Science, Diplomatic
History and International Law.
International Relations, as international politics, entered its infancy period in the UK with the
scholarship who would describe the politics between nations, separately than statesmen and
diplomats, to explain the theoretical foundations of the practices. (Carr, 1939/1981, s. 2; Carr,
2010, ss. 51-2) By founding Royal House of International Affaris, a.k.a. Chatham House, in
London, Council of Foreign Relations in New York, Institute for Advanced International
Studies Intstitude des Hautes Etudés Internationales in Genova opened the activities of
international relations a new area. This ideational focal points and particular supporters for
1
He explained his regret to be understood as international relations scholar, in his letters to Stanley Hoffman by
saying “whatever role I have to start this thing, - meaning International Relations I am not sure that I am
proud of it”. (Letter to Stanley Hoffman, 30 September 1977; quoted in Carr, 2010: 5)
developments in international relations studies, as Carnegie Council, Rockefeller Foundation,
later Ford Foundation were also indicated as the vanguards of the discipline, downplaying the
role of scholars. (Eralp, 2004, s. 66) The development for International Relations to become
separate chairs and department in the USA happened after the end of World War II. With this
development, as Carr said, International Relations became more Anglo-Saxon oriented
discipline led by the USA. (Yurdusev, 2004, s. 27; Eralp, 2004, s. 66)
3. THE GREAT DEBATES OF IR
As of the requirements of a discipline, IR’s theoretical evolution need to be explained in detail.
This evolution, in this sense, has happened within the discipline’s great theoretical debates. The
first of the debate, started with the traditions of IR which takes the origins and prevails in the
development. These traditions, on this regard, started to appear in between the two world wars.
(Özlük, 2009, p. 250; Özlük, 2014, p.76) The first debate was called between idealism and
realism. Although for the scholars who takes the foundational roots of discipline before 1919
does not believe idealism is constituent, it is not wrong to say discipline started its development
and became authentic by separating from the others. (Schmidt, 2002, p. 13,14; Saban et al.
2007, p. 226) Nevertheless, there are also perspectives that the two were not totally different as
they both accept nation-states as main actors, take study area as Europe. (Denemark, 1999: 43)
One side of the first debate longed between 1919-1950 was idealism which impressed
Woodrow Wilson, the founding father of League of Nations founded after the WWI. While
having its origins from the suitability of human nature to cooperation, idealism proposed the
ways to prevent war as using international law, trade, international organizations, open
diplomacy, the right to self-determination and disarmament. Under its spirit, there were
concrete developments of the Peace of Locarno, Briand-Kellog Pact, London and Washington
Naval Disarmament Treaties. However, since idealism could not have any answer to the
ineffectiveness of League of Nations on Japan’s occupation of Manchurya, the rise of anti-
democratic regimes and the armament race, as well as the effects of Great Depression, it
resulted idealism to be seen as more like utopianism. As utopianism started to fail, realism
which proposed to provide the balance of power through armament started to gain power. The
growth of realism’s concepts – deterrence, national interest, security, power etc. intensified
when the League of Nations was not able to prevent the World War II. The debate between
idealism and its waxing enemy realism continued until 1950s, but it was also crucial to define
the discipline’s basic concepts and necessary methods. (Özlük, 2014, p. 77; Griffiths, 1992;
Carr, 1939/1981)
It was on 1950s for new approaches to emerge which criticized and rejected realism’s
determinism and rationale of international relations entwined around power, by depending on
the assumption that both sides of the first debate were weak and pale and they are essentially
the same. These new approaches were called behaviouralists who called the older approaches
traditionalists. (Hollis et al. 2000, p. 853; Özlük, 2009, p. 251) Behaviouralism, supported by
Morton Kaplan, David Singer, Harold Buetzkow, Karl W. Deutsch and Richard Singer, agreed
on that traditionalists tried to explain the discipline philosophically and as a result, were not
able to explain international relations. They proposed different tools as systemic models,
decision-making approaches, game theories, conflict management while supporting the
appliance of natural science’s research methods in IR. (Potter, 1990, p. 107; Özlük, 2009, p.
252; 2014, p. 77) Traditionalists, on the other hand, objected the use of natural science’s
methods in IR by pointing out that these methods would fail because they would neglect the
effects of history and the researcher and by this way, they would oversimplify the problems of
international relations. Led by Hedley Bull, traditionalists saw the empirical evaluations as a
threat to the discipline. (Bull, 1966)
During the second debate, lasted between 1950-1970, there was a new debate between
paradigms. It started when the last two theoretical debates could not explain the developments
of Cold War as de-colonization, globalisation, rise of non-state actors, Oil Crisis of 1973 and
Vietnam War and between neo-realism and neo-liberalism, to be called as neo-neo debate. Neo-
realists argued that the structure of international system affected states’ foreign policies while
neo-liberalism criticized the inefficacy of realism’s economic understanding. At the same time,
structuralism, the way of entrance of Marxism to IR, pointed to the start of de-colonization and
explained the underlying reasons of underdeveloped countries’ problems of development as
capitalist system.
The paradigm debate lasted in 1980s when it appeared to be insufficient with détente and end
of Cold War. The new debate appeared in the meantime was between positivism and post-
positivism. It appeared in IR with the disappearance of the distinction between realism’s
definition of “high politics”, composed of military and state-centric, power-based issues, and
“low politics”, including the so-called less important human rights and environment issues,
identity and gender politics, and immigration; and with the inclusion of the latter to IR’s area
of subjects. In this way, critical theory, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, feminism, post-
modernism, green theory and social constructivism and became a part of IR theories. (Özlük,
2009, p. 253; 2014, p. 77-79; Keohane, 1988, p. 380)
4. THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
As the theoretical foundations of IR was explained through the great debates, it is equally
important to find the development of understanding of IR. The beginning of international
relations is accepted to be in modern age and with the emergence of nation-states. The
emergence of nation-states, then, are accepted to be with 1648 Peace of Westphalia which ended
30 Years War with treaties of Osnabrück, Pirene and Münster. According to this view,
international relations, and since its dependency to nation-states, originated from the
Westphalian System. However, this study is aware of the fact that it is not appropriate to start
the history of international relations with a West based treaty and additionally, with only the
Modern Age. In this regards, this chapter traces the historical process of international relations
in the world, with an attempt to avoid looking only from West-centric perspectives and by
looking through a glass of Antiquity and Middle Age
4.1. Antiquity
First of all, it is crucial to specify that it was not possible to talk about international relations
during the Antiquity. The reason of this was the difference of the understanding of the system
at that ages. It is already hard to think about a kind of statehood as it is understood today. There
had not been unity or integrity as a state-like entity between the humankind, but rather
community of people who happened to live together. Besides Chinese Empire, the rest of the
world seemed to be defined as such and in this sense, there had not been any communication
with the communities outside of theirs. Although “Republic” of Plato or “Politics” of Aristotle
are accepted today as the classical origins of international relations, it should not be unnoticed
that these were written for single, individual states. Moreover, “History of Peloponessian War”
of Thucydides is accepted as the first classical origin of IR theory, especially by those who
accepts Thucydides as founding father of realism. Although it seems to have the “balance of
power” theory while telling the story of war between Athenians and Spartans who perceived
Athenians’ increasing power as a threat to their own security, the war between Athenians and
Spartans were between ancient Greek city states which meant not between nations or states.
(Bagby, 1994; Yurdusev, 2004, p. 34)
Ancient Chinese Empire, on the other hand, was not centralized but included different
communal units. Inside the Empire, there was hierarchical relationship between the Empire and
its communal units. However, outside of the Empire was accepted ‘barbarians’ and cut out of
the any kind of relations with the Empire or its communal units. Moreover, outside of the
Empire’s reign was accepted an open area to occupy and the people living on those soils were
to satisfy the emperor’s imperial desires, meaning a one-sided relationship. From this point of
view, it is not possible to speak of any international relations for Ancient China. (Yurdusev,
2004, pp. 29,30; Schwartz, 1985, p. 413)
Back to the West, to Rome, it is seen more resemblance with ancient China’s governing
standpoint, than with ancient Greek city states. Romans declared their authority universal, as
the Chinese Emperors. Together with their claim to have universal authority, they as well saw
any kind of community other than those of living within their empire, either as a potential threat
to their authority or as units to fight for the possibility of material gains; rather than communities
of people to interact with. (Yurdusev, 2004, p. 34)
In this regard, for the Antiquity, it is revealed similar conclusions: in Ancient Greek City States,
there were no word view towards other different than each city state; in Roman or Chinese
Empires, there was no possible relation with outside actors because the relationship the Empires
founded based on enmity and material gains as trophy of wars. This created the conclusion for
the Antiquity that there were no international relations, but anarchical order and the relationality
was horizontal. (Yurdusev, 2004, pp. 29,30; Kurubaş, 2014, p. 13)
4.2. Middle Ages
The statehood in Christian and Muslim communities, in the Middle Ages, it is observed that
both communities depended on the closeness. Middle Agean dominance was religion-centric.
In Europe, the authority had not based upon sovereignty over the territory, but there was more
than one authority over fragmented and unset boundaries. This was the sign that there was
neither statehood. Christianity in Europe, created authorities to define the humanity between
two, the Christians and non-Christians and this led the first kind of relation type as isolation.
Any engagement with non-Christians were restricted only to one exception: Just War. This
doctrine of Just War says that when non-Christians did wrong to Christians, the Christians had
the right to proclaim war against them for compensate their lost resulted from the wrongdoing.
One of founding fathers, after Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Acquinas defined Just War with
Saint Augustine’s own words: “A just war is customarily defined as one which avenges injuries
as when a nation or state deserves to be punished because either to put right the wrongs done
by its people or to restore what it has unjustly seized”. (Dyson, 2004, p. 240-1; Atkins and
Dodaro, 2004, pp. xxiv-xxix, 217-20) Moreover Augustine, himself, declared the isolation of
non-Christians from the “God’s lands” and prevented any possible relationship of Christians
with non-Christians, outside of war. Non-Christians were accepted as communities not to be
interacted with, according the doctrine. (Augustine, 1945) In this sense, international relations
equalled only to war between two different units.
The distinction based on religion is seen in the Islam, as well as Christianity. The communities
under Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates, made the distinction between Muslims and non-
Muslims, by correlating the relationship with them in terms of jehad. Jehad was the purpose of
spreading Islam. Jehad, was used as the Muslim’s Just War which meant declaring war to the
lands of non-Muslims, Dar-ul Harb, which was the Muslim definition similar to Christian
definition of “outside of God’s lands” for the non-Christians. Muslims used jihad to declare the
war with the purpose of bringing Islam to those lands because those communities were threats
to Muslims’ existence and security. (Süleyman, 1985, pp. 33-47; 125-30)
When taken the perspectives of Christians and Muslims against the others, in principle to each
other, into account, it is seen that religion-based state and community perspectives of Middle
Ages are war-oriented version of Antiquity’s zero-relations, or relation only in form of war
structure. For this reason, international relations in Middle Ages are vertical and hierarchical.
4.3. Modern Age and the “Westphalian System”
The change in relational understandings of antiquity, anarchy and zero-relation, and middle
ages, hierarchy and isolationist war-based relations, reached with Westphalian System when it
provided sovereignty to the state, in the Modern Age. The Peace of Westphalia provided the
grounds for absolutist state regimes and by this way, regulated non-combatant relations in the
process of accomplishment of “nation-state” concept. (Yurdusev, 2004; Kurubaş, 2014:
Gordon, 2008) The Westphalian system was still depending on religious terms of Augsburg
Peace Treaty of 1555, but it brought the authority of princes and estates of Holy Empire over
their own territory with determining the boundaries. This meant today’s territorial integrity and
sovereignty of princes and estates were taken under Empire’s guarantee. (GHDI, Peace Treaties
of Westphalia: art. 3) Morever, as the Peace was accepted the first to regulate the relationship
between principalities and estates, it also created the politics and diplomacy.
As the Westphalian System inherited principles from Augsburg Peace of 1555, it is also thought
that the foundations of nation-state system lie on Augsburg Peace, not on Westphalian Peace.
For those, Augsburg Peace’s declaration of end war with each other was the one to limit the
boundaries of principalities and estates to rule, under the statement “…we… princes, and estates
of the Holy Empire will not make war upon any estate of the empire…”(GDHI, The Religious
Peace of Augsburg: Art. 15)
Regardless of the name of treaty, the necessary component of today’s system of states in which
the states are territorial, independent, equal, sovereign and non-interfering each other’s affairs,
modern. This state, after all, is a product of the Westphalian system of states. (Poggi, 2007, pp.
58-69; Schulze, 2005, pp. 25-50) As the post-1648 seemed to bring balance of power and the
decrease in wars, in the beginning, Louis XIV of France tried to dominate Europe and control
the relations between states. The reaction of European states to France showed itself in
intervening to the Spanish Succession War. France had failed and European states showed their
wish to have the stability in terms of balance of power, which was re-established with Treaty
of Utrecht. (Nye et al., 2011, p. 105; Kurubaş, 2014, p. 17)
After the treaty, “nationalism” started to appear starting from France and spread to America.
Nationalism created the fire of American War of Independence or American Revolutionary War
between 13 colonies in America and the Great Britain. The victory of British colonies
influenced other colonies in the continent and they had gained their independence from Spain
and Portugal. By this way, three hegemons happened to lose their dominance over America
against idea of nationalism. The source of the idea in the New World, France, on the other hand,
had to face with a revolution rooted in state crisis. French Revolution, ended the era of territorial
state and sovereignty of the King, and create the start of nation-states and state sovereignty or
national sovereignty.
European states, who were afraid of spread of that nation-state idea and other nationalism-like
ideas risen from the Revolution, had to face the threat of France’s another attempt to dominate
their continent. Napoleonic Wars was their opportunity to stop the spread and when European
coalition defeated Napoleonic army, those states had to take precautions. These precautions
were discussed and decided in the Congress of Vienne in 1815, led by Austrian emperor
Metternich. The system followed the Congress was called the Concert of Europe and its main
purpose to guarantee the survival of the empires of Europe. Although the Concert had been
relatively successful for a century, it started to lose its influence and there was no possibility to
prevent the Great War in 1914 and the spread of ideas of French Revolution. With the end of
WWI, the empires in Europe substituted with nation-states and the new international system
was composed of nation-states of Europe.
Beyond Europe, the geography under Russian rule, with its then name USSR, had also faced a
change, but not a progressive one, rather an oppressive one. Soviet lands were to expect a
system different than the past and the present of that time. In this system, idea of nationalism,
the origin of nation-state had a challenge; it was not only blocked to develop in the area but also
strictly rejected and dismissed from Central Asia. China, the other edge of Asia, was not yet
open to accept the evolving concept of centralized nation-states which were equal before each
other. Rest of Asia, together with communities in Africa became colonies of Europe and this
brought the impossibility to develop ideas for nation-state. After the WWII, however, the
colonies had found the chance to import the idea of nationalism from the colonial powers and
this started the era of decolonization. Intensely in 1980s, colonies had gained their
independence and proclaimed their nation-states which gave a rise in the number of nation-
states in the world. After 1990s, with the dissolution of the USSR, the nationalism and building
the state in terms of nations started on the territory of Soviet bloc. As their process of building
nation-states completed, it is not wrong to say that the world became to composed of nation-
states.
With this kind of history traced, in evaluation of three regions in the world, it is seen that the
story is a Europe- or West-centric the idea of nationalism and the concept of nation-states
derived of there. The model of nation-state is called with the start of modern age. Moreover,
since modern age started with entrance of nation-state, it is accepted that Europe had already
concluded its process of modernization. However, the same modernization process is also
explained as “The Dark Side of Democracy”. These supposedly modern nation-states used
ethnic cleansing to weak or minor communities during their process to become modern. As this
ethnic cleansing is traced back to modern age and the rise of nationalism, the politicization of
nationalism led to rule as tyrants which happened for the Europeans over their colonies. (Mann,
2005: 2,3) On the other hand, European states and nations accepted themselves as civilized
because the communities reconciled with their history of war as they embraced the values they,
in the first place, created.
Looking through the post-Soviet sphere, it is still not clear how much the post-Soviet states
completed their triple transition, the process of nation-building, state-building and
marketization. Although there is the exemption of Baltic states who were swiftly able to pass
to the Western side by accession to the European integration, the others (Georgia, Armenia,
Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine etc.) can be seen still around the state-building when taken account the
colour revolutions, respectively Rose, April, Tulip and Orange ones. Moreover, it is not
undeniable that Russia still has ambitions towards them, some of which was seen in the Russia’s
annexation of Crimea of Ukraine or 8 Days War with Georgia. (Kuzio, 2001, pp. 168-170;
Shakarian, 2018; Kozlowski, 2016)
The rest of Asia and African states are seen to be the peripheries of the centre, West. The
structure here is problematic because of dependency to the ex-colonizers resulted with the
continuation of underdevelopment. Another reason of their underdevelopment could also be
related to their inability to find their identity in an independent manner as the West had, as they
could not rip the identity off fully. This problematic structure brings back the definition of
“barbarian”, de facto it may, from the Middle Ages. African states, in the nation-building
process, could not build “nation-states”, but instead become artificial “state nations”. The
reason of this situation was the fact that their borders were drawn by the Western colonizers
who neglected that people who lived inside those borders had had no relations with others living
in the same territory. This created no sense of motherland and as a result, no sense of loyalty to
the particular state, they continued to have connections with their local tribes and familiar
borders. (Kurubaş, 2014, p. 21) In this sense, the region does no real nation and naturally no
national sovereignty. In the meantime, the West, as the centre, declared itself as universal
superior. In this regard, in the name of spreading their superior values which the periphery was
deprived of and as a step to end that supposedly “barbarism”, they made use of “military
interventions”. As this concept was discussed for too long within the name of Just War or
“humanitarian intervention” or its more accurate version “Responsibility to Protect”, the
periphery could not be persuaded against its arbitrariness. At last, with the interventions, West
transformed the hierarchic order of Antiquity and Middle Ages into hegemonic inequality and
in doing so, adapted it to today’s horizontal and anarchical international relations. (see Figure
1)
Figure 1- Short History of International Relations
5. A LAST LOOK AT INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
When looked at the discipline of International Relations and the international system consisting
international relations generally, it is seen that the concept itself is formed under the influence
of West-centric Anglo-Saxons. Considering where the discipline was born, the theories were
formed and developed, the result is undeniable that International Relations is West-centric.
Even the Marxist or neo-Marxist approaches has its origins from its critics to Western born
capitalism and again against to the Western states.
It is the cycle of international relations that the vertical and hierarchical nature of pre-
international relations era, the times of Antiquity and Middle Ages, was moved to today’s
international relations as the nature of hegemonic inequality after West’s colonizing Africa
followed by leaving them underdeveloped and dependent, and later via interventions with the
supposed purpose of bringing them closer to Western civilization. As international relations
started to seem more hierarchical and in the structure of hegemonic inequality, it stands on the
eve of going back to humanities’ antique times when there was no such kind as international
relations with hierarchical understanding. Although the split of the world into two changed its
direction in time, as happened with the theories of International Relations, the core is always
West/Europe non-Western/non-European separation. This separation is almost the same as
the Christian non-Christian or Muslim non-Muslim separations.
Within the cycle of international relations, it seems once more that in the cycle’s going back to
its start, Russia and China has always been outside or at the edge of the system although there
are necessary actors who could provide the real balance of power. Even their antagonism to
Western Bloc during Cold War had not been sufficient to become dominant actors in the system
as expected. However, it may be still possible for each to break the cycle despite pushing to the
edges. It is already clear that they more and more acquire the system’s economic and political,
as well as cultural requirements and as this growth in all aspects continues, Russia and China,
together or individually can be able to break the cycle, enter into it and put an end to West-
centrism. In international relations it should be considered that there is a potential future for
their, more likely for China’s, rise to reach its peak and slide away the centre where the
international relations shall be in balance, instead of a cycle.
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