What you will learn as an international relations major

International relations is an exciting and multidisciplinary field of study. An international relations major—which includes foreign policy study, social science, ethics, psychology, foreign language and finance—equips students with the knowledge to view the world and people of various cultures with compassion, diplomacy and political economy.

A degree in international relations offers many multidisciplinary fields of study. (Credit: IRonline.american.edu)

A degree in international relations offers many multidisciplinary fields of study. (Credit: IRonline.american.edu)

For good research paper topics in international relations, consult academic journals and databases. Here are some ideas for international relations term papers.

The job of international relations

In the 2012 book “Recovering International Relations: The Promise of Sustainable Critique,” Daniel J. Levine sums up the essence of international relations: “The job of IR…was to create the kind of practical, theoretically informed expertise by which to… build a cumulative reservoir of knowledge for stewarding an increasingly dense, heavily armed, and persistently diverse world, whether by the creation of new capabilities, institutions, or procedures.”

Levine explained that in the mid-twentieth century the world was facing growing global population, which brought with it poverty, growing competition among nations for resources, and the potential for mass destruction. However, it also opened the possibility for community and solidarity.

“The hope of IR theory as a practical, knowledge-building enterprise has been the possibility of learning to leverage the latter against the former, whether by preserving stable balances of power, crafting durable international institutions, or propagating peaceable international norms,” said Levine.

India’s new Prime Minister

Many American and international observers are worried that newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a conservative, may apply his Hindu nationalist beliefs to Indian foreign policy. In a commentary in the article “Foreign Policy à la Modi: India’s Next Worldview” online at Foreign Affairs, Manjari Chatterjee Miller wrote: “A look at Indian foreign policy since 1964 confirms that it has been characterized more by continuity than by change. And even those changes that have occurred, while important, have been incremental, and unrelated to the political ideology of the party in power. After all, as a serving Indian ambassador recently told me, ‘An elephant is not prone to making sharp turns.’”

Narendra Modi sworn in as India’s new prime minister. (Credit: New Telegraph)

Narendra Modi sworn in as India’s new prime minister. (Credit: New Telegraph)

Miller says that Indian foreign policy is still concerned with issues it has been dealing with for many years: India-Pakistan relations, Kashmir, Hindu-Muslim conflict, viewing China as a threat in the conflict over the Himalayan border, and mutual suspicion of the United States.

Cuba tries market economy

Just as communist China transitioned from a command economy to a market economy, Cuba is dipping its foot in the water by using the banks of the Mariel Bay, 30 miles west of Havana, as a testing ground for global capitalist foreign companies to install manufacturing plants, research centers and operational hubs. Of course, there are significant differences between the vast size and resources of China and the much smaller Cuba, including Cuba’s proximity to the United States, which refuses to trade with the communist island nation until it adopts democratic reforms.

This new economic move by Cuba could open new dialogue between Havana and Washington. Brian Sherry wrote in the article “Money Trumps Ideology: Cuba Moves Away From the Command Economy” posted on Journal of Diplomacy February 11, 2014: “What could happen, however, is that a slight taste of investment and profit within Cuba will result in a greater push for the reforms that would enable dialogue with Washington regarding the end of sanctions. Removing the sanctions would bring a more durable and far-reaching prosperity to Cuba.”

This is not a sure thing, as “the case of China has dampened the belief that economic liberalization leads to political liberalization. But one thing remains clear: money serves as a powerful incentive to change attitudes. In Cuba, that incentive might just lead to democracy,” said Sherry.

For more information, check out Questia’s Politics and Government library and International Relations page. 

What are other topics for international relations or foreign policy term papers that you’re interested in? Tell us in the comments below.

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