Concepts of International Relations, for Students and Other Smarties is not a stereotypical textbook, but an instructive, entertaining, and motivating introduction to the field of International Relations (IR). Rather than relying on figures or tables, this book piques the reader’s interest with a pithy narrative that presents apposite nutshell examples, stresses historical breaks, and throws in the odd pun. Based on Iver B. Neumann’s introductory lectures to his students at the London School of Economics, this book is proven for the classroom.
In a relaxed style, Neumann introduces the long-term historical emergence of concepts such as state (European), state (global), empire, nonstate agents, foreign policy, state system, nationalism, globalization, security, international society, great powers, diplomacy, war and peace, balance of power, international law, power and sovereignty, intervention, gender, and class. He demonstrates how such phenomena have been understood in different ways over time. First, the reader learns how the use of concepts is an integral part of politics. Second, the reader sees how social change has worked in the past, and is working now. Third, the book demonstrates how historical and social context matters in ongoing international relations.
“A brilliantly written book that wrestles with complicated ideas in a fun and crystal-clear fashion. Neumann’s style is highly personal, serious and scholarly, yet beguilingly colloquial and humorous. His intention is to take us directly into the essence of IR, the history and evolution of fundamental concepts, and thence to their contemporary ‘meaning’ or intriguing continued ambiguity. Perfect for the classroom and scholars alike.”
—Yale Ferguson, Rutgers University
“Masquerading as an introductory textbook, Neumann presents a brilliant discussion of how the concepts we use to understand international relations have evolved over time. In so doing Neumann illuminates how theory itself is historically contingent. While most textbooks are all ‘tell’ this book is all ‘show.’ It demonstrates the evolution of concepts in actual practice rather than as abstract entities.”
—Hendrik Spruyt, Northwestern University
“Intro IR courses confront a double Catch-22: students cannot understand international relations without prior knowledge of history, nor can they really grasp theory without some familiarity with epistemology. Iver Neumann meets this challenge by cleverly putting key subjects of IR research and concepts relative to them into historical perspective and by situating concepts in their philosophical and social settings. It is far and away the most thoughtful, engaging, and useful text in the field.”
—Richard Ned Lebow, King’s College London