Images and Theory in International Relations

Images are general perspectives on international relations (IR) that consist of certain assumptions about key actors and processes that influence how we interpret and explain world events. Theory involves explanation. In terms of IR, this usually involves explaining patterns of conflict and cooperation. This entry provides an overview of images of international relations and how they can influence the development of IR theory.


Although subject to debate, most scholars of international relations would agree that there are at least three major images: realism, liberalism, and economic structuralism. All three have a long historical and intellectual pedigree and will be the focus of this essay. It should be noted, however, that scholars have also made the case for what are known as the English school, constructivism, ...

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