International Relations is a vibrant field of significant growth and change. This book guides students through the complexities of over 40 central concepts and core theories, relating them at all times to contemporary issues and debates.

Each concept is divided into five sections to allow rapid familiarization with the topic and provide signposts for further exploration:

Core questions to address; Definition; Theoretical perspectives; Empirical problems; Core reading and useful websites

In addition the major theories are covered by six-part entries that give a 360 degree view of the strengths, weaknesses, applications and methodologies of each one:

An introduction to the core questions; Overview and background; Methodologies; Empirical application; Central criticism; Core reading and useful websites

Clear and highly readable, Key Concepts in International Relations is an essential guide for students on politics and international relations courses.



1. Core Questions Addressed

  • What are the constituent elements of sovereignty?
  • What makes the matter of defining sovereignty crucial?
  • What are the main empirical challenges to understandings of sovereignty?

2. Definitions

Sovereignty is understood as the supreme or final authority of a political entity over its own affairs, frequently associated with a given territory (Shorten 2008: 39; Biersteker and Weber 1996: 2). This authority is the source of all binding commands within the political entity – a right which is recognized externally.

Since the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), sovereignty has been closely tied to the nation-state, which combines the population–territory–authority triad and has long displayed qualities of a ‘sacrosanct’ doctrine in international relations (Jellinek 1922). Reciprocal recognition of sovereign statehood has been characterized as the basic institution governing interstate relations ...

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