Skip to main content
School of Politics and International Relations

What is Politics and International Relations?

What is Politics?

Political science is an academic discipline with a long history, going back to the ancient Greeks. It uses theoretical frameworks and empirical research, much of which is comparative, to focus on the way in which societies and individuals organise their lives – ideally (but, sadly, not always) in order to avoid violence and to promote the greater good.  Yes, politics is about the distribution of power and resources – ‘who gets, what, when and how’.  But it’s also about expressing our identities and our ideals.  And it’s about making things work, as well as thinking of ways in which things could – and perhaps should – be done differently.  If you’re curious about the world around you, and about how we both compete and cooperate within that world, then studying politics is for you.

What is International Relations?

International Relations is a discipline which seeks to understand the nature of the international order. It uses theoretical frameworks and empirical research to focus on the way in which international ‘actors’ (states, multinational companies, international organisations, social movements) shape and influence this order. It asks questions about the international distribution of distribution of power and resources, but also examines identities, norms and ideals.  It therefore helps us to answer questions such as:  

  • What are the main characteristics of the international order?
  • To what extent is the international order based on conflict or cooperation?
  • How is the global financial crisis affecting international politics?
  • Do foreign military interventions in civil wars help or hinder peace-making?
  • Why are economic resources so unevenly spread across the world, and what are the prospects for global justice?
Back to top