The main difference between international studies and international relations is that international studies put more emphasis on social and cultural aspects of the countries in the international arena in addition to the political aspect whereas international relations put more emphasis on international politics, law and diplomatic relations among the actors in the international stage.
International studies can be identified as having the same core history as that of international relations, which later developed into a different academic discipline. International studies (IS) and International Relations (IR) are two distinct academic disciplines that study the political, social and cultural aspects of the world. As a result of their inter-related and similar nature, most people tend to use these terms interchangeably. However, there is a distinct difference between international studies and international relations with concern to their subject matter and focus areas. Hence, one should be thoroughly aware of the contents of these two disciplines when perusing them in their academics.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is International Studies
– Definition, Subject Matter, Focus
2. What is International Relations
– Definition, Subject Matter, Focus
3. What is the Relationship Between International Studies and International Relations
– Outline of Association
4. What is the Difference Between International Studies and International Relations
– Comparison of Key Differences
Academia, Education, International Studies (IS), International Relations (IR), Politics
What is International Studies
Initially, international relations was a part of international studies. However, with the increasing global issues and the demand to address them accordingly, international relations was separated as a separate discipline, yet it was an inter-related discipline of international studies at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus, this resulted in the establishment of several academic associations and institutions that study international studies.
International Studies (IS) is the academic discipline which emphasizes more on the social and cultural issues prevailing in different countries and their impact in the world as a whole, in addition to its studies about political relations between the countries.
Moreover, the British International Studies Association defines international studies as ‘the major political, economic, social, and cultural issues that dominate the international agenda’. Therefore, in brief, International Studies encompass all phenomena which are globally oriented.
Some of the general subjects offered in the International studies course programs are;
- Global governance, diplomacy, global politics, and international relations
- Globalization, culture, and global economy
- Migrations (diaspora and its impacts)
- Gender studies
- Language studies and literature, etc.
Hence, social studies, cultural studies, and linguistic studies are more emphasized in international studies course programs.
Accordingly, career prospects from following higher studies in International studies can vary from international affairs sector to social work sector; some of these include community worker, gender activist, foreign business advocate, immigration officer, mediator, think tank researcher, etc.
What is International Relations
International relations was studied as a part of political science, dating back to the ancient Greek times. However, after the WW2 and the birth of several International organisations such as the League of Nations and UNO, international relations was separated as a distinct discipline from political science in the late 20th century. Britain was the first to commence studying IR as a separate academic discipline.
Accordingly, international Relations is the academic discipline which studies the relations among nations/states in the world. Hence, there is a strong sense of political science and diplomatic focus in IR. Likewise, IR scrutinizes and analyses the political interactions among these actors (both state and non-state actors) in the international stage and the tensions and issues that prevail consequently.
IR is interdisciplinary in nature and blends the fields of politics, history, and economics. It, therefore, examines global issues such as
- International law and diplomatic relations,
- Human rights,
- Economic stability and poverty issues,
- Global ethics
- Nuclear proliferation,
- Terrorism and global security
- Peace and conflict resolution etc.
Moreover, the most common careers in International Relations are politics and administrative sector, diplomacy, political analysis, international law, and intelligence, etc.
Relationship Between International Studies and International Relations
- Initially, international studies was studied as a part of international relations before it was separated due to the increasing global issues and the demand to address them accordingly.
- However, both academic disciplines focus on relations among international actors (state and non-state actors) in the international arena and their impacts. Nevertheless, international studies emphasize more on the social and cultural impacts of these relations on the countries as well when compared to international relations.
- Career aspects for both disciplines may overlap as well.
Difference Between International Studies and International Relations
International Studies is an academic discipline which puts more emphasis on the social, cultural aspects of the countries in the international arena in addition to the political aspect in them. On the other hand, international relations is an academic discipline which puts more emphasis on political and diplomatic relations among nations in the international stage. Thus, this is the main difference between international studies and international relations.
Another difference between international studies and international relations is their subject matter. IS focuses more on social and cultural issues such as gender studies, global culture, globalization, foreign languages, etc. whereas IR focuses more on global politics, diplomacy and related issues such as security and global financing.
Careers for IS may vary from politics side to social work; however, it is mostly biased towards humanitarian, sociology and culture related prospects. Careers for IR is more biased towards the political side; therefore, they are mostly related to politics and administrative sector, diplomacy, intelligence, and analyst sector. Likewise, there is a high competition for careers, specifically in IR. Hence, this is another difference between international studies and international relations.
International Studies (IS) and International Relations (IR) are often used interchangeably due to their similar nature. However, they can be distinguished based on their subject matter emphasis; international studies put more emphasis social and cultural aspects in the countries in the international arena in addition to the political aspect whereas international relations puts more emphasis on international politics, law and diplomatic relations among the actors in the international stage. Thus, this is the main difference between international studies and international relations.
1. “British International Studies Association.” What Is International Studies?, Available here.
2. “What Can I Become If I Study International Relations?” MastersPortal, 21 Dec. 2017, Available here.
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4. “What Is International Relations?” International Relations Major Masters in International Relations, Available here.
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