Race within the International Relations: Analytical Essay

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The above mentioned statement is true to a large extent and will be justified by discussing race and how it plays a role in being a central organizing feature of world politics. Another focal point in this essay will be International Relations, explaining what it is and discussing why race is essential to understanding the world.

What is the International Relations?

The International Relations is quite a complex concept to grasp. In short, (The Columbia Electronic Encyclopaedia,2013) Explains international relations as the “study of relations among states and other political and economic units in the international system.” Along with this explanation it can be understood that international relations as a whole, is the relationship between countries at a global level.

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Globally, should automatically mean that everyone should be included, however the article, Why Race Matters in International Relations notes the “big 3” paradigm’s which will be later explained, has more of an appeal and favours the Western worldview a lot more than other world view’s which in turn means that not everyone is in fact included. The article notes that there is also a gap between the amount of non-white students to white students. There is also no field of studies within International Studies that is specifically allocated for race, which also adds to why the International Relations can be viewed as not dealing with race accordingly.

The “Big 3”:

According to Zvogbo and Loken, the “big 3” as they stated in they stated in the article is the paradigms which the International Relations follow. Namely, realism, liberalism and constructivism and the importance of understanding what these paradigms are vital as is easier to link the International Relations and Race together.


Realism, according to the “set of related theories of international relations that emphasizes the role of the state, national interest, and military power in world politics.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica,2017). Another important term within realism is balance of power, “whereby states act so as to prevent any one state dominating” (Smith, Owens, Baylis:2014,P.4)


Liberalism, was an ideology that originated in the West and follows key ideas such as individualism, freedom and equality which was the main idea behind liberalism. Classical liberalism follows the central theme of individualism and has a rather negative approach to individualism and has a negative outlook on government intervention.

It is said that the atomist view which is the “belief that society is made up of a collection of largely self-sufficient individuals who owe little or nothing to one another.” (Heywood, 2013, p.33) On the other hand Modern liberalism has a more positive approach to government intervention.

As mentioned above both realism and liberalism are paradigms of the International Relations which might not sound completely negative, however according to the article by Zvogbo and Loken are built on Eurocentrism, which focuses on the cultural background and history of Europeans, which was predominantly ‘white’ as well as the Western world view over the rest of the world’s which in turn gives the feeling of superiority. Another example or rather statement which Zvogbo and Loken make use of is “developed against underdeveloped, modern against primitive, civilized against uncivilized” which automatically servers as a red flag as it is a gap where racism could occur as they mean that there is a clear divide.


The third and final paradigm of the ‘big 3’ which the article mentions is constructivism. Constructivism, “concerns itself with the centrality of ideas and human consciousness and stresses a holistic and idealist view of structures.” (Smith, Owens,Baylis;2014.P.408) According to Zvogbo and Loken, constructivism completely overlooks racism.

Defining Race:

Race is and will always be a sensitive but relevant topic of discussion. Although we live in a democratic society, racism is still a common occurrence around the world whether it takes place in the world of sport, place of work or politics. Race is defined as “the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioral differences.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica,2020).

Along with race comes ethnic groups which unlike race does not completely revolve around particular physical features, but more around people who share the same language or culture.

Race as well as ethnicity separate people and place them into boxes based on the colour of their skin, the language that they speak, physical features and how they act. This is also stated in the article by Zvogbo and Loken which puts emphasis on how race plays a role or rather is a feature in world politics.

Race within the International relations:

As previously mentioned and explained, the paradigm’s that the International Relations stand for could be viewed as questionable. The reason being, that there should be a common ground or equality with in the international relations, and although times have changed, racism is still prominent.

Along with race and ethnicity comes a certain level of understanding amongst people. For example, when the Civil Rights Movement took place in America, African Americans shared the same experiences and wanted to achieve the same goal which was why they could work together and accomplish what they wanted to. The same can be said about Apartheid in South Africa, non-whites standing together, having gone through shared experiences and being able to reach their goal in becoming a democratic country. What both of the above mentioned examples have in common was desperately wanting and needing basic human rights and equality within a strong predominantly ‘white’ government.

With that being said, the International Relations although is globally inclusive, still follows predominantly ‘white’ paradigm’s which is why it could be argued that race plays a rather large role and is a central organizing feature as the European worldview is still prominent within the International Relations. This does not mean that the paradigm’s which they have built the International Relations needs to drastically change or be removed. If there were paradigm’s that are more inclusive, it could have been said that race is not an organizing central feature in politics, which is what the article means.


In closing, the statement is justified and it can be concluded that race is a central organizing feature of world politics. Although in today’s life it might not seem like race is essential to understanding the world as it is part of our history.

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