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International Relations as a Secular Discipline

International relations like most other subject matters of social science is founded upon the secular socio-political and economic structure. IR, a discipline of 20th century has its roots in 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia and it adopted the period of Enlightenment as its affluent history.

20th century IR habitually provides a resemblance between secularism and modernity posture and religion and backwardness posture. It find hardly any importance of religion in modern day inter and intra state relations, diplomacy, social and humanitarian development, political theorizing and practice, level of analysis, maintaining balance of power or in appreciating the feature and prospects of globalization. Richard Falk argues, “Secularism and modernity are closely associated, and to be closer with medievalism, which above all stresses the fusing of political and religious institutions and authority on the basis of faith in shared transcendent truth.” [1]
Therefore, it is said, “The source of analytical neglect of religion is to be found at the core of a key assumption in western social sciences.”[2] Prominent Universities of the world are less enthusiastic in religio-political issue. Even they fund less on the research programme regarding it. Journals of IR would not like to deal with this attribute directly. Outspokenly, the study of IR incorporating religion and politics was ignored till the end of 20th century.

In reality, “IR does not deny religion but it denies importance of religion in public and political life. Contemporary international relations theories take the Euro-American definition of religion and its separation from politics as the natural starting point from social scientific inquiry”.[3] It seems to follow the proclamation of the Treaty of Westphalia. It has claimed religion should be determined by the chief of the state and it would remain solely in the private sphere of life. As a consequence, societies have shifted their focus from multi-religious communities to a secularized social affair. Therefore, international institutions have represented a secular notion and those are studied frequently through a secular method.

IR theories hardly pay attention to religion. “If religion must be dealt with it is usually placed with some more secular category such as culture, civilization, terrorism.”[4] We can show Huntington’s Clash of Civilization thesis in this regard. Huntington identified religions’ clash under the veil of civilizations and culture. Also “the detractors of this theory also tended to avoid the term “religion” wherever possible, prefer terms like “culture”, “state”, “nationalism” and “ethnic group” when referring to the sub-civilizational groupings that many of them felt would remain the basis for world conflict.”[5]

However situation seems to be changing in a gradual manner. Beside secularism diversified religious affairs as the subject matter of international relations and political science are attaining special attention from the very beginning of 21st century and a scrutiny on this theme has been provided in the next chapter of this paper on the basis of two case studies.

[1] Richard Falk, op.cit.
[2] Jeffrey Haynes, “Religion and International Relations after ‘9/11,” op.cit., 400.
[3] Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, “Secularism and IR Theory,” http://www.sipa.columbia.edu/cdtr/pdf/EHurdPaper.pdf
(accessed April 30, 2012).
[4] Vandulka Kabalkova, “Towards an International Political Theology”, Millennium 29, no.3 ( 2000):682-83.
[5] Fox and Sandler, op.cit.,297.