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The concept of anarchy is seen as the cardinal organizing category of the discipline of International Relations (IR), which differentiates it from cognate disciplines such as Political Science or Political Philosophy. This article provides an analytical review of the scholarly literature on anarchy in IR, on two levels—conceptual and theoretical. First, it distinguishes three senses of the concept of anarchy: (1) lack of a common superior in an interaction domain; (2) chaos or disorder; and (3) horizontal relation between nominally equal entities, sovereign states. The first and the third senses of “anarchy”’ are central to IR. Second, it considers three broad families of IR theory where anarchy figures as a focal assumption—(1) realism and neorealism, (2) English School theory (international society approach), and (3) Kant’s republican peace. Despite normative and conceptual differences otherwise, all three bodies of theory are ultimately based on Hobbes’s argument for a “state of nature.” The article concludes with a summary of the key challenges to the discourse of international anarchy posed by the methodology of economics and economics-based theories that favor the alternative discourse of global hierarchy.
Michel Foucault’s critical approach to understanding power has become very influential in the study of global politics, especially in the work of (critical) IR scholars. The Foucauldian kind of power conception has influenced some IR scholars who adopt key insights from post-structuralist theory to world politics thus producing an analytical orientation, in the sense that all reality is structured first by language with discourses then creating a coherent system of knowledge, objects, and subjects. Of particular importance is Foucault’s notion of biopower, biopolitics, and technology of power. Such toolbox allows (critical) IR scholars to recur and distinguish disciplinary power, governmentality, its types (liberalism, neoliberalism), and biopolitics itself. However, few IR studies differentiate between biopower and biopolitics; yet an extensive variety of international studies issues are analyzed. Additionally, applying Foucault’s notions to global politics has been roundly criticized. This article begins with an introduction followed by a discussion of biopower and biopolitics. It continues with a discussion of the debates in the IR literature on biopower and illustrations of works of IR scholarship that draw on biopower and governmentality for insight into global politics. The article then concludes with a discussion of directions for future research.
Changes in the environment can impact international relations theory, despite enjoying only a limited amount of attention from scholars of the discipline. The sorts of influence that may be identified include ontology, epistemology, concepts, and methods, all of these being related to varying perspectives on international relations. It is likely that the most profound implications arise at the ontological level, since this establishes assumptions about, for example, whether the world we wish to understand is both political and ecological. However, more recently the recognition of the practical challenge presented by the environment has become widespread, though it has not yet translated into a significant impact on the discipline of international relations, even when theoretical implications are noted. It is now almost obligatory to include the environment in any list of modern international relations concerns, as over time it has become necessary to include peace, underdevelopment, gender, or race, as they quite rightly became recognized as significant aspects of the field. Moreover, the environment, as a relatively novel subject matter, has naturally brought some critique and innovation to the field. However, studies of the environment are also subject to such descriptors as “mainstream” and “radical” in debates about how best to tackle the subject. As is often the case, the debates are sharpest among those with the greatest interest in the subject.
Jana von Stein
If there is no authority higher than the state, why do governments ever abide by the pacts they make with each other? For some, the answer is simple: states only respect agreements that fulfill their immediate interests. Others are more optimistic. Some view compliance as a problem of enforcement, arguing that international inducements, reciprocity, concerns about reputation, and/or domestic politics/institutions regularly help sustain adherence. Others perceive compliance as a problem of capacity, or of poor management. Seen from this angle, mechanisms that “punish” through enforcement typically make matters worse; instead, treaties need to be transparent, as well as providing technical/financial assistance and solid dispute resolution. Still others emphasize the impact of social context, identity, and/or legitimacy. Governments keep their promises because they care how others perceive them, internalize norms, or view agreements as valid and fair. This article provides an overview of these perspectives, with a strong emphasis on recent developments, including findings from recent survey experiments.
Even though most conflicts in everyday life manifest themselves as cursory bagatelles, there are conflicts that end up in situations of organized, collective violence (e.g., armed conflict). To understand how trivial contradictions can become meaningful conflicts in a broader societal context, it is crucial to examine the process of conflict escalation. Conflict escalation can be understood as an intensification of a conflict with regard to the observed extent and the means used. An escalating conflict represents a developing social system in its own right, having the legitimization of violence as a key feature. Here, a broader social science perspective on the concept of conflict escalation is offered, outlining its intellectual history, explaining its major perspectives and current emphases, and exploring newer avenues in approaching social conflict.
Critical international relations theory (CIRT) is not only an academic approach but also an emancipatory project committed to the formation of a more equal and just world. It seeks to explain the reasons why the realization of this goal is difficult to achieve. What is crucial here is not only the social explanation, but also politically motivated action to achieve an alternative set of social relations based on justice and equality. Critical theory in international relations (IR) is part of the post-positivist turn or the so-called “fourth debate,” which followed the inter-paradigm debate of the 1970s. Post-positivism consists of a plurality of theoretical and epistemological positions that opened up wide ranging criticisms of the neo-realist “orthodoxy” that has dominated IR theorizing since the beginning of 1980s. Critical theory has challenged the mainstream understanding of IR, and has spurred the development of alternative forms of analysis and approaches. Moreover, since the beginning of the 1980s, different types of CIRT have become the main alternative to mainstream IR. The general aim of CIRT can be summed up by Marx’s eleventh thesis on Feuerbach that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” A specific tradition of critical thought in IR, derived from Marx, comprises the normative Critical Theory (CT) of the Frankfurt School—termed the “structural critical theory”—since it focuses more on the sociological features and dynamics of capitalism.
Vesna Danilovic and Joe Clare
Several strands of research on deterrence and crisis behavior were developed within different disciplinary, intellectual, and methodological traditions. Although sometimes coexisting as separate subfields, these studies share a common focus on coercive bargaining in international crises. To draw a common thread between two main subfields, strategic studies on deterrence on one hand and general literature on military crises on the other, both similarities and distinctions in their central concepts are delineated. Four general periods (“waves”) are also briefly outlined in the progression of this research area since World War II, each dominated by a distinct paradigmatic tradition. The main attention then turns to arguments about the causal conditions and mechanisms through which deterrence and crisis bargaining succeeds or fails. Since deterrence requires both capable and credible threats to work, divergent explanatory frameworks are discussed for each of these two requirements. Besides theoretical debates, there are also methodological controversies and measurement issues, which are introduced along with the major data collections that have been developed only recently in this area. In conclusion, several research paths are identified and discussed that have great promise for future advancements in the study of conflict and deterrence.
Shirley V. Scott
The most fundamental characteristic of a developing state is that its income, usually calculated as gross national product (GNP) per capita, is relatively low in comparison with that of an industrial country. A second characteristic shared by most developing countries is that they are former colonies. In recognition of the diversity amongst developing countries, they are sometimes divided into subgroups. The term “Least Developed Country” is used to refer to some 50 of the most vulnerable states, whose economies are vastly smaller than those of China, India, Brazil, or Mexico. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) is a group of states with emerging economies whose share of world trade, investment, and foreign currency reserve is projected to continue to grow. AOSIS, the Alliance of Small Island States, is a 44-member coalition that functions as a negotiating voice for small island developing states (SIDS) within the United Nations system. The engagement of developing countries with international law typically comes in four aspects: the colonial past and contemporary continuities in international legal approaches and categories, attempts by newly independent Third World states to transform international law through the introduction of specific new legal principles, the effect of the increasing gap between the emerging economies of certain developing countries and the most vulnerable developing states, and whether structural impediments remain to the equitable participation of developing countries in international law.
The theoretical and empirical literature on the reciprocal topics of economy and war have developed a fertile debate. Most contributions examine the liberal hope that growing economic bonds between or within nations reduce the risk of violent conflict, while an increasing number of studies also examine the destructive and redistributive effect of war, terrorism, and genocides. The article argues that most studies in the field do not provide clear microfoundations for the opportunity-cost arguments that are typically made to justify the deterring effects of increased economic interactions. To move the field forward, contributions need to focus more on how the relationship between business leaders and the government shapes decision making in periods of crisis. Recent advances have been made to understand the economic impact of massive political violence that can only be fully understood through the use of temporally disaggregated data.
Sarah Cleeland Knight and Catherine L. Mann
Electronic commerce (or e-commerce) is the purchase or sale of goods or services over any kind of computer network. Possible networks include the Internet; an extranet, which is a private platform that uses Internet technology, or TCP/IP; and an electronic data interchange (EDI) network. The study of e—commerce can be roughly divided into three levels of analysis: global systemic, state, and individual firm or person. The global systemic or international level considers how e—commerce influences relations between states. The state level considers how e—commerce affects the business of government and the relationship between the state and society (including firms and persons). It allows one to compare similarities and differences in terms of what governments are doing to promote (or, less commonly, to discourage) the use of e—commerce, and the impact of e—commerce on a country’s economic performance. Finally, the individual level, which looks at firms as well as individual persons, considers how e—commerce changes how firms and individuals interact within a given society, whether through their economic relations or otherwise. The literature on e—commerce differs by discipline, with considerably more attention given to e—commerce by the legal, business, and technical communities than by our respective social science disciplines, economics, and political science.