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Race(ing) International Relations: A Critical Overview of Postcolonial Feminism in International Relations
Geeta Chowdhry and L.H.M. Ling
Postcolonial feminism in international relations (PFIR) is a disciplinary field devoted to the study of world politics as a site of power relations shaped by colonization. PFIR combines postcolonial and feminist insights to explore questions such as how the stratum of elite power intersects with subterranean layers of colonization to produce our contemporary world politics; how these interrelationships between race, gender, sex, and class inform matrices of power in world politics; and how we account for elite and subaltern agency and resistance to the hegemonic sphere of world politics. PFIR is similar to Marxism, constructivism, and postmodernism in that they all posit that the masses underwrite hegemonic rule and, in so doing, ultimately have the means to do away with it. One difference is that PFIR emanates from the position of the subaltern; more specifically, the colonized’s colonized such as women, children, the illiterate, the poor, the landless, and the voiceless. Three major components are involved in PFIR in its analysis of world politics: culture, politics, and material structures. Also, eight common foci emerge in PFIR: intersectionality, representation, and power; materiality; relationality; multiplicity; intersubjectivity; contrapuntality; complicity; and resistance and accountability. PFIR gives rise to two interrelated projects: an empirical inquiry into the construction and exercise of power in daily life, and theory building that reflects this empirical base. A future challenge for PFIR is to elucidate how we can transform, not just alleviate, the hegemonies that persist around the world.
R. Harrison Wagner
In 1969, the game theorist John Harsanyi wrote an article criticizing the two main postulates of the general theory of social behavior prevalent at the time: the functionalist approach to the explanation of social institutions and the conformist approach to the explanation of individual behavior. According to Harsanyi, functionalist and conformist theories overstated the degree of consensus in societies, could not account for change, and described observed behavior without explaining it. Harsanyi proposed an alternative approach provided by theories based on the concept of rational choice (rational behavior, or rational decision-making). His goal was to develop a hypothetico-deductive theory explaining (and possibly predicting) a large number of empirical facts from a few relatively simple theoretical assumptions or axioms. Among students of international politics, Harsanyi’s approach sparked a controversy about rationalism. However, some critics of rationalism do not distinguish clearly between the interest-based theories Harsanyi criticized and the rational choice methods he advocated, and some even confuse both with neoclassical economics. In order to understand the issues raised in the controversy about rationalism, it is helpful to look at interest-based theories of politics and their relation to neoclassical economics. Game theory has provided a useful framework for the intellectual agenda outlined by Harsanyi, especially in the area of international security.
Stephen M. Walt
Political Realism has been described as the “oldest theory” of international politics, as well as the “dominant” one. Central to the realist tradition is the concept of “security.” Realism sees the insecurity of states as the main problem in international relations. It depicts the international system as a realm where “self-help” is the primary motivation; states must provide security for themselves because no other agency or actor can be counted on to do so. However, realists offer different explanations for why security is scarce, emphasizing a range of underlying mechanisms and causal factors such as man’s innate desire for power; conflicts of interest that arise between states possessing different resource endowments, economic systems, and political orders; and the “ordering principle” of international anarchy. They also propose numerous factors that can intensify or ameliorate the basic security problem, such as polarity, shifts in the overall balance of power, the “offense–defense balance,” and domestic politics. Several alternative approaches to international relations have challenged the basic realist account of the security problem, three of which are democratic peace theory, economic liberalism, and social constructivism. Furthermore, realism outlines various strategies that states can pursue in order to make themselves more secure, such as maximizing power, international alliances, arms racing, socialization and innovation, and institutions and diplomacy. Scholars continue to debate the historical roots, conceptual foundations, and predictive accuracy of realism. New avenues of research cover issues such as civil war, ethnic conflict, mass violence, September 11, and the Iraq War.
Truth commissions are temporary institutions that are tasked with investigating patterns of political violence under a prior regime as part of a process of political change. In the past, truth commissions were generally seen as a “second best” alternative in contexts where prosecuting past abuses was deemed unrealistic. Today, they are regarded as important tools for pursuing a wide array of goals, from democratization and reconciliation to human rights protection and individual healing. Early scholarship on the development of truth commissions focused on comparative democratization and on typologies that could be used to predict various transitional justice outcomes. More recently, scholars in the field of international relations have undertaken qualitative and quantitative studies in hopes of understanding what is driving the development of truth commissions. However, opinions differ as to the causes, consequences, and moral implications of truth commissions. Some attribute the proliferation of truth commissions to the growing strength of human rights norms and advocacy, whereas others argue that they merely function to manage the balance of power in transitional contexts, or serve as a basis for advancing values such as justice, democracy, and peace. These debates seem to have only intensified as truth commission scholarship continues to grow. One interesting pattern is that a number of scholars, have questioned the effectiveness of truth commissions in satisfying their own claims to investigate the “truth” about past abuses.
Mark J. C. Crescenzi, Rebecca H. Best, and Bo Ram Kwon
Reciprocity refers to the character of the actions and reactions between two or more actors. This character is commonly one of responding in kind to the actions of another. As such, reciprocity is considered one of the fundamental processes observed by scholars in the study of international relations (IR). In the realm of international politics, the study of reciprocity typically encompasses formal/experimental and empirical research. Some scholars look at ethical dimensions and the propagation of norms such as the Golden Rule, while others undertake empirical analysis of patterns of reciprocity in search of answers to questions about the existence, predictability, and diffusion of reciprocity. As a concept, reciprocity has applications in a range of IR topics such as the basic ingredients of cooperation, the escalation and return of conflict, and the adherence to international law. Within the realm of conflict processes, the iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma (PD) and formal frameworks are often used to represent arms races and similar security concerns. Related to the iterated PD is the work of Robert Axelrod, who demonstrated the robustness of the reciprocal strategy known as tit-for-tat (TFT). One puzzle on reciprocity that deserves consideration in future research is that the expectation of a long time horizon for interaction should stimulate the incentive to cooperate, but long time horizons may also be associated with long pasts. One way to find the answer to this puzzle is to incorporate reciprocity into more general models of international interaction.
John James Kennedy and Mariya Y. Omelicheva
After years of communism and central planning, Russia and China embarked on broad transformations from planned to market economy and limited political liberalization reforms. Chinese reforms commenced in 1978, while those in the Soviet Union started in 1991. The two countries took contrasting paths to economic reform, and their experiences during economic transition have been viewed as polar opposites. The reform experiences of Russia and China sparked intense academic debates over a variety of issues surrounding transition from communism to market economy. The primary source of scholarly disagreement is whether the pace, the sequence, or country-specific initial conditions determines the success of economic and political reforms. The debates revolved around questions such as whether there is a relationship between economic processes and political reforms in the transitional states, or whether economic liberalization should pave the way for political liberalization. Two dominant approaches to transition from socialism to capitalism advanced in the literature are “shock therapy” and gradualism; the former was adopted by the Russians and the latter by the Chinese. Several lessons can be learned from the Russian and Chinese transition, such as the impact of structural forces on the leadership’s policy preferences and the importance of tenable development policies to ensure the success of economic reforms. Notwithstanding these lessons, there remain a number of questions that deserve further investigation, mainly in terms of the role of China and Russia in world politics.
Raymond Hopkins and Benjamin Meiches
The term “international regime” was originally used to describe formal agreements between states, but the concept has since evolved after going through considerable critique and reformulation. A universal agreement on the precise nature or elements of a regime has remained elusive, despite a general consensus on the definition. Nevertheless, the concept of regime offers a unique opportunity to better understand international relationships by underscoring the importance of specific attributes of international, multinational, and nongovernmental groups, sets of behavioral or epistemic practices, and processes of learning. As a heuristic device, regime theory helps to explain the rise of complex interaction between states, organizations, corporations, and other institutions as well as the potential for ideas or behavior to shape the international system. Regime theory has supplemented traditional explanations of international order, including hegemonic stability theory or neorealism, by explaining the emergence of cooperation and organization within what would traditionally be considered anarchical or highly unpredictable conditions. Common approaches to regime theory include realism, neoliberalism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Part of the strength of regime theory is that it has remained an elastic concept and has been used to analyze a huge diversity of issues, with many promising results. Regime theory should continue highlighting both the ideational and material dimensions of organization and bringing together positivist, inductive, and critical approaches to understanding power, interest, and identity so as to generate a series of new conversations or trajectories for exploring the creation of international order.
Joe D. Hagan
One of the most prevalent ideas in the international relations (IR) literature is that domestic political patterns are linked to foreign policy via the concept of political regime (democracy, anocracy, and autocracy). Over the past two decades, the regime type-foreign policy nexus has gained ample theoretical and empirical credibility in IR theory. There are four areas of research on regime type and foreign policy: the first considers the “democratic peace” literature focused on authoritarian and democratic foreign policies; the second deals with the “democratization and war” literature that highlights the foreign policies of anocracies; the third uses the common large-N data sets and research design and “unpacks” democratic and authoritarian regimes (separately) to identify subtypes of each regime type; and the fourth is the so-called “politics and war” literature. The politics and war literature is rather fragmented, with authors pursuing separate and evidently incomplete lines of argument. There are three steps for integrating the key insights of the politics and war literature. First, the intensification of domestic opposition to established elites. Second, the adoption of new ruling strategies as a means for leaders to cope with rising domestic political crises and/or control of their hold over the regime. Third, the occurrence of international crisis, in which larger aspects of domestic politics persist, or emerge, to affect decisions involving the threat of war.
Jörg Balsiger and Stacy D. VanDeveer
Only recently has international environmental politics scholarship focused more explicitly on “regionalism” as a distinct phenomenon, one which has received much more sustained attention among specialists in international security and international political economy. By the early twenty-first century, regional environmental governance had become commonplace. Since the term “region” has had different connotations in different disciplines, the analytic and empirical scope of studies of regional environmental governance has varied considerably. As such, analyses of regional environmental cooperation have incorporated both constructivist views of regions that transcend the nation-state grid, and rescaling arguments placing greater emphasis on subnational governments, transboundary mobilization, and the importance of ecoregional initiatives. Regional agreements increasingly point to some sort of ecoterritoriality, state actors are increasingly complemented by nonstate or substate actors, and the thematic scope increasingly expands beyond purely environmental issues to encompass broader notions of sustainable development. There are three typical types of regional agreements: interstate regional environmental governance, ecoregional environmental governance, and ecoregional sustainable development governance. Interstate regional environmental governance is most typical of regional economic organizations with an environmental mandate that covers single or multiple environmental issues. Meanwhile, ecoregional environmental governance is widely seen in agreements for mountain ranges, regional seas, or river basins. Case studies on marine and mountain regional environmental governance illustrate that various regional arrangement remain in quite different states of institutionalization. Yet they also illustrate the growth of ecoregionalism in transnational environmental governance.
The terms “region,” “regionalism,” and “regional integration” are often used synonymously in the academe. For instance, one author refers to Pacific Asian regionalization, North American regionalism and regional integration in Europe. Some authors view “regionalism” as the analytically broader term. Since the mid-1990s, there has been a more general movement toward “economic regionalism or regional trade agreements,” building on the concept of “new regionalism” and coinciding with the notion of “preferential trading arrangements.” This implies only those integration schemes which have an economic purpose, are in geographical proximity to each other, and consist of more than two states qualify for inclusion. There are five stages in the deepening of formal regional integration: free trade area, customs union, common market, economic union, and political union. From the late-1950s to the late 1990s, two approaches have attempted to explain the process (rather than the origins) of regionalism: neofunctionalism and liberal intergovernmentalism. Scholars argue whether there is a causal connection between regional integration and Global Political Economy (GPE), or whether they are simply correlated. Three themes from the literature on regionalism and GPE can be identified. First, the numerous studies since the late 1990s that have taken a decidedly comparative approach, irrespective of their level of analysis, agree that there is some “logic” to regional arrangements. Second, confusion occurs with domestic causality. Third, large membership has become a concern for the European Union.
A proper understanding of the development of nationalism should incorporate the direct and indirect influences of religion. To focus on the current international order is to note that various aspects of international conflict have significantly changed in recent years, with frequent involvement of religious, ethnic, and cultural non-state actors. The type of religious nationalism affects what type of nation state develops. The stronger the religious influence on the national movement, the greater the likelihood that discrimination and human rights violations will occur. In addition, there are scholars who argue that the activities of transnational religious actors—such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and al Qaeda—can undermine state sovereignty. The premise here is that globalization facilitates the growth of transnational networks of religious actors. Feeding off each other’s ideas and perhaps aiding each other with funds, these actors and institutions are bodies whose main priority is the well-being and advance of their transnational religious community. But opinions about the current involvement of religion in international relations and its impact on international order tend to be polarized. On the one hand, the re-emergence of religion in international relations is often seen to present increased challenges to international order, especially from extremist Islamist organizations. On the other hand, some religious actors may help advance international order—for example the Roman Catholic Church and its widespread encouragement to authoritarian regimes to democratize—by significantly affecting international governments.
Georg von Kalckreuth and Daniel Warner
The term “refugee crisis” is used throughout the literature to refer to situations where large numbers of refugees or displaced persons more generally are present, whereas “humanitarian crisis” refers to situations where the lives, health, safety or well-being of a large number of people are at substantial risk. The term “complex emergency” is defined as “a humanitarian crisis typically characterized by extensive violence and loss of life, massive displacements of people, widespread damage to societies and economies, and hindrance of humanitarian assistance by security risks and political and military constraints.” A typical complex emergency consists of one or more humanitarian and refugee crises, regardless of their actual causes, and necessitates an international and United Nations system-wide response because of its complexity. Humanitarian and refugee crises have often generated international response efforts that were intended to help affected individuals, alleviate their suffering, and restore their situation from the plight of crisis to some level of normality. In addition to the UN and its specialized agencies, international responses bring together a large and diverse set of actors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and its national societies, national and international nongovernmental organizations, and the governments of third states. Their responses have drawn scholarly interest, especially after World War II. However, the literature on international responses to humanitarian and refugee crises does not offer a comprehensive and exhaustive scholarly treatment of the issue. This is an obvious gap that needs to be addressed in future research.
Paul R. Hensel
The International Studies Association’s (ISA) Scientific Study of International Processes (SSIP) section is dedicated to the systematic analysis of empirical data covering the entire range of international political questions. Drawing on the canons of scientific inquiry, SSIP seeks to support and promote replicable research in terms of the clarity of a theoretical argument and/or the testing of hypotheses. Journals that have been most likely to publish SSIP-related research include the top three general journals in the field of political science: the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, and Journal of Politics. A number of more specialized journals frequently publish research of interest to the SSIP community, such as Conflict Management and Peace Science, International Interactions, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and Journal of Peace Research. Together, these journals published a total of 1,024 qualifying articles between 2003 and 2010. These articles cover a wide range of topics, from armed conflict and conflict management to terrorism, international political economy, economic development or growth, monetary policy, foreign aid, sanctions, human rights and repression, international law, international organizations/institutions, and foreign policy attitudes and beliefs. Data users who are interested in conducting their own research must: choose the most appropriate data set(s), become familiar with what the data set includes and how its central concepts are measured, multipurpose data sources, investigate missing data, and assess robustness across multiple data sets.
Emily O. Goldman
The term “revolution in warfare” refers to a pronounced change or discontinuity in warfare that radically alters the way a military operates and improves relative military effectiveness. Revolutions in warfare emerged as a subject of considerable debate in the 1990s in the wake of the United States’s resounding victory over Iraqi military forces in the Persian Gulf War. These debates highlight three different concepts: military revolution, military-technical revolution, and revolution in military affairs. During this period, the idea of an “information technology” revolution in military affairs became deeply embedded in American defense planning and evolved into a call for “transformation,” or more precisely transformational innovation. Two lines of critique have been leveled against the revolution in warfare concept and the revolutionaries themselves. The first, advanced by Stephen Biddle, claims that an RMA is not currently under way. Rather, what we are witnessing is the continuation of a century-long increase in the importance of skill in managing complexity. The second insists that the RMA as a policy direction is a risky path for the United States to pursue because it will undermine the country’s power and influence. There are also two schools of thought that explain the causes of revolutions in warfare: the “economic determinist” school and the “contingent innovation” school. A number of questions remain unanswered that need further consideration in research, such as whether the United States and its allies should continue to prepare for a “long war” against violent extremists, or whether transformation is dead.
Audrey R. Chapman
The right to health and health services is generally framed as the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Like other human rights, the right to health confers to all people specific entitlements and imposes duties on governments to protect and promote them. It reflects a broadened sense of governmental responsibility for the welfare of its citizens and a more inclusive understanding of human rights. All countries, including the United States, have ratified at least one binding human rights convention that includes a provision on the right to health. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations more than six decades ago, has given rise to a series of international human rights instruments that legally obligate states to implement their provisions. The two most important of these are the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Despite substantial progress, a number of issues still need to be addressed for the realization of the right to health, such as the lack of political commitment on the part of many states with regard to implementation and the weakness of the international human rights system. Furthermore, many states which have ratified international or regional human rights instruments that recognize a right to health or have relevant constitutional provisions still do not invest the necessary resources or apply human rights standards to the framing of health policies.
Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen
In his 1958 book War and Industrial Society, Raymond Aron claimed that industrial society had shaped not only the way in which war was fought in the twentieth century, but also the expectations of what force could achieve and how peace could be made. A number of sociologists are now arguing that the industrial society described by Aron is changing into what Ulrich Beck terms a “risk society.” The concept of risk entered the realms of security studies and strategic studies in the early years of the twenty-first century. It has been stimulated by new challenges to policy makers and new strategies for dealing with “security issues.” Today, the concept of risk is used to develop strategies for a globalizing world redefined by rapid technological and social change in the same way as the concept of security was used to forge strategies for the Cold War. Three concepts together define the practices of risk: risk management, the presence of the future, and the boomerang effect. The future is present in contemporary policy making in the shape of scenarios and in the sense of the boomerang effect, creating a self-referential society that is very much aware of the changes it is going through. This anxiety of change and the preemptive policies that follow are captured in the risk literature. Future research should tackle the question of whether the risk society is a way of coping with transition, or whether it is the way of a new “postmodern” society.
Geography has been a formal academic discipline in the United States since the early twentieth century. During the first six or so decades of this period, geographic education was dominated by the legacies of environmental determinism and orientalism. These concepts were representative of a Eurocentric worldview that showed contempt for non-Western cultures and economies, treating “natives” of non-Western cultures as backward, ignorant, and lazy. Presentation of material about non-Western areas of the world in geography textbooks and publications has been characterized by assumptions of Western cultural superiority. The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries saw geographic education undergo considerable transition, as geographers pay more and more attention to perspectives like dependency theory and world system theory. Renewed interest in geographic education coincided with the revival of geography as an intellectual pursuit and recognition of the importance of place in the world economy and in international relations, along with the explosive growth of information made possible by television, the internet, and other technologies. More importantly, the orientalist biases that have historically characterized geographic education in the United States and other Western countries have gradually disappeared. It has been argued that improved geographic education will help overcome geographic illiteracy and promote public awareness of international relations, but such awareness must be intertwined with the changing role of educational institutions in managing information, and to recognition of the changing relationships between education and information.
Role theory is an approach to the study of foreign policy that developed in the interdisciplinary field of social psychology and can be appropriately applied at the individual, state, and system level analyses. Role theory, which first attracted attention in the foreign policy literature after the publication of K. J. Holsti’s 1970 study of national role conception, does not refer to a single theory, but rather a family of theories, an approach, or perspective that begins with the concept of role as central to social life. The major independent variables in the study of roles include role expectations, role demands, role location, and audience effects (including cues). In addition, role theory contains its own model of social identity based on three crucial dimensions: status, value, and involvement. The 1987 publication of Stephen G. Walker’s edited volume, Role Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis, set the stage for further advances in the use of role theory in both the fields of foreign policy and international relations. According to Walker, role theory has a rich language of descriptive concepts, the organizational potential to bridge levels of analyses, and numerous explanatory advantages. This makes role theory an extremely valuable approach to foreign policy analysis. Role theory also offers a way of bringing greater integration between foreign policy analysis and international relations, especially through constructivist meta-theory.
Robert H. Donaldson
Russian foreign policy has both been similar and unique to that of other great powers. As a general rule of statecraft, Russia has pursued balance-of-power policies, which essentially involves the mobilization of power to countervail the power of an enemy or a potential adversary. The enduring goals pursued by Russian foreign policy have placed primary emphasis on ensuring national security, promoting the economic wellbeing of the country, and enhancing national prestige. The dominant theme in the Russian foreign policy under the tsars is that of expansionism. No single motive force can be found to explain tsarist Russian expansionism; rather, the influences of geography, regime type, the international system, and ideology all weigh in, though in different proportions at different times. The ideology known as Marxism–Leninism has also had a significant effect on Soviet and post-Soviet policy. Meanwhile, Russian Federation president Boris Yeltsin’s primary aim in foreign policy, like Mikhail Gorbachev’s before him, was to create a nonthreatening external environment that would be most conducive to his country’s internal economic and political development. On the other hand, Vladimir Putin pursued a pragmatic, cautious, and nuanced policy. The most visible change that Putin brought to Russia’s foreign policy was a heightened level of presidential activism. In his second presidential term, Putin further changed the direction of Russian foreign policy, increasingly demanding that Russia be recognized as a great power and be given commensurate weight in the resolution of global issues.
Mariya Y. Omelicheva
The Cold War was a period of hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union as the two superpowers engaged in a nuclear arms race. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, some scholars perceived that Russia’s military-industrial complex has deteriorated considerably, and that the country has fallen behind the United States and Europe in the area of information technologies and other strategically important sectors of national economy. Others insist that the image of Russia’s political irrelevancy and demotion of the country to a status of a “small” or even “medium” power is mistaken. The new Russia, they argue, has never surrendered its claims as a great power. Discussions about Russia’s global role have been fueled by its continuing nuclear standoff with the United States, along with growing concerns about its plans to develop more robust nuclear deterrents and modernize its nuclear arsenals. There is substantial scholarly literature dealing with Russia’s foreign, security, military, and nuclear policy, as well as the role of nuclear weapons in the Russian security framework. What the studies reveal is that the nuclear option remains an attractive alternative to Russia’s weakened conventional defense. Today, as before, Russia continues to place a high premium on the avoidance of a surprise attack and relies on its nuclear capabilities for strategic deterrence. There are a host of issues that deserve further investigation, such as the safety of Russia’s nuclear sites and the regional dimension of its nuclear policy.