Jonathan M. Acuff
The question of the historical origins of nations and nationalism has long been the subject of vigorous debate among scholars. Indeed, there has been no interdisciplinary convergence among historians, sociologists, and anthropologists regarding the exact timeline of the emergence of nations and nationalism. Much contemporary international relations (IR) and political science scholarship relating to nations is primarily divided between two opposing assumptions: a relatively simplistic “ancient hatreds/modernist” dichotomy versus primordialist and other kinds of claims. This disagreement over the historical origins of nationalism influences both the ontological notions governing the nature of modernity and nations, as well as important epistemological implications as to the selection and interpretation of variables. Modernists argue that nationalism is the product of the specific effects of the modern age, dating roughly to the late Enlightenment or to the French Revolution specifically. They also emphasize the role of the international system in the forging of national identity. Primordialists and ethnosymbolists have advanced their own theories of nationalism, but most contemporary IR scholars favor the “modernist” paradigm. However, it is necessary to evaluate a larger literature beyond the modernist corpus in order to tackle questions such as whether modern nations are more conflict-prone than their more aged ethnic counterparts, or whether structural changes in the international system since the end of the Cold War have opened a window of opportunity for irredentist claims for nascent nations.
Modernization theory studies the process of social evolution and the development of societies. There are two levels of analysis in classical modernization theory: the microcosmic evaluations of modernization, which focuses on the componential elements of social modernization; and the macrocosmic studies of modernization focused on the empirical trajectories and manifest processes of the modernization of nations and their societies, economies, and polities. However, there are two key sources of problems with classical modernization theory. The first is the determinism implied in the logic of modernization, while the second relates to the specific development patterns that modernization theory must contend with. A contemporary theory on modernization relates structural change at a higher level of analysis to instrumental action at a lower level of analysis, doing so within a stochastic framework rather than the deterministic one that classical modernization theory implied. In addition, the refocused attention of social scientists on the process of development has led to a renewed interest in the characterization of the relationship between economic development and democratization. The transformation of knowledge into economic development can be examined by looking at the weightless economy—a collection of “weightless” knowledge products such as software, the Internet, and electronic databases. It is closely connected to a weightless political concept called the credible polity, which is a government that creates institutions that credibly protect property rights and are also transparent in their functioning to all members of its society.
Robert English, Ekaterina Svyatets, and Azamat Zhanalin
Nationalism contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and helped put an end to the epoch-defining East–West rivalry, while ethnic conflict rearranged borders and peoples across the post-communist regions. After these initial shocks, however, most international relations (IR) scholars saw a region that was generally on a path toward political stabilization and international integration. This belief was reflected in the predominance of research on democratization and civil society, privatization and economic transition, and integration with the European Union. Nearly two decades after the collapse of communism, a simmering ethnic conflict in Georgia has sparked another major geopolitical shift. Nationalism remains a potent force not only in the post-Soviet and post-communist regions, but also for IR more generally, in the “normal” politics of parties and elections, development and trade, foreign policy making, and even war making. Regarding the politics of eastern Europe and central Eurasia, at least three distinct international dimensions of post-communist nationalism can be identified: the immediate impact of national or ethnic conflict on state-to-state relations as well as conflict spillover; nationalism’s impact on the foreign policies of states, the ways in which domestic ethnic issues can shape foreign policy debates and decisions; and the transnational spread of nationalist ideology. Present circumstances offer an opportunity not only to end the animosity and even reverse the hardening of antagonistic post-Cold War identities, but also to assess the respective impact of cultural–historical, economic, and leadership factors on the ongoing development of national identity and nationalism.
Norrin M. Ripsman
Neoclassical realism is an approach to foreign policy analysis that seeks to understand international politics by taking into account the nature of the international system—the political environment within which states interact. Taking neorealism as their point of departure, neoclassical realists argue that states respond in large part to the constraints and opportunities of the international system when they conduct their foreign and security policies, but that their responses are shaped by unit-level factors such as state–society relations, the nature of their domestic political regimes, strategic culture, and leader perceptions. Neoclassical realists have identified a number of important limitations to the neorealist model—for example, states do not always perceive systemic stimuli correctly, or the international system does not always present clear signals about threats and opportunities. Adherents of neoclassical realism insist that their approach represents a significant improvement on existing approaches to international relations and foreign policy, including “Innenpolitik” approaches. Nevertheless, neoclassical realism faces a host of criticisms, such as the claim that it is comparatively inefficient and that it is impossible to separate international and domestic variables. To overcome these challenges, neoclassical realists need to consider a few key avenues for future research, such as generating well-specified neoclassical realist theories of foreign policy and devoting more attention to the domestic politics of international cooperation in order to shed the “competition bias” of neoclassical realism.
Neoliberalism refers to a set of market-based ideas and policies ranging from government budget cuts and privatization of state enterprises to liberalization of currency controls, higher interest rates and deregulation of local finance, removal of import barriers (trade tariffs and quotas), and an emphasis on promotion of exports. While the effects of these policies have been quite consistent, they have sparked sharp criticism from the left. Critics pointed out the elites’ consistent failure in areas such as development aid, international financial regulation, Bretton Woods reform, the World Trade Organization’s Doha Agenda, and United Nations Security Council democratization. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2007–2008, the G20 held a summit in 2009 to discuss policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability. G20 leaders vowed to, among other promises, strengthen the longer term relevance, effectiveness and legitimacy of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and to seek agreement on a post–2012 climate change regime. However, many intellectual critics of neoliberalism insisted that the G20 represented nothing new. Instead, they emphasize several urgent political priorities, such as: immediately recall and reorganize campaigning associated with defense against financial degradation; reconsider national state powers including exchange controls, defaults on unrepayble debts, financial nationalization and environmental reregulation, and the deglobalization/decommodification strategy for basic needs goods; and address the climate crisis by rejecting neoliberal strategies in favor of both consumption shifts and supply-side solutions.
A network may refer to “a group of interdependent actors and the relationships among them,” or to a set of nodes linked by a web of interdependencies. The concept of networks has its origins in earlier philosophical and sociological ideas such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “general will” and Émile Durkheim’s “social facts”, which adressed social and political communities and how decisions are mediated and ideas are structured within them. Networks encompass a wide range of theoretical interpretations and critical applications across different disciplines, including governance networks, policy networks, public administration networks, social movement networks, intergovernmental networks, social networks, trade networks, computer networks, information networks, and neural networks. Governance networks have been proposed as alternative pluricentric governance models representing a new form of negotiated governance based on interdependence, negotiation and trust. Such networks differ from the competitive market regulation and state hierarchical control in three aspects: the relationship between the actors, decision-making processes, and compliance. The decision-making processes within governance networks are founded on a reflexive rationality rather than the “procedural rationality” which characterizes the competitive market regulation and the “substantial rationality” which underpins authoritative state regulation. Network theory has proved especially useful for scholars in positing the existence of loosely defined and informal webs of experts or advocates that can have a real and substantial influence on international relations discourse and policy. Two examples of the use of network theory in action are transnational advocacy networks and epistemic communities.
Matthew J. Hoffmann
Social norms were conceptualized as aspects of social structure that emerged from the actions and beliefs of actors in specific communities; norms shaped those actions and beliefs by constituting actors’ identities and interests. Early constructivist work in the 1980s and early 1990s sought to establish a countervailing approach to the material and rational theories that dominated the study of international relations. Empirically oriented constructivists worked to show that shared ideas about appropriate state behavior had a significant impact on the nature and functioning of world politics. Initial constructivist studies of social norms can be divided into three areas: normative, socialization, and normative emergence. After making the case that norms matter and developing a number of theoretical frameworks to show how norms emerge, spread, and influence behavior, norms-oriented constructivists have shifted their attention to a new set of questions, and in particular compliance with the strictures of social norms and change in norms themselves. Ideas about whether actors reason about norms or through norms can be linked to behavioral logics, which provide conceptions of how actors and norms are linked. Two types of normative dynamics can be identified: the first is endogenous contestation; the second is compliance or diffusion. In order to better understand compliance with and contestation over norms either in isolation or together, it is necessary to pay more attention to the prior understanding of who is in the community. Another topic that requires further consideration in future research is the relationship between intersubjective and subjective reality.
Jacques E.C. Hymans
Nuclear proliferation became an increasingly major concern after France and then China joined the nuclear “club” in the 1960s. However, it was not until India’s “peaceful nuclear explosive” test of 1974 that a real sense of potential worldwide crisis emerged, which also spawned a substantial amount of serious writing on the issue. The basic puzzle facing the study of nuclear proliferation is why there is a considerable and persistent disparity between the number of nuclear weapons-capable states and the number of actual nuclear weapons states. Three early works that represented crucial conceptual breakthroughs in the struggle toward a proper descriptive inference of the dynamics of proliferation are William Epstein’s The Last Chance (1976), Stephen M. Meyer’s The Dynamics of Nuclear Proliferation (1984), and Opaque Nuclear Proliferation (1991), edited by Benjamin Frankel. More contemporary political science work features attempts by each of the major international relations paradigms to tackle the proliferation puzzle: realism, psychological constructivism, neoliberal institutionalism, liberalism, and sociological constructivism. While scholars disagree over a host of issues, a consensus on the dynamics of nuclear proliferation may be discerned. In particular, there are five points on which most recent works converge: that proliferation has been historically rare; that we cannot take the demand for nuclear weapons for granted; that domestic politics and identity considerations play a crucial role in shaping proliferation choices; and that theory-guided, in-depth comparative case studies are the most appropriate means of advancing the state of our knowledge at this point in time.
Kelly M. Kadera and Dina Zinnes
The International Studies Association (ISA) was founded in 1959, but the Scientific Study of International Politics (SSIP) only became one of its sections in 1993. SSIP researchers initially believed that subject oriented committees were unparalleled. They argued that combining traditional and quantitative research on a single committee with a common subject focus would encourage cross-examination and provide a greater understanding of the problem—but this was not the case. Nowadays, the SSIP is dedicated to the pursuit of international studies using formal or empirical data. Following the methods of scientific inquiry, the section aims to support and promote replicable research in terms of the clarity of a theory and/or the testing of hypotheses. The SSIP is committed to bringing together researchers who, at all levels of analysis and with respect to the entire range of international political questions, pursue these issues using formally stated arguments and/or systematically collected and analyzed empirical data. Furthermore, the SSIP fully cooperates with any existing organization that has similar goals, both within and outside the ISA. The significance of international studies manifests through degrees and courses that engage students and researchers with the increasing number of issues and phenomena which have arisen in the current globalized world. As such, most education providers justify the need for the degrees by relating the increasing importance of the discipline with real-world situations and employment opportunities.
The scientific study of international processes (SSIP) has made substantial progress over the past twenty years, establishing itself as the mainstream research community in the field of international relations (IR) and attracting more and more attention from other disciplines. This was due to the convergence of several revolutions that have taken place in the field, including the data revolution, the formal modeling revolution, the methods revolution, the substantive revolution, and the epistemological revolution. In addition to the dramatic increase in the number of the community of scholars who use scientific logic, systematic methods, and empirical data to study IR, there was a significant improvement in the quality of research. This research has yielded important contributions to our understanding of international processes. Some of these contributions went far beyond the field; they have attracted the attention of policy makers as well as quite a few scholars from other disciplines. Some of the key findings that emerged from this research have become—correctly or incorrectly—a key component of the discourse of political leaders. Growing data availability, increased methodological sophistication, and greater scientific discipline within the profession have converged to open new research frontiers, but important challenges remain, such as the disconnect between theory and empirical tests that exists in many cases, and the almost exclusive reliance on the dyadic level of analysis. It is important to make our understanding of international processes translated into broader policy implications.
In his 1966 essay, “The Grotian Conception of International Society,” Hedley Bull distinguishes between two conceptions of international society: pluralism and solidarism. The central assumption of solidarism is “the solidarity, or potential solidarity, of the states comprising international society, with respect to the enforcement of the law.” In contrast, pluralism claims that “states do not exhibit solidarity of this kind, but are capable of agreeing only for certain minimum purposes which fall short of that of the enforcement of the law.” Bull’s formulation of pluralism and solidarism, and the way he set the two concepts against one another, exerted a profound influence on subsequent English School scholarship and sparked the pluralist–solidarist debate. This debate revolves around theorizing different kinds of order, in particular international and world order. The English School used the language of “pluralism” and “solidarism” to address the legitimacy of humanitarian intervention. After the issue of humanitarian intervention was pushed down the list of scholarly priorities, pluralism and solidarism sparked renewed interest from scholars such as Barry Buzan, Andrew Linklater and Hidemi Suganami, William Bain, and Andrew Hurrell. Despite the debates triggered by the pluralist–solidarist debate, the vocabulary of pluralism and solidarism is a promising means of tackling questions and issues that are undertheorized or largely neglected in English School theory, including those relating to the place of sub- and supranational entities in international society, the meaning and scope of world order, and the significance of international political economy in theorizing different kinds of order.
Tadeusz Kugler and Jacek Kugler
Political demography is a disciplinary field devoted to the study of population size, composition, and distribution in relation to both government and politics. The focus is on the political consequences of population change, especially the effects of population change on the demands made upon governments, on the performance of governments, on the distribution of political power within states, and on the distribution of national power among states. Political demography is concerned not only with the facts and figures of population—that is, fertility, mortality, and migration rates—but also with the knowledge and attitudes that people and their governments have toward population issues. Unfortunately, these issues have not generated adequate interest among both demographers and political scientists, not to mention economists and researchers in general. This is because political demography lies uncomfortably at the boundary between demography and political science. Political demography deserves serious and thoughtful scholarly attention because many, if not most, of the central policy concerns can be approached directly from the population perspective, including the key dimensions of population dynamics such as politics of size, fertility rates, life expectancy and the outcomes of success, race, war, migration and migration impact on the size and structure of populations, and population density. These core population characteristics can be related to many other attributes ranging from urbanization and mortality to gender, religion, education, productivity, health, and conflict. These characteristics are, in turn, essential for the analysis of themes like elections, social security, economic convergence, political development, and environmental degradation.
Some of the main genealogies within postcolonial scholarship are discussed, with a focus on key thinkers, such as Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Gayatri Spivak, Aníbal Quijano, and Walter Mignolo. Key concepts, such as colonial discourse theory, development, and subaltern studies are presented. The discussion of postcolonial thought is embedded in a reflection on its relation to other theoretical paradigms and social theories (e.g., poststructuralism, world-system theory, Marxism). This focus seeks to highlight some of the main contours of the field, while also pointing out the ways postcolonialism has shaped the discipline of international relations (IR).
Yale H. Ferguson and Richard W. Mansbach
Postinternational theory in international relations (IR) theory offers an alternative to the state-centric perspectives on the world that have dominated IR theory. A state-centric approach is far too restrictive. Despite the resurgence of populist nationalism, contemporary scholars are much more aware than in the past of the enormous variety of states, the important distinction between state and nation, the fact that states, even at the policy-making level, are not unitary actors, and the recurring possibility that violence will be intrastate or trans-state rather than interstate. It is apparent, too, that the stage of global politics is crowded by countless actors of different types, whose complex interactions substantially determine the intermediate and longer-range scenes in particular dramas. Moreover, the flow of events significantly reflects not only such ideational factors as competing identities, ideologies, and mental spaces, but also the pace and volume of globalization in its multiple dimensions and related localization dynamics that include resistance to globalization. Postinternational theory embodies the foregoing worldview. It shares some areas of agreement with leading schools of IR theory, but provides a much better foundation for future theory building as well as a policy-relevant way of thinking about the world and analyzing global political issues.
Poststructural/postmodern IR is a mode of critical thinking and analysis that joined disciplinary conversations during the 1980s and, despite the dismissive reception it has initially faced, it is a vibrant and expanding area of research within the field today. Providing a radical critique of politics in modernity, it is less a new paradigm or theory. Instead, it is better described as “a critical attitude” that focuses on the question of representation and explores the ways in which dominant framings of world politics produce and reproduce relations of power: how they legitimate certain forms of action while marginalizing other ways of being, thinking, and acting. To elaborate the insights of poststructuralism/postmodernism, the article starts off by situating the emergence of these critical perspectives within the disciplinary context and visits the debates and controversies it has elicited. This discussion is followed by an elaboration of the major themes and concepts of poststructural/postmodern thought such as subjectivity, language, text, and power. The convergences and divergences between poststructuralism and its precursor—structuralism—is an underlying theme that is noted in this article. The third and fourth sections make central the epistemological and ontological challenges that poststructuralism/postmodernism poses to disciplinary knowledge production on world politics. While the former focuses on how central categories of IR such as state and sovereignty, violence, and war were problematized and reconceptualized, the latter attends to the poststructuralist/postmodern attempts to articulate a different political imaginary and develop an alternative conceptual language to think the international beyond the confines of the paradigm of sovereignty and the modern subject. The article concludes with a brief look at the future directions for poststructural/postmodern investigations.
W. Travis Selmier
War, trade, and money synergistically developed over three millennia, each proving important to the emergence of nation-states. By the 19th century, fiduciary money—forms of money based on trust, such as paper money—catalyzed the development of national monetary and banking systems. As nexus of international finance and metropole of the world’s largest empire, the United Kingdom garnered political and economic power. But over the course of two world wars, power shifted to the United States. Small successes and great failures of the interwar period influenced creation of Bretton Woods institutions, completing a transformation from an international monetary system into an international financial system [IFS], which included not only monetary flows but also a formal, institutionalized system of governance. The dollar’s flows became the IFS’ lifeblood, engendering structural power for the United States, which has been held in place through reserve currency status, institutional stickiness through banking and currency trading, and ideational influence. Introduction of the Euro and attempts in Asia to dismantle the “Asian Bloc” have shaken, but not removed, American structural power. Money’s foundations have always rested on trust, trading, and risk taking; emergence of extensive credit and virtual money, and related security concerns, bring forth new topics resting on these old foundations.
The “practice turn” in international relations (IR) refers to those scholars that explicitly take practices as a category of analysis in one way or another. This notion implies three things: that a significant number of scholars turn to practices, that they have enough similarities to be considered part of the same broad movement, and that they bring something novel to the discipline. Taken together, the concepts and logics developed in association with this shift in emphasis to practices form what has come to be labelled as “practice theory” (PT). The basic concepts and logics that provide the conceptual and theoretical foundation for PT’s use in IR include practices as shared, patterned, and embodied; the logic of habits/habitus; and field, capital, and symbolic domination. The epistemological foundation of PT is an interpretive and reflexive approach that builds on a pragmatic epistemology that considers knowledge as socially constructed. PT challenges rationalism and constructivism, but without denying that individuals make rational calculations, or that social norms constrain their behaviour. Practice theorists use different metaphors in locating PT within IR, such as the “gluon” or the “trading zone.” Another approach is to treat practices as an analytical tool. In addition, there are three different methods for studying practices: participant observation, interviews, and discourse analysis.
Public goods represent a particular challenge in international politics that has been linked to problems as diverse as alliance politics, environmental governance, and global currency systems. In many situations, some form of coordinated collective action is needed to produce public goods. Consequently, provision of public good often serves as a stand-in for theoretical questions related to cooperation in an anarchic system.
Public goods, which have elements of non-rivalness and non-excludability, are often desired by states but can be difficult to produce in the absence of a powerful state willing to provide public goods unilaterally. Non-rivalness refers to the ability of many actors to consume a good. Closely related to the concept of non-rivalness in public goods is the concept of jointness of supply. Jointness of supply means that all parties can enjoy the benefits of consumption with no additional cost required to provide the good to additional individuals.
By contrast, non-excludability implies that once a good has been produced, there are no efficient means of preventing consumption of a good. If both of these conditions are true, then a public good, such as asteroid defense or the elimination of smallpox, could be a benefit to all of humanity once produced. On the other hand, pure public goods are relatively rare. There are variations in which non-rivalness or non-excludability is imperfectly met. Club goods, such as security in alliances, offer viable mechanisms for excluding states from the benefits of a good but may produce goods that are non-rival within the club. Common-pool resources, such as ocean fish populations, are non-excludable but are rival, in that overfishing can reduce fish populations.
Benjamin Herborth and Oliver Kessler
The term “public” is predominantly used in International Relations (IR), often appearing as an attribute in collocations such as “public goods” or “public opinion.” The study of public spheres can be meaningfully situated within the scope of the emerging field of International Political Sociology (IPS). At the heart of the study of public spheres as an integral part of IPS is the challenge of theorizing the relations between public spheres and an emerging postnational political order. One perennial concern of IPS that can be addressed through the study of public spheres is the relation between empirical and normative inquiry. In addition, the study of public spheres constitutes an interdisciplinary arena that contributes to the process of opening up IR to the theoretical and methodological toolkit of adjacent intellectual fields. In this context, the study of social movements comes to mind, especially when it directly tackles processes of “contentious politics.” An analysis of the way in which the term “public” is used in IR can offer important insights into the social-theoretical presuppositions and implicit concepts of social and international order that go along with it. The study of public spheres is not confined to the study of a set of firmly delineated empirical phenomena, which may or may not be observed. It can also be used to elucidate the oft-neglected problem of how political authority is constituted in terms of both theoretical and empirical inquiry.
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.