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.
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.
Andrei P. Tsygankov and Pavel A. Tsygankov
Unique features of Russia’s perspectives on international politics as practice can be obtained quite clearly through the investigation of the debates on Russian foreign policy orientations. Russian foreign policy has been framed out of identity politics among different political factions under highly politicized conditions. Structural changes in international politics in the 1990s complicated internal reforms in Russia and the aggravation of socio-economic conditions due to the rapid reforms which intensified conflicts between conservatives and progressives in Russian domestic politics. Unfortunately, the aspirations of Russian reformist elites to make Russia strong could not reconcile with the conservative tendency the nation showed during the worsened economy in that period. This led to conflicting evaluations of Russian identity, which caused a fundamental shift in domestic sources for foreign policies. This transformed Russia’s perspectives on international politics, which brought about changes in its foreign policy orientation. Pro-Western Liberalism played a major role in defining Russian foreign policy under the A. Kozyrev doctrine, which defines Russia’s identity as one of the agents in the West-/US-centered system of liberal democracy and the market economy. Significant challenges to this pro-Western foreign policy came not only from outside, but also from internal changes that brought more fundamental changes to Russian foreign policy. This change should be understood within the cultural and institutional context of Russian society, since this framework determines the conceptualization of “national interest” and/or the formulation of diplomatic and security policies.
“Sea power” refers to the power exerted by a state through its capacity to use the sea for both military and civilian purposes. The ability to use the seas for transport and other civilian purposes such as fishing and, more recently, exploitation of resources on or under the sea bed has generated considerable debate. This has resulted in the notion that military power deployed at or from the sea is the key component of a state’s sea power. It was Alfred Thayer Mahan who first coined the term “sea power.” In his 1980 book “Influence,” Mahan outlined six “principal conditions affecting the sea power of nations”: geographical position, physical conformation, extent of territory, number of population, national character, and character of government. After Mahan, other writers advanced a variety of ideas regarding the concept of sea power, including Philip Colomb, who emphasized the importance of “command of the sea”; Sir Julian Corbett, who discussed the importance of maritime “lines of passage and communication” as “the preoccupation of naval strategy,” and control of such lines as the essence of “command of the sea”; and Sir Herbert Richmond, whose definition of sea power can be summed up as the “power to control movements at sea.” Others who have contributed to the scholarly literature on sea power include Raoul Castex, Bernard Brodie, Stephen Roskill, Sir Peter Gretton, Sir James Cable, Sergei G. Gorshkov, Paul Kennedy, Ken Booth, Richard Hill, and Geoffrey Till.
Rosemary E. Shinko
The concept of sovereignty has been the subject of vigorous debate among scholars. Sovereignty presents the discipline of international law with a host of theoretical and material problems regarding what it, as a concept, signifies; how it relates to the power of the state; questions about its origins; and whether sovereignty is declining, being strengthened, or being reconfigured. The troublesome aspects of sovereignty can be analyzed in relation to constructivist, feminist, critical theory, and postmodern approaches to the concept. The most problematic aspects of sovereignty have to do with its relationship to the rise and power of the modern state, and how to link the state’s material reality to philosophical discussions about the concept of sovereignty. The paradoxical quandary located at the heart of sovereignty arises from the question of what establishes law as constitutive of sovereign authority absent the presumption or exercise of sovereign power. Philosophical debates over sovereignty have attempted to account for the evolving structures of the state while also attempting to legitimate these emergent forms of rule as represented in the writings of Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. These writers document attempts to grapple with the problem of legitimacy and the so-called “structural and ideological contradictions of the modern state.” International law finds itself grappling with ever more nuanced and contradictory views of sovereignty’s continued conceptual relevance, which are partially reflective and partially constitutive of an ever more complex and paradoxical world.
Michael Colaresi and Jude C. Hays
Time and space are two dimensions that are likely to provide the paths—either singly or in tandem—by which international policy decisions are interdependent. There are several reasons to expect international relations processes to be interdependent across space, time, or both dimensions. Theoretical approaches such as rational expectations models, bureaucratic models of decision-making, and psychological explanations of international phenomena at least implicitly assume—and in many cases explicitly predict—dependence structures within data. One approach that researchers can use to test whether their international processes of interest are marked by dependence across time, space, or both time and space, is to explicitly model and interpret the hypothesized underlying dependence structures. There are two areas of spatial modeling at the research frontier: spatial models with qualitative and limited dependent variables, an co-evolution models of structure and behavior. These models have theoretical implications that are likely to be useful for international relations research. However, a gap remains between the kinds of empirical models demanded by international relations data and theory and the supply of time series and spatial econometric models that are available to those doing applied research. There is a need to develop appropriate models of temporal and spatial interdependence for qualitative and limited dependent variables, and for better models in which outcomes and structures of interdependence are jointly endogenous.
Michael D. Ward
The origin of the statistical analysis of international relations can be traced back to 1920s with the work of Quincy Wright, who founded the University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations. He led an interdisciplinary study of war that provided a first compendium of what was then known about the causes of war. Wright's studies and those that came after them were based on the assumption that systematic data were required to advance our knowledge about the causes of violent conflicts, and that an analysis of the dynamics of strategic decision making were essential; in short, systematic data coupled with a theoretical framework that focused on the decision-making calculus. However, debates soon raged over whether this scientific approach was better than the classical approach, which was based on philosophy, history, and law, and did not conform to strict standards of verification and proof. Since then, the literature has evolved into studies with a strong theoretical motivation, often expressed via game theoretical analytics, examined empirically with statistical frameworks that are specifically sculpted to probe those strategic dependencies. As such, existing models have resolved the levels of analysis problem that appeared daunting to earlier generations by actually focusing on the modeling of aspects of world politics that enjoin many different levels simultaneously.
Steven E. Lobell
Structural realism, or neorealism, is a theory of international relations that says power is the most important factor in international relations. First outlined by Kenneth Waltz in his 1979 book Theory of International Politics, structural realism is subdivided into two factions: offensive realism and defensive realism. Structural realism holds that the nature of the international structure is defined by its ordering principle, anarchy, and by the distribution of capabilities (measured by the number of great powers within the international system). The anarchic ordering principle of the international structure is decentralized, meaning there is no formal central authority. On the one hand, offensive realism seeks power and influence to achieve security through domination and hegemony. On the other hand, defensive realism argues that the anarchical structure of the international system encourages states to maintain moderate and reserved policies to attain security. Defensive realism asserts that aggressive expansion as promoted by offensive realists upsets the tendency of states to conform to the balance of power theory, thereby decreasing the primary objective of the state, which they argue is ensuring its security. While defensive realism does not deny the reality of interstate conflict, nor that incentives for state expansion do exist, it contends that these incentives are sporadic rather than endemic. Defensive realism points towards “structural modifiers” such as the security dilemma and geography, and elite beliefs and perceptions to explain the outbreak of conflict.
Craig Douglas Albert
International relations (IR) theory is favorably described in almost every syllabus since 1930. The most important questions asked were: “What is theory?” and “Is there a reason for IR theory?” The most widely used texts all focus on the first question and suggest, among others, that IR theory is “a way of making the world or some part of it more intelligible or better understood.” We can gauge where the teaching of IR theory is today by analyzing a sample of syllabi from IR scholars serving on the Advisory Board of the International Studies Association’s (ISA) Compendium Project. These syllabi reveal some trends. Within the eight undergraduate syllabi, for example, a general introduction to IR theory is taught in four separate classes. Among the theories discussed in different classes are realism, classical realism, neo-realism, Marxism and neo-Marxism, world-systems theory, imperialism, constructivism, and international political economy. Novel methods for teaching IR theory include the use of films, active learning, and experiential learning. The diversity of treatments of IR theory implied by the ISA syllabi provides evidence that, with the exception of the proliferation of perspectives, relatively little has changed since the debates of the late 1930s. The discipline lacks much semblance of unity regarding whether, and how, to offer IR theory to students. Nevertheless, there have been improvements that are likely to continue in terms of the ways in which theories may be presented.
Sai Felicia Krishna-Hensel
Throughout history, technology has played a significant role in international relations (IR). Technological development is an important factor underlying much of humanity’s social, economic, and political development, as well as in interstate and interregional relationships. Beginning with the earliest tool industries of the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods to the present time, technology has been an integral component of the transformative processes that resulted in the organization, expansion, and establishment of distinctive societies. The presence or absence of equal access to technology has often determined the nature of relationships between societies and civilizations. Technology increases the options available to policymakers in their pursuit of the goals of the state, but also complicates their decision making. The question of whether, and how much, technological change has influenced IR has been the subject of considerable debate. Scholars are divided on the emphasis that should be placed on technological progress as an independent variable in the study of relations between states and as a factor in analyzing power configurations in the international system. Among the scientific and technological revolutions that are believed to have contributed to the changing nature of power and relations between states are transportation and communication, the industrial revolution, the nuclear revolution, and the contemporary information revolution. Future research should focus on how these technological changes are going to influence the debates on power, deterrence, diplomacy, and other instruments of IR.
Thierry Balzacq and Stéphane J. Baele
International Relations (IR) theory has undergone a series of debates which have left profound changes on the discipline as a whole. These debates, though highly influential, have still caused some controversy among those in the field. Indeed, IR scholars have yet to reach a consensus as to the number of debates in IR, let alone whether or not the third debate should be recognized as part of that esteemed history, or, further still, whether or not the debates should remain part of IR discourse at all. The eclectic nature of the third debate, after all, makes it difficult to classify, as there are multiple definitions and accounts of what the third debate truly entails. The third debate originated in the 1980s, as a certain set of scholars attempted to open up the theoretical field of international relations to previously neglected viewpoints. These so-called “dissidents,” more specifically, had aimed to liberate the field from the neo-utilitarian tradition of thought. The epistemological-ontological common ground of traditional IR theories stands at the very center of dissidents’ attack, because of their commitment to undermine “foundationalist discourses.” Furthermore, the third debate is credited with the emergence of constructivism as a mainstream theory of IR, the opening up of IR to new objects and subfields, and the growth of critical approaches to IR.
Markus Thiel and Jeffrey Maslanik
“Transnational” is a frequently mentioned key word in international relations today; it is used to denote in a simplifying manner an organization working beyond state boundaries and acting independently from traditional state authorities. The scholarly recognition of such actors occurred relatively late in the field and advanced with the acceleration of globalizing economic, political, cultural, and social processes. Despite the appearance of transnational actors as a topical and palpable concern for academics and practitioners alike, questions of conceptual vagueness and relational indeterminacy remain, and the continual proliferation of these entities lend urgency to the need for more scholarly attention to these agents.
Anupam Pandey and Fiona Robinson
One of the most vigorous debates within the discipline of international relations (IR) revolves around the “universal/particular” dichotomy: the tensions between worldviews that emphasize the “whole” as a unified entity or set of ideas—in the case of IR, the “whole” typically refers to the “whole world”—and those that emphasize constituent “parts”, and the differences among them. Discussions regarding universalism and particularism have involved the traditions of realism, liberalism, and the English School, as well as critical theory, poststructuralism, and postcolonialism. Furthermore, the opposition between universalism and particularism has often taken the form of the analysis of conflict between the sovereign state, on one hand, and universal human rights, on the other. Feminists have been particularly influential in challenging the universal/particular debate in the context of human rights. Their perspectives on human rights are exemplary of feminist scholarship in the field of international ethics more generally. Indeed, feminists are constantly striving to mitigate and overcome the tensions between the universal and the particular through their commitment to relationality. The crucial question that remains is: What should be the relationship between the universal and the particular and how should we conceive of this relationship in a non-antagonistic and constructive manner? The answer lies in conceiving the relationship between the two as a dialectical one. In order to understand the universal, it is important to accept the fact that it is derived from particular local contexts and can only be realized through the culturally specific norms and rules in each context.
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson
The concept of theory takes part in a conceptual network occupied by some of the most common subjects of European Enlightenment, such as “science” and “reason.” Generally speaking, a theory is a rational type of abstract or generalizing thinking, or the results of such thinking. Theories drive the exercise of finding facts rather than of reaching goals. To formulate a theory, or to “theorize,” is to assert something of a privileged epistemic status, manifested in the traditional scholarly hierarchy between theorists and those who merely labor among the empirical weeds. In so doing, a theory provides a fixed point upon which analysis can be founded and action can be performed. Scholar and author Kenneth W. Thompson describes a nexus of relations between and among three different senses of the word “theory:” normative theory, a “general theory of politics,” and the set of assumptions on the basis of which a given actor is acting. These three types of theory are somehow paralleled by Marysia Zalewski’s triad of theory as “tool,” theory as “critique,” and theory as “everyday practice.” While Thompson’s and Zalewski’s interpretations of theory are each inherently consistent, both signal a different philosophical ontology. Thompson’s viewpoint is dualist, presuming the existence of a mind-independent world to which knowledge refers; while Zalewski’s is more of a monist, rejecting the mind/world dichotomy in favor of a more complex interrelationship between observers and their objects of study.
John Boli, Selina Gallo-Cruz, and Matt Mathias
World-polity theory is a widely used sociological perspective for the analysis of world culture, organization, and change. Also known as world-society theory, global neo-institutionalism, and the “Stanford school” of global analysis, world-polity theory is largely compatible with the globalization perspective associated with Roland Robertson and the cultural analysis approach of anthropologists Ulf Hannerz and Arjun Appadurai. Proponents of world-polity theory argue that rationality, purposes, and interests are profoundly cultural constructs bound up in an over-arching canopy (or underlying foundation) that endows actors with properties, identity, meaning, interests, and guides to action. The theory also recognizes the key role played by international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) in the formation, codification, and propagation of world culture. The intellectual foundations of world-polity theory can be traced to the work of its founder, John W. Meyer, as well as Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Erving Goffman. Two institutional domains of world society that have generated the most attention in world-polity theory are the responsible and responsive state, and the sacred and empowered individual. A variety of criticisms have emerged regarding world-polity theory, such as the alleged failure of world-polity research to address issues of inequality and stratification more directly. Among other issues, future research should focus on elucidating the ontological structure and normative order of global culture, as well as the historical origins, growth, and development of world culture, transnational organization, and global actor models over the longue durée (the past millennium or so).
Robert A. Denemark
World system history is a perspective on the global sociopolitical and economic system with a structural, long-term and transdisciplinary nature. The intellectual origins of the study of world system history can be characterized by three general trajectories, beginning with the work of global historians who have worked to write a “history of the world.” Attempts were also made by scholars such as Arnold Toynbee to write global history in terms of “civilizations”. A second pillar of world system history emerged from anthropology, when many historians of the ancient world, anthropologists, and archaeologists denied the importance of long-distance relations, especially those of trade. A third pillar emerged from the social sciences, including political science and sociology. One of the central ideas put forward was that sociopolitical and economic phenomena exhibited wave-like behavior. These various intellectual strands became self-consciously intertwined in the later 1980s and 1990s, when scholars from all of these traditions began to cross disciplinary boundaries and organize their own efforts under the rubric of world system history. This period saw Gunder Frank and Barry K. Gills questioning the value of identifying a uniquely modern system based on a transition to capitalism that was said to have occurred in the West. Frank and Gills introduced the “continuity hypothesis,” which suggests that too much scholarly emphasis has been placed on the search for and elucidation of discontinuities and transitions. World system history faces two important challenges from determinism and indeterminacy, and future research should especially address the implications of the latter.
Joachim K. Rennstich
The global world system is essentially comprised of a variety of complex intraorganizational and interorganizational networks (or “webs”) intersecting with geographical networks structured around interconnected clusters of socioeconomic activity. These networks undergo major transformations as a result of technological innovations, especially in transportation and communication technologies. The advent of the information age raises a host of questions regarding the current and possible future development of the world system; for example, whether the evolution of the world system has come to a halt; how new, and especially digital, technologies (including information and communication technology) affect the system’s future development and structure; or whether systemic leadership continues to exert itself in a similar fashion as in the past. To put these questions in a proper perspective, it is necessary to understand the structural formation and development of the world system, with a special focus on the type of linkages (or networks) that mark the development of the world system as a global “web of webs,” along with the role of information in this development. Another debate revolves around the meaning of what constitutes power that would enable a state to exert influence over others. In this context, two themes are of interest: the effects of complex interdependencies on the rules of engagement in a new, transforming and globalizing new world system, and the rise of regional powers rather than the question of a possible challenge to the old hegemonic power status of the United States.