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This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies. Please check back later for the full article.
The central characteristic distinguishing international borders in the 21st century from those of earlier historical eras is their linearity: their appearance as a series of one-dimensional points connected by straight lines. International relations (IR) often takes for granted the global-historical process that brought this about, but because cross-border relations are the main substance of inquiry in IR, many theories and areas of study in the field contain some perspective on that process, at least implicitly. These perspectives can be divided into historical accounts of the origins of linear borders on one hand and discussions concerning their implications on the other.
Explanations of linear borders often refer to the emergence of the nation-state in Europe, viewing modern borders in either a realist or a rationalist vein: as hardened battle lines of intense geopolitical competition, or as a rational state institution minimizing uncertainty and transaction costs. Constructivists have also drawn attention to social epistemes and cartographic practices making it possible to imagine polities as bounded by precisely demarcated lines before boundaries were actually created as such. Beyond these perspectives one might also examine the growth of a professional surveying practice around private property as well as the construction of linear boundaries as civilized, both of which were closely associated with colonialism and imperialism.
As for the consequences of modern borders, debate has proceeded in several directions. One argument posits that the introduction and perseverance of colonial borders in the Global South has contributed to “state failure,” an argument that has been criticized for its assumption that more natural borders are somehow possible. Another argument, which can be traced back to 19th-century geography, is that precise, fixed boundaries promote peace in international relations. Finally, it could also be argued that linear boundaries contribute to the privileging of certain kinds of geographical expertise over others and make it possible to imagine territory as a structure that is fundamentally the same across the world, regardless of context.
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.
Joachim K. Rennstich
The new information age has the potential not only to alter the historical path of world system development, as other socio-technological paradigmatic shifts have done, but also to transform it substantially. One school of thought argues for a complete upending of past patterns with nation states in their hierarchical alignment as the center core and periphery of power in this system. An alternative view instead argues that the regularized interaction that characterizes a world system may envisage a number of modes of production without altering its fundamental structure. The world system in this view is made up of a variety of complex intra-organizational and interorganizational networks intersecting with geographical networks structured particularly around linked clusters of socioeconomic activity. Information and carrier technologies based on new forms of information technologies and their connection to network technologies play a vital role in the long-term evolution of world system development characterized by both path-dependencies and major transformations that result from technological innovations. While digital information technologies significantly alter the processing and use of information as a central element of power and control within this network structure and therefore its network logic, they do not break the evolutionary process of world system development.
Marc L. Busch and Edward D. Mansfield
A survey of the literature on trade has revealed that it is becoming more difficult for elected officials resist protectionist pressures by citing constraints imposed by global pacts and supply free trade. There are two main reasons why. First, the literature on the design and politics of international institutions increasingly emphasizes how they build in slack that can undermine government claims of being constrained. Second, as states accede to an ever-growing list of overlapping international institutions, there is often a choice among, or uncertainty over, which institution’s obligations apply. Where this situation creates more policy space for government officials, it also will make it more difficult for them to credibly tie their hands and supply free trade in the face of interest group pressures for protection. Currently, the literature is somewhat at a turning point. Questions about the design and politics of international institutions, and the growing thickness of the market for them, are very much in vogue. These questions have profound implications for the supply of free trade. The credibility of elected officials’ hands-tying strategies is likely undermined where institutions anticipate the political reactions of their members, or where members can shop for different rules on trade to accommodate domestic preferences. The irony is that the proliferation of international institutions may lead scholars of trade policy to renew their focus on domestic interest groups.
Russell Alan Williams and Jeff Loder
Compared to trade in goods, there hasn’t been much attention given to international exchange in services and efforts to promote liberalization of those exchanges. Despite considerable efforts to promote global and regional services liberalization since the 1980s, much of the study of “trade in services” remains somewhat underdeveloped. Governments maintain foreign direct investment (FDI) restrictions on the ownership and operation of financial services and media companies, and most countries continue to insist on strict limitations on the rights of workers to trade their services across borders. While the revolution in communications and transportation technology in recent decades has intensified interest in services, services are still highly regulated and the removal of traditional trade barriers is inadequate to promote liberalization. The initiatives undertaken to promote the removal of service trade barriers include the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) General Agreement on Trade In Services (GATS); the European Union’s (EU) Services Directive; and the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS) signed by member states of the Association of South Eastern Asian Nation members (ASEAN) in 1995. These initiatives have generated a range of academic controversies and investigation, which has explored three themes: explaining the process by which the issue of liberalization came to the forefront of the global trade agenda, deploying a range of theoretical perspectives; assessing the impact and effectiveness of services liberalization agreements; and explaining why it has proven more difficult to promote liberalization in the services sector.
Jeffrey W. Ladewig
International trade is a dynamic and powerful force that affects nearly every individual, business, and nation in the world. Its scope and scale have also made international trade an immense, intense, and perennial subject of interest and inquiry. Some of the foundational works on international trade can be traced back to Adam Smith and David Hume, whose theories sought to debunk the commonly held idea of international trade at the time: mercantilism, which viewed exports as beneficial because they generated an increase in foreign currency and a nation’s wealth, and imports as detrimental because they were thought to decrease a nation’s wealth. Today, the general idea of comparative advantage informs almost all neoclassical economists’ models of international trade. However, neoclassical economists tend to assume that the theoretical benefits of international trade are clear, and thus, often ignore or dismiss the negative impacts of international trade and the studies that challenge their theories. In fact, many countries have not seen the benefits predicted by neoclassical economic theories. This is particularly evident when comparing the effects of international trade across developed and developing countries. Furthermore, there is evidence that international trade has developed along patterns that are not predicted by the traditional theories of comparative advantage. Given these, the practice of trade and its international impact can be much murkier.
The reality of war has always been connected with political, economic, and social dynamics, as opposed to the notion that it is held within the confines of the battlefield. International political sociologists argue that practices of war and peace are positioned at the crux of institutional continuities and societal change, and that it is wrong to presuppose a dichotomy between the domestic and the international. As a result, scholars have become interested in the study of warfare, which, apart from military history, encompasses various themes such as the nature of human conflict and issues of defense policy, logistics, operations, and strategic planning. One particular study is International Political Sociology (IPS), a field of research that is concerned with how wars draw boundaries, how they influence political authority and trajectories of power, and how these are integrated in the global sphere. Meanwhile, International Relations (IR) is a formal subject that addresses the origin of war, how it impacts the dealings of the international system, and the institutional arrangements that might restrict or enhance war as a determinant of state relations. The study of International Relations is rife with various analytical perspectives, from realism to neo-realism and liberal internationalism, all of which exhibit how war continues to have a central place in scholarly disciplines.
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.
Diasporas are transnational communities that have received significant interest from international relations (IR) scholars. Attempts to conceptualize diaspora as a modern analytical term posed a major challenge in terms of drawing a distinction between people on the move—such as migrants, refugees, and seasonal workers—and people who are diasporic members of a transnational community. There are different categories of diaspora: historical (or classical/core) diasporas, modern (or recent) diasporas, incipient diasporas, state-linked diasporas, and stateless diasporas. A widely used system of categorization distinguishes among victim, trade, labor, and imperial diasporas. Most of the diaspora research done today in IR deals with the relations between diasporas and their host state and state of origin. There is also a growing body of literature on the role of diasporas in conflict and peace in the homeland. Recent studies have focused on ethnonational diasporic communities, especially the relations between diasporic kin groups in the homeland and in other states of residence, as well as their influence on the foreign policy of their host states. The study of diasporas presents a few major challenges. For instance, it forces us to rethink the rubrics of state and of nation, to challenge accepted notions of citizenship, and to question existing conceptualizations of the importance of territoriality. It also exacerbates the fuzziness between inner and outer politics in research and practice.
Matthias Finger and David Svarin
Transnational corporations (TNCs) refer to businesses that cross over borders, armed with capital as well as products, processes, marketing methods, trade names, skills, technology, and most importantly management. TNCs have drawn the interest of political scientists and specialists of international relations as they reflect a new, transnational, or even global economic reality. The shift towards trade liberalization and the expansion of market economies have enabled TNCs to grow in size and expand their operations all over the world. Thus, they also affect the natural environment. Three hypotheses or ideas have been put forward by various authors about TNCs’ relationships with the global environment: TNCs as “dirty industries” hypothesis, pollution haven hypothesis, and “business advantage of environmental standards hypothesis.” TNCs are said to operate in some sort of a political and legal vacuum, which they try to shape by defining private environmental standards and at the same time take advantage of this very vacuum to the detriment of the environment. However, they are obliged to deal with other actors such as environmental groups, governments, and consumers. TNCs are engaged in various environmental initiatives and activities relating to environmental protection, including voluntary initiatives, often mandatory environmental reporting, and private certification standards. Given their impact on the environment, it is important to engage TNCs in a global environmental governance processes and for states to adopt restrictive measures and foster international collaboration in order to regulate TNCs which neglect their environmental and social responsibilities.
Melinda Adams and Gwynn Thomas
Women’s activism has assumed an international dimension beginning in the nineteenth century. Transnational feminism has been shaped by debates over a wide range of issues: how to name and describe feminist inspired action that crosses national borders; how to create organizations, networks, and movements that acknowledge the multiple power differentials that exist among women while still allowing for concerted political action; and how to craft effective mobilization strategies in the face of highly differing forms of activism. These debates have fueled a surge in scholarly interest in the transnational activities of feminist groups, transforming the ways in which women’s studies, political science, international relations, sociology, and geography investigate the relationships between national and international levels of politics. The scholarship on transnational feminist actions has been influenced in large part by the concept of transnational advocacy networks/transnational feminist networks, which often bring together multiple kinds of actors such as social movements, international nongovernmental organizations, and more nationally or locally based actors. Another issue tackled by scholars who are politically committed to the goals of transnational feminist activism is how feminists are likely to achieve their goals and produce change through their transnational activities. These scholars can be expected to continue to develop their own research agendas on transnational feminist activism and to influence how transnational politics and globalization are studied in other fields.
Hans Peter Schmitz
Transnational human rights networks refer to a form of cross-border collective action that seeks to promote compliance with universally accepted norms. Principled transnational activism began to draw sustained scholarly attention after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the creation of a new type of information-driven and impartial transnational activism, embodied in organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Scholarship on transnational human rights networks emerged during the 1990s within the subfield of International Relations and as a challenge to the state-centric and materialist bias of the field. In their 1998 book Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics, Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink describe the key role that transnational human rights groups play in global affairs. Focusing on rights-based activism, Keck and Sikkink show how transnational advocacy networks (TANs) can influence domestic politics. The concept of TANs is dominated by the purposeful activism of nongovernmental organizations and driven by shared principles, not professional standards. A number of studies have challenged the core assumptions about the effectiveness of principled human rights activism, arguing that international support plays no significant role compared to the autonomous efforts of domestic activists. One way to overcome these challenges and criticisms is for the transnational activist sector, as well as other types of non-state actors, to move beyond the principles/interests dichotomy and take a closer look at the internal dynamics of participant NGOs.
Kenneth A. Gould and Tammy L. Lewis
Transnational social movements are defined as movements wherein members in at least two nations cooperatively engage in efforts to promote or resist change beyond the bounds of their nation. Over the last 20 years, research on transnational social movements has proliferated in tandem with rapid globalization. The scholarship draws upon research conducted by sociologists and political scientists on national social movements and extends it to a global level. Similar questions and concepts applied to national or subnational movements are now applied to transnational movements: Why do they emerge? What are their processes? What are their consequences? Concepts such as political opportunity structure, which have been used to analyze the timing and outcomes of national social movement organizations’ actions, are being extended to understand how the international political arena shapes movements. The majority of work has been case specific and focused on a handful of movements: the human and indigenous rights movements, the women’s movement, the labor movement, and the environmental movement. Over time, this theorizing moved beyond borrowing concepts intended to explain local and national movements to generate concepts and propositions unique to the particularities of local-global/transnational movements. One of the limitations of the work to date is the lack of comparative work and theoretical development. The next stage of research should build upon the empirical work that has been generated by assessing propositions comparatively.
Treaties are agreements between sovereign states, and occasionally between states and international organizations. Treaties can include conventions, covenants, charters, and statutes, all of which are legally binding under international law. There are two main types of treaties: bilateral and multilateral. Bilateral agreements are concluded by a limited number of states (usually two), and typically address a narrow set of issues that are unique to specific parties and particular circumstances. Multilateral treaties, on the other hand, establish generalized principles of conduct that apply to a wide range of states without regard to the future particularistic interests of the parties or the strategic exigencies that may exist in a particular occurrence. Treaties can serve a wide variety of functions: ending wars and establishing conditions for peace; creating new international organizations or alliances; generating new rules of coexistence and cooperation; regulating a particular type of behavior; distributing resources; and initiating new rights and obligations for future relations. No single organization or agency has the authority to enforce treaty commitment. Rather, treaties can be enforced in at least two ways. First, states can use diplomatic, economic, and/or military coercion. Second, some treaties establish their own enforcement mechanisms; for example Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter grants enforcement authority to the Security Council.
Kendall W. Stiles
Trust is the expectation that one’s interests be looked after despite the possibility of exploitation by the one being trusted (trustee). Trusting always involves some risk on the part of the one trusting (truster). The truster is vulnerable—either by choice or by circumstance. One can never be absolutely sure that one’s interests are important to the trustee or that their past performance can allow one to predict future behavior. The trustee retains their agency and even has an incentive for betrayal in the future. Much of the research on trust in international relations is aimed at explaining cooperation amid anarchy. In this context, cooperation begins with a leap of faith by actors who trust generally rather than specifically. Such “generalized trusters” do not require evidence that the trustee in question is even trustworthy with respect to a particular issue, since all actors are assumed to be worthy of trust across all topics (assuming they have the capacity to act). This can be considered “credulity,” and it primarily involves having trustful attitudes, affects, emotions, or motivational structures that are not focused on specific people, institutions, or groups. Furthermore, one cannot speak of trust without some reference to affect, particularly since one can never absolutely calculate the odds of betrayal.
After the end of World War II, women’s rights advocates at the United Nations vigorously campaigned for equality between the sexes. At the UN Charter Conference held in San Francisco in 1945, women delegates fought for the recognition of sex-based discrimination as a violation of human rights in Article 1 of the Charter. At the UN, issues relating to women were primarily placed under the purview of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), established in June 1946 with the mandate to “prepare recommendations and report to the Economic and Social Council on promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields.” Three main perspectives underpin feminist International Relations (IR) literature on the UN, gender and women: promoting women’s participation and inclusion of women’s issues at the UN; gender critique of the UN, geared towards institutional transformation; and challenging the universality of the UN. Despite some fundamental differences between these three strands of thinking, their political significance is widely acknowledged in the literature. The co-existence of these contentious viewpoints resonates with the vibrant feminist politics at the UN, and offers a fruitful avenue for envisioning a better intergovernmental organization. This is particularly relevant in light of feminist scholars’ engagement with activism and policymaking at the UN from the very beginning. Nevertheless, there are issues that deserve further consideration, such as the workings of the UN, as reflected in its unique diplomatic characteristics and bureaucratic practices.
Paul G. Harris
Environmental politics refers to the examination of the environmental stances of both mainstream political parties and environmental social movements. It also includes the analysis of public policymaking and implementation affecting the environment, at multiple geo-political levels. In most cases, the United States is the most important country involved in international environmental politics, being the world’s largest consumer and polluter of natural resources. For instance, the United States surpasses any other countries in the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), except China. With less than one-twentieth of the world’s population, the United States produces nearly one-fourth of the world’s GHGs. However, by diminishing its emissions of such pollutants, the United States could have an immensely disproportionate positive impact on international environmental problems. Having the world’s largest economy, the United States has considerable financial resources that can be directed at environmental problems internationally, and its technological advancement has great potential in this regard. The United States can either boost or delay multinational negotiation of agreements, thereby influencing whether there will be effective environmental protection on the ground throughout the world. It is important to note the significance of studying the role of the United States in international environmental politics in order to better understand the major issues exercising US policy, and to reveal that the forces shaping US environmental foreign policies are complex and disparate.
Organizational culture refers to the constellation of values, beliefs, identities, and artifacts that both shape and emerge from the interactions among the formal members of the US intelligence community. It is useful for understanding interagency cooperation and information sharing, institutional reform, leadership, intelligence failure, intelligence analysis, decision making, and intelligence theory. Organizational culture is also important in understanding the dynamics of US intelligence. There are four “levels” of, or “perspectives” on, organizational culture: vernacular and mundane organizational communication; strategic and reflective discourse; theoretical discourse; and metatheoretical discourse. Meanwhile, four overarching claims can be made about the intelligence studies literature in relation to organizational culture. First, explicit references to organizational culture within the literature do not appear until the 1970s. Second, studies of organizational culture usually critique “differentiation” among the subcultures of a single agency—most often the CIA or the FBI. Third, few intelligence scholars have provided audiences with opportunities to hear the voices of the men and women working inside these agencies. Finally, the majority of this literature views organizational culture from the dominant, managerial perspective. Ultimately, this literature evidences four themes that map to traditionally functionalist assumptions about organizational culture: (1) a differentiated or fragmented culture diminishes organizational effectiveness, while (2) an integrated or unified culture promotes effectiveness; (3) senior officials can and should determine organizational culture; and (4) the US intelligence community should model its culture after those found in private sector corporations or institutions such as law or medicine.
Fiona Robinson and Anupam Pandey
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.
Carolyn M. Shaw
Facebook is a social networking site created in 2004 which has since obtained over a billion users, and it has the potential to facilitate learning in the classroom. With the widespread use of Facebook in society, it simply makes sense to look into ways it might be used in higher education. In fact, a number of studies have been done by scholars in different disciplines regarding the use of Facebook (in general and in academia). These include studies by scholars in library science, education, media and communication, psychology, management information systems, business, political science, marketing, instructional technology, and commerce and accounting. Students come to school wired and are willing and eager to use technology, but higher education has a well-established trend toward non-adoption of new technologies. A variety of studies on the use of Facebook, however, indicate that there are a wide number of potential benefits to using Facebook as an educational tool. There are four inter-related potential benefits: creating a sense of community and promoting collaboration, enhancing communication between instructors and students, developing computer literacy and language skills, and incorporating current student culture into the learning environment. In addition, Facebook is particularly well suited for sharing and discussion of current events in the news.