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Even though most conflicts in everyday life manifest themselves as cursory bagatelles, there are conflicts that end up in situations of organized, collective violence (e.g., armed conflict). To understand how trivial contradictions can become meaningful conflicts in a broader societal context, it is crucial to examine the process of conflict escalation. Conflict escalation can be understood as an intensification of a conflict with regard to the observed extent and the means used. An escalating conflict represents a developing social system in its own right, having the legitimization of violence as a key feature. Here, a broader social science perspective on the concept of conflict escalation is offered, outlining its intellectual history, explaining its major perspectives and current emphases, and exploring newer avenues in approaching social conflict.
Sara McLaughlin Mitchell and Patrick M. Regan
The issue of armed conflict management was first mentioned in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1957, when Quincy Wright wrote that the resolution of international conflict can be facilitated by national government efforts “to prevent tensions for arising and aggravating disputes […] among nations. Such resolution can also proceed through the application of appropriate methods of negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement […] and the coordination of measures to prevent aggression.” However, there was remarkably little emphasis on studies of negotiation, mediation, or interstate bargaining before the mid-1970s. A more concerted focus on managing armed conflict began in the mid-1970s, and the 1990s and 2000s saw an explosion in the number of published quantitative studies on conflict management, driven in part by the significant growth in data collection projects on interstate conflict management. Over the past half-century, quantitative studies have identified the factors that promote the use and success of interstate conflict management. It should be noted that a lot of the usual suspect variables in the conflict literature, such as power parity, democracy, rivalry, and contiguity, appear in conflict management analyses as well. Yet the dialogue between these two literatures is often limited. On the other hand, conflict management courses typically organize themselves around the dependent variable, examining different forms of conflict management techniques (good offices, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, adjudication, etc.). Progress will be made on both fronts when we start thinking about these processes in a unified framework.
The academic study of conflict resolution was born as as a critique of mainstream International Relations (IR), which explains why feminist theory and conflict resolution share many things in common. For example, both feminists and conflict resolution scholars challenge traditional power politics grounded in realist or neorealists analyses of conflict. They also share the core belief that war is not inevitable and that human beings have the capacity to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means. In the past two decades, with the expansion of feminist scholarship in IR, feminist interventions in conflict resolution have gained more currency. This essay reviews feminist scholarship in conflict resolution, with particular emphasis on five elements: critiques of the absence and/or marginalization of women in the field and an effort to include women and to make women visible and heard; articulation of a unique feminist standpoint for approaching peacemaking and conflict resolution, which is essentially different to, and qualitatively better than, mainstream (or male-stream) perspectives; feminist theorization of difference in conflict resolution theory and practice (challenges to essentialism, intersections, power and privilege, culture); feminist redefinition of central concepts in the field, especially violence, power, peace, and security; and original feminist research and theorizing, including field research in conflict areas, designed to transform rather than just reform the field. This essay argues that in order to further expand and institutionalize conflict resolution studies, mainstream scholars must be willing to engage seriously the contributions and critiques of feminists.
For more than four decades, advocates of consociationalism and their opponents have been engaged in a debate over about how to design institutions to achieve sustainable peace in divided societies. In general, existing theories acknowledge the importance and usefulness of institutional design in conflict resolution, but offer rather different prescriptions as to the most appropriate models to achieve stable conflict settlements. Three such theories are of particular significance: power sharing in the form of its liberal consociational variant, centripetalism, and power dividing. Consociationalism, centripetalism, and power dividing offer a range of distinct prescriptions on how to ensure that differences of identity do not translate into violence. They often go beyond “politics at the center” and also provide arguments on territorial dimensions of ethnic conflict settlement. Practitioners of conflict resolution recognize the need to combine a range of different mechanisms, giving rise to an emerging practice of conflict settlement known as “complex power sharing.” None of the three theories of conflict resolution fully captures this current practice of complex power sharing, even as liberal consociationalism appears to be the most open to incorporation of elements of centripetalism and power dividing. A theory of complex power sharing would need to explain why there is empirical support for a greater mix of institutions than existing theories recommend.
Given the systematic threats facing humanity, there is an urgent need for new thinking about the human rights project. The most prevalent form of global abuse exists in the form of violence against women and children. Sexual violence has been considered the most pervasive, yet least recognized human rights, abuse in the world. Equally prevalent among the modern sources of threats to physical integrity rights are the pervasive practice of torture and the issue of poverty and the threats it poses to human dignity and human rights. Individual civil-political rights and the rights of minorities, including women, ethnic and religious minorities, and indigenous people have been protected at times and violated at other times by states. Moreover, some observers argue that group rights should be properly understood as an extension of the already recognized collective rights to self-determination of people. But this broad spectrum of human rights violations can be organized into two categories: domestic and international. The domestic sources include both local and national sources of human rights abuses, and international sources entail international and global dimensions. These analyses are interconnected and reinforcing, but they can be contradictory at times. Understanding such complex interrelations is a necessary condition for describing factors and processes leading to abuses. In an applied sense, this understanding is essential for suggesting how we should proceed with the protection of basic human rights. Although there is agreement on the most pressing problems of human suffering, there is no consensus over the answers.
Steven L. Lamy
Cooperative learning is a means of providing opportunities for students to work together in an effort to accomplish an assigned intellectual task. There are different types of cooperative learning. In formal settings, students may stay in a learning group for several sessions in order to achieve a specific task. More informal cooperative learning situations usually are temporary or ad hoc groups that are formed by professors to facilitate some form of discussion and learning. In a cooperative learning class, it is important to clearly explain the pedagogical purposes and the required procedures of the course. Instructors should explain how an active learning course works and the responsibilities students have in this kind of course. An effective cooperative learning course demands the instructor’s active participation, as they must monitor the groups, answer research questions, and generally guide the direction of the course discussions. Though there are disadvantages and criticisms against cooperative learning, the study of international relations in particular can benefit from this method. The study of international relations is defined by problems and challenges that are interdisciplinary. Students thus need to be prepared for research and problem-solving in a variety of issue areas. Cooperative learning techniques that provide for the sharing of expertise and research findings with peers provide students with skills that are critical for success in the world today.
Cosmopolitanism refers to the ideology that all human beings belong to a single community, based on a shared morality. A cosmopolitan community might be based on an inclusive morality, a shared economic relationship, or a political structure that encompasses different nations. The argument that all citizens of the world possess an equal moral status can be interpreted as a statement that all humans deserve to be given equal respect, or that their interests deserve to be treated equally. Cosmopolitanism was initially thought to have been established by the Cynics (classical cosmopolitanism), then further interpreted and elucidated by the Stoics, and later polished and cultivated by the Enlightenment scholars (enlightenment cosmopolitanism). Cosmopolitanism is an analytical viewpoint that defends the concept of global citizenship. Global citizenship is most commonly associated with a “way of creating a personal identity,” along with various ideas about one’s moral responsibilities and political rights. It is also worth noting how within the domain of international ethics, cosmopolitanism is currently being presented as a stand-alone paradigm, apart from rival approaches including nationalism, social libreralism, and realism. However, the difficulty of distinguishing cosmopolitanism from these rivals becomes apparent, and there are those who think that such discerning lines create more confusion than clarity about the various disagreements within the field.
Hayden B. Peake
“Counterintelligence” (CI) is a term with multiple meanings—its definitions vary, even when applied to a single nation. Yet it can be understood by identifying the common CI functions in a source. These include: handling double agents, defectors, deception operations, and covert communications; handling and detecting moles or penetrations; and dealing with security threats in general. Antecedent elements of what is today called counterintelligence may be found in various histories of intelligence and warfare. The existence of security services can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, China, and Muscovy, among others. With the rise of the nation-state, rulers began creating secret political police organizations to safeguard their existence. In the case of the United States, it was not until the Civil War that there was anything like a domestic counterintelligence agency, and even then it was not a statutory organization. After World War I, however, former intelligence officers, agents, defectors, and journalists began publishing accounts of counterintelligence and domestic security operations. These topics were often discussed side-by-side. The number of scholarship on CI grew as World War II and the Cold War followed. In particular, the so-called “Cambridge Five” case—which involved five Cambridge graduates who were recruited as Soviet spies in the 1930s—had generated considerable literature and was furthermore considered an important case study in Western and Soviet intelligence services.
Clayton L. Thyne and Jonathan Powell
With 28 coup attempts from 2008 through 2017, the previous decade saw the fewest coup attempts in any ten-year period since at least as far back as 1960. Though coups may well be on the decline, research on coups has burgeoned since the early 2000s. The increased scholarly interest in coups can likely be attributed to a number of factors. First, high-profile coups like the 2011 ouster of President Mubarak in Egypt during the Arab Spring uprisings and the more recent autocratic deepening after the 2016 failed coup in Turkey highlight the importance of coups in shaping global politics. Increased attention from the media and policymakers has been coupled with the rise in studies that examine the causes and consequences of coups. Second, while past research largely focused on particular cases, the introduction of new datasets has allowed scholars to examine coups across time and space to reveal more generalizable patterns. Finally, unlike topics like war, democratization, and voting behavior, coup researchers have only begun to tackle even the most basic research questions when it comes to coups. The bulk of coup literature attempts to explain why coups come about. Studies focused on predicting coups often focus on factors like coup-proofing, domestic protests and instability, and how international actors can either foment or stymie coup attempts. A smaller and growing literature considers how coups influence other processes, often focusing on outcomes like democracy, economic development, and interstate disputes.
Jennifer D. Kibbe
Covert action presents a potential policy for decision makers who want something quicker or more muscular than diplomacy but less expensive and obtrusive than military force. In contrast with intelligence, which entails collecting and analyzing information, covert action is an active instrument of foreign policy. The three main categories of covert action include propaganda, political action, and paramilitary action. Another separate category is economic action, which involves destabilizing the target state’s economy in some way. Because of the inherent secrecy of covert action, outside scholars have no way of knowing how much they do or do not know about the topic at hand and it also makes it hard to verify the information, since the information comes from a variety of sources. Covert action literature is particularly strong in case studies of particular operations. There is also a well-developed subsection within the field that focuses on covert action since the end of the Cold War, the role that the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) played during World War II, and covert actions undertaken by other states. However, there are several issues in the covert action literature. These issues include the assessment of the success or failure of particular operations and of the policy instrument as a whole, the tangible and intangible costs incurred by covert action, the ethical questions raised by conducting covert actions as well as the particular methods used and its impact on democracy, the oversight of covert action, and the evolution of US law covering covert action.
John T. Picarelli
Transnational crimes are crimes that have actual or potential effect across national borders and crimes that are intrastate but offend fundamental values of the international community. The word “transnational” describes crimes that are not only international, but crimes that by their nature involve cross-border transference as an essential part of the criminal activity. Transnational crimes also include crimes that take place in one country, but their consequences significantly affect another country and transit countries may also be involved. Examples of transnational crimes include: human trafficking, people smuggling, smuggling/trafficking of goods, sex slavery, terrorism offences, torture and apartheid. Contemporary transnational crimes take advantage of globalization, trade liberalization and new technologies to perpetrate diverse crimes and to move money, goods, services, and people instantaneously for purposes of perpetrating violence for political ends. While these global costs of criminal activity are huge, the role of this criminal market in the broader international economic system, and its effects on domestic state institutions and economies, has not received widespread attention from an international political economy (IPE) or political science perspective. Given the limits on the exercise of extraterritorial enforcement jurisdiction, states have developed mechanisms to cooperate in transnational criminal matters. The primary mechanisms used in this regard are extradition, lawful removal, and mutual legal assistance.
One the most dramatic development in international law in the 20th century was the formation of international criminal tribunals. Unlike conventional international tribunals, such as the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, international criminal tribunals—such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg—are a controversial element of international law and international politics. Precisely because they are aimed at individuals who act under color of law, such as military officials or heads of state, they invoke a number of political challenges. Their combination of international law, human rights, criminal justice, and hotly disputed facts of great moral gravity makes them a subject of intense debate among academics, government officials, and the public at large. Much of the scholarship on international tribunals can be summed up by three periods: pre-Nuremberg, Nuremberg, and post-Cold War developments. Each period reveals shifts in the way that international criminal tribunals were studied and conceptualized in the academic world. In the future, much of the scholarship on international tribunals is expected to be influenced by the impact that the actual tribunals themselves have on international politics.
Janice Gross Stein
A relatively recent phenomenon in international politics is the study of crisis, which began in the twentieth century, when scholars looked back at two world wars and the interwar period that was shaped by the Great Depression. Today, the challenges to effective crisis prevention and management have become broader and deeper. During the Cold War, leaders were prone to escalate to force in crises over the classic currency of international politics—territory. In the contemporary global system, territorial disputes continue to matter and are most likely to escalate when the land is highly valued for its strategic importance, economic potential, or symbolic significance. An important part of the explanation of crisis escalation, and of an inadvertent slide into wars or violent confrontations, are theories emphasizing “miscalculation” and “misperception.” These theories have been used as a mediating variable between external and domestic attributes, and the way leaders perceive and process information about these factors, and then make choices. However, arguments on “misperception” and “miscalculation” are built on the assumption that accurate perception and calculation are possible. That leaders are “rational” and capable of “accurate” perception and utility-maximizing choices. The challenge lies in the understanding of error and the model of human reason. Research in the last several decades has revolutionized that understanding.
Critical geopolitics is concerned with the geographical assumptions and designations that underlie the making of world politics. The goal of critical geopolitics is to elucidate and explain how political actors spatialize international politics and represent it as a “world” characterized by particular types of places. Eschewing the traditional question of how geography does or can influence politics, critical geopolitics foregrounds “the politics of the geographical specification of politics.” By questioning the assumptions that underpin geopolitical claims, critical geopolitics has evolved from its roots in the poststructuralist, feminist, and postcolonial critique of traditional geopolitics into a major subfield of mainstream human geography. This essay shows that much of critical geopolitics problematizes the statist conceptions of power in social sciences, a conceptualization that John Agnew has called the “territorial trap.” Along with political geography more generally, critical geopolitics argues that spatiality is not confined to territoriality. The discursive construction of social reality is shaped by specific political agents, including intellectuals of statecraft. In addition to the scholarship that draws empirically on the rhetorical strategies of intellectuals of statecraft, there is also a rich body of work on popular geopolitics, and more specifically on resistance geopolitics or anti-geopolitics. Another emerging field of inquiry within critical geopolitics is feminist geopolitics, which shifts the focus from the operations of elite agents to the constructions of political subjects in everyday political practice. Clearly, the heterogeneity of critical geopolitics is central to its vibrancy and success.
Critical international relations theory (CIRT) is not only an academic approach but also an emancipatory project committed to the formation of a more equal and just world. It seeks to explain the reasons why the realization of this goal is difficult to achieve. What is crucial here is not only the social explanation, but also politically motivated action to achieve an alternative set of social relations based on justice and equality. Critical theory in international relations (IR) is part of the post-positivist turn or the so-called “fourth debate,” which followed the inter-paradigm debate of the 1970s. Post-positivism consists of a plurality of theoretical and epistemological positions that opened up wide ranging criticisms of the neo-realist “orthodoxy” that has dominated IR theorizing since the beginning of 1980s. Critical theory has challenged the mainstream understanding of IR, and has spurred the development of alternative forms of analysis and approaches. Moreover, since the beginning of the 1980s, different types of CIRT have become the main alternative to mainstream IR. The general aim of CIRT can be summed up by Marx’s eleventh thesis on Feuerbach that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” A specific tradition of critical thought in IR, derived from Marx, comprises the normative Critical Theory (CT) of the Frankfurt School—termed the “structural critical theory”—since it focuses more on the sociological features and dynamics of capitalism.
Critical theory in International Relations originated from the Marxist tradition which, during the mid- to late Cold War, formed the basis of dependency and world systems theory. In the years before and after the Cold War, critical theory became part of a larger post-positivist challenge to the discipline and to the development of critical security studies. At the heart of contestation within the broader arena of critical security is the concept of emancipation, developed by members of the Frankfurt School such as Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Several key debates have been at the center of critical security studies relating to the construction of threats, identity and difference, human security, and emancipation. In particular, critical security analysts have addressed the question of how, given the range of threats or risks that exist in the world, some threats come to have priority over others and become the focus of discourses of security. Also, some scholars have disputed the idea that identity is dependent on difference. The concept of human security shifts attention away from states to individuals, emphasizing human rights, safety from violence, and sustainable development. In the case of emancipation, critical theorists have expressed concern that the concept is too closely linked with modernity, meta-narratives, especially Marxism and liberalism, and the Enlightenment belief that humanity is progressing toward a more perfect future. What is needed is not to avoid emancipation per se, but to pay close attention to its underlying assumptions.
Cultural homogenization is understood as a state-led policy aimed at cultural standardization and the overlap between state and culture. Homogeneity, however, is an ideological construct, presupposing the existence of a unified, organic community. It does not describe an actual phenomenon. Genocide and ethnic cleansing, meanwhile, can be described as a form of “social engineering” and radical homogenization. Together, these concepts can be seen as part of a continuum when considered as part of the process of state-building, where the goal has often been to forge cohesive, unified communities of citizens under governmental control. Homogenizing attempts can be traced as far back as ancient and medieval times, depending on how historians choose to approach the subject. Ideally, however, the history of systematic cultural homogenization begins at the French Revolution. With the French Revolution, the physical elimination of ideological-cultural opponents was pursued, together with a broader drive to “nationalize” the masses. This mobilizing-homogenizing thrust was widely shared by the usually fractious French revolutionary elites. Homogenization later peaked during the twentieth century, when state nationalism and its attendant politics emerged, resulting in a more coordinated, systematic approach toward cultural standardization. Nowadays, there are numerous methods to achieving homogenization, from interstate wars to forced migration and even to the more subtle shifts in the socio-political climate brought about by neoliberal globalization.
William Biebuyck and Judith Meltzer
Cultural political economy (CPE) is an approach to political economy that focuses on how economic systems, and their component parts, are products of specific human, technical, and natural relations. Notwithstanding longer historical roots, CPE emerged as part of the “cultural turn” within the social sciences. Although it is often seen as countering material determinism and the neglect of culture in conventional approaches in political economy, the cultural turn was less about “adding culture” than about challenging positivist epistemologies in social research. For some, cultural political economy continues to be defined by an orientation toward cultural or “lifeworld” variables such as identity, gender, discourse, and so on, in contrast to conventional political economy’s focus on the material or “systems” dimensions. However, this revalorization of the nonmaterial dimensions of political economic life reinforces a sharp distinction between the cultural and the material, an issue which can be traced to the concept of “(dis)embedding” the economy and subordinating society. A more noticeable development, however, is the increasing orientation of critical (CPE) analyses of global development toward the “economization” of the cultural in the context of mutating forms of neoliberalism. Concomitant to the economization of the cultural in narratives of global development is the “culturalization” of the economic. Here attention is paid not just to the growth of cultural industries but to the multiple ways in which culture has been normalized in discourses of global and corporate development.
There are several conceptions of culture which have become dominant in foreign policy analysis (FPA) in particular: culture as the organization of meaning, culture as value preferences, and culture as templates for human strategy. Prior to the 1990s, the Cold War constraints of bipolarity had left little room for idiosyncratic domestic-level variables such as culture to affect FP. However, once systemic constraints lessened and the decision making milieu became more ambiguous, scholars increasingly turned to questions about culture and identity. Using classic frameworks as a jumping off point, early work on national role conception and operational code analysis incorporated culture as a significant filter for decision making. Operational code analysis is another early approach that had elements of culture as part of the decision making context. In addition, there are a few works that investigate culture and FP with a different focus than FPA. But perhaps one of the most notable elements of FPA studies exploring culture is the idea that it need not be viewed as explaining whatever cannot be explained by anything else. Instead of merely an alternative theoretical explanation of state behavior, use of culture in the post-Cold War revival and today reflects an effort not so much to refute neorealism but to look at different questions.
Religion and culture have historically been neglected in international relations (IR) theories and in political science more generally. It was only recently that IR began to consider the role of culture and religion in war and peace. Several main scholarly trends in the study of culture, religion, conflict, and peace can be identified, starting with the definitional problems that IR scholars had to deal with as they tried to incorporate culture and religion. The first major attempt in the IR field to understand war almost exclusively through the religious prism was that of Samuel Huntington, who in his Clash of Civilization (1993, 1996) identifies two main reasons why religion can cause war: first, religion can be considered as a primordial and immutable identity; and second, religion is a form of ideology rather than identity. The scholarly literature has also addressed themes such as religious fundamentalism and violence, the role of religious actors in international conflict, the practical use of religion and culture to promote peace via diplomacy, and engagement of religion and culture in existing peace theories such as democratic peace theory. Avenues for future research may include the relational and constantly changing aspects of religion; what, when, and how various religious interpretations receive political prominence in promoting conflict or peace; how religion can be used as an independent variable across cases; and the hidden set of assumptions that are embedded in the cultural and religion labels.