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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.
Technology standards are norms or requirements established by consensus and approved by a recognized body that sets uniform engineering or technical criteria. They also come in three types: reference, minimum quality, and compatibility standards. A reference standard is a material, device, or instrument whose assigned value is known relative to national standards or nationally accepted measurement systems. A minimum quality standard, meanwhile, sets criteria for quality, permitting sellers to certify a good or a service as meeting (or not) those criteria. Finally, compatibility standards set criteria for how a device works with other devices. Technology standards have always been important in the world economy, but they are becoming more so in the electronic age. Firms compete with one another for the prestige of establishing a new standard and especially technology platforms or architectures, and governments try to get standards adopted internationally that result in more local jobs and income. This is increasingly difficult as the world economy becomes more global, but that poses no deterrent. International relations scholars have adopted economist and rationalist choice approaches to standard setting in technology. They go beyond them, however, to talk about standards as part of an overall governance system or regime, especially in international affairs.
Jaroslav Tir and John A. Vasquez
A common focus of geography in IR research has been the research on the role of neighborhoods in conflict and peace. Although the theoretical explanation is still underdeveloped, several findings suggest that there may be a neighborhood effect on whether states are at peace or prone to conflict and war. In the realm of quantitative research, contiguous states were found to be more apt to go to war than non-contiguous states. This early work on contiguity spilled over to a concern with territory by looking at the role of borders. The greater the number of borders a state has, the more wars it is likely to experience. This finding can be interpreted in two ways. Those who take a contiguity perspective see the greater number of borders as making for more contiguous neighbors and therefore for a greater opportunity for war; whereas those who take a territorial perspective see the greater number of borders as requiring boundaries to be marked and/or defended with the use of force. Additionally, while the traditional domain of research concerning territory has been international relations, the territorial conflict scholarship has recently started to branch into the arena of domestic politics. Probably the most prominent focus of this new research has been the proclivity of ethnically based territorial claims that operate on the level of domestic politics to escalate to the point of armed conflict and civil war.
Frank Foley and Max Abrahms
Since 9/11, terrorism has been widely perceived as the foremost threat to the United States, its allies, and the broader international community. Political scientists have historically paid little attention to the study of terrorism and counterterrorism; in the subfield of international relations (IR), the focus of research of the dominant realist tradition was on great power politics, not on substate violence. In the post-9/11 world, IR scholars have begun to show interest in the causes and consequences of terrorism. Studies undertaken since October 2001 have been increasingly quantitative, employing a mixture of descriptive and inferential statistical analyses. Yet this heightened scholarly attention has yielded few uncontested insights. Fundamental methodological, empirical, and theoretical questions about terrorism have become the subject of intense discussions. The definition of terrorism in particular remains problematic. Scholars also debate over the virtues of large-n studies versus case studies, the accuracy of terrorism events data, and al-Qaida’s place within the history of terrorism. In the case of counterterrorism, much of the literature has followed policy trends rather than developing empirically grounded theories. Two strands of counterterrorism literature are country case studies and discussions on the relative merits of different policy instruments. There has been increased interest in systematic studies of counterterrorism effectiveness and the nascent development of theories on the sources of counterterrorist policies in recent years, which raises the possibility for theoretically informed and methodologically aware debates in the study of state responses to terrorism.
The internet has emerged as an important medium for terrorists. Two key trends can be discerned from cyberterrorism: the democratization of communications driven by user generated content on the internet, and modern terrorists’ growing awareness of the internet’s potential for their purposes. The internet has become a favorite tool of the terrorists because of the many advantages it provides, such as easy access; little or no regulation, censorship, or other forms of government control; potentially huge audiences spread throughout the world; anonymity of communication; fast flow of information; interactivity; inexpensive development and maintenance of a Web presence; a multimedia environment; and the ability to influence coverage in the traditional mass media. These advantages make the network of computer-mediated communication ideal for terrorists-as-communicators. Terrorist groups of all sizes maintain their own websites to spread propaganda, raise funds and launder money, recruit and train members, communicate and conspire, plan and launch attacks. They also rely on e-mail, chatrooms, e-groups, forums, virtual message boards, and resources like YouTube, Facebook, and Google Earth. Fighting online terrorism raises the issue of countermeasures and their cost. The virtual war between terrorists and counterterrorism forces and agencies is certainly a vital, dynamic, and ferocious one. It is imperative that we become better informed about the uses to which terrorists put the internet and better able to monitor their activities. Second, we must defend our societies better against terrorism without undermining the very qualities and values that make our societies worth defending.
Before the late 1960s, terrorism was commonly viewed as an internal problem that belonged to the realm of policing rather than foreign policy. The Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s airplane hijackings in Europe, combined with the 1972 Munich Olympics wherein eleven Israeli athletes were captured and held hostage by Black September, gave rise to some foundational counterterrorism policy features; for example, no negotiations with terrorists. But it was not until the 1983–1984 attacks on its embassy and the Marine barracks in Beirut that the United States began to see terrorism as a policy concern. The terrorist attacks of September 11 also led scholars to become increasingly interested in integrating work on international terrorism into international relations (IR) and foreign policy theories. The theories of IR, foreign policy concerns of policy makers, and terrorism studies intersect in areas such as the development of international law governing terrorism, poverty, economic development, globalization, military actions, and questions of whether deterrence is still possible in the age of decentralized terrorist groups and suicidal terrorism. Despite decades of research on terrorism and counterterrorism, some very basic and important gaps remain. Issues that the academic literature on foreign policy or terrorism must address include the effects of the evolving organizational structure of terrorist groups, illegal immigration, the radicalization of European Muslims, and the phenomenon recently identified as “swarming.”
The study of international organizations (IOs) has been described as lacking theoretical depth. However, the field actually has a more solid theoretical foundation than some of its critics allege. Moreover, the variety of approaches has entailed multifaceted knowledge of the internal workings as well as the global effects of IOs. Three theoretical traditions have emerged, dealing with institutions, organization, and governance. Institutional analysis has a central position in political science. In the study of domestic institutions, three major schools—rational choice institutionalism, historical institutionalism, and sociological institutionalism—have emerged. Organization theory represents a change of focus from the ideational structures studied by institutionalists to more material and human structures. Whereas both institutional and organizational approaches were originally formulated for domestic structures, institutionalists have been more receptive to exploring domestic-international analogies and contrasts. Even if both institutional and organization theories pay attention to process— institutionalizing rules and practices as well as organizing collective entities are long-term processes— IO studies inspired by these approaches tend to focus on relatively stable structures, asking questions concerning the establishment, persistence or change, and impact of international institutions and organizations. A third, more recent perspective focuses on continuous processes of governance, involving international organizations as well as other types of actors.
Loren R. Cass
Climate politics presents difficulties for study given its interdisciplinary nature and the scientific complexities involved in climate change. Climate change politics had got its start in the mid- to late 1980s, as climate science became more and more accessible to policy makers and the general public. Yet prior to 2008, climate politics was only touched upon in major publications on international relations, with the exception of policy journals. Climate change was frequently referenced in articles on a range of topics, but it was not the primary focus of analysis. The recent years have seen an explosion in literature focusing on the topic, however. The potential for massive economic, political, and ecological dislocation from the consequences of climate change as well as from the potential policies to address the problem have since resulted in an extensive literature, with scholars addressing aspects of climate politics from every paradigm within international relations, as well as drawing on research in numerous other related disciplines. In addition, efforts to address the consequences of climate change have evoked controversial ethical and distributive justice questions that have produced an important normative literature. Overall, the literature on climate politics centers on two issues: how we can explain the international political response to climate change, as well as how the international community should respond to climate change.
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.
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.