Ethical considerations in International Relations (IR) usually follow from the sovereignty and anarchy distinction. The ethical implications arising from these classic twin IR banners shift the focus toward relations of inside and outside, while morality remains restricted to the national level, where reciprocal moral obligation is legally secured through citizenship, while the international continues to be branded by a constant struggle for power and the elusiveness of any moral rules. In contrast, the poststructuralist notion of difference engenders a democratic ethos of immanent critique, which regards itself as a necessary corrective in contexts where liberal discourses are prevalent, but exposes a tendency of discounting the inherently political nature of the social. A poststructuralist ethics accentuates the radical political institution of society, the aporia of justice, and the contingency of a particular morality.
W. Travis Selmier
War, trade, and money synergistically developed over three millennia, each proving important to the emergence of nation-states. By the 19th century, fiduciary money—forms of money based on trust, such as paper money—catalyzed the development of national monetary and banking systems. As nexus of international finance and metropole of the world’s largest empire, the United Kingdom garnered political and economic power. But over the course of two world wars, power shifted to the United States. Small successes and great failures of the interwar period influenced creation of Bretton Woods institutions, completing a transformation from an international monetary system into an international financial system [IFS], which included not only monetary flows but also a formal, institutionalized system of governance. The dollar’s flows became the IFS’ lifeblood, engendering structural power for the United States, which has been held in place through reserve currency status, institutional stickiness through banking and currency trading, and ideational influence. Introduction of the Euro and attempts in Asia to dismantle the “Asian Bloc” have shaken, but not removed, American structural power. Money’s foundations have always rested on trust, trading, and risk taking; emergence of extensive credit and virtual money, and related security concerns, bring forth new topics resting on these old foundations.
The “practice turn” in international relations (IR) refers to those scholars that explicitly take practices as a category of analysis in one way or another. This notion implies three things: that a significant number of scholars turn to practices, that they have enough similarities to be considered part of the same broad movement, and that they bring something novel to the discipline. Taken together, the concepts and logics developed in association with this shift in emphasis to practices form what has come to be labelled as “practice theory” (PT). The basic concepts and logics that provide the conceptual and theoretical foundation for PT’s use in IR include practices as shared, patterned, and embodied; the logic of habits/habitus; and field, capital, and symbolic domination. The epistemological foundation of PT is an interpretive and reflexive approach that builds on a pragmatic epistemology that considers knowledge as socially constructed. PT challenges rationalism and constructivism, but without denying that individuals make rational calculations, or that social norms constrain their behaviour. Practice theorists use different metaphors in locating PT within IR, such as the “gluon” or the “trading zone.” Another approach is to treat practices as an analytical tool. In addition, there are three different methods for studying practices: participant observation, interviews, and discourse analysis.
Public goods represent a particular challenge in international politics that has been linked to problems as diverse as alliance politics, environmental governance, and global currency systems. In many situations, some form of coordinated collective action is needed to produce public goods. Consequently, provision of public good often serves as a stand-in for theoretical questions related to cooperation in an anarchic system.
Public goods, which have elements of non-rivalness and non-excludability, are often desired by states but can be difficult to produce in the absence of a powerful state willing to provide public goods unilaterally. Non-rivalness refers to the ability of many actors to consume a good. Closely related to the concept of non-rivalness in public goods is the concept of jointness of supply. Jointness of supply means that all parties can enjoy the benefits of consumption with no additional cost required to provide the good to additional individuals.
By contrast, non-excludability implies that once a good has been produced, there are no efficient means of preventing consumption of a good. If both of these conditions are true, then a public good, such as asteroid defense or the elimination of smallpox, could be a benefit to all of humanity once produced. On the other hand, pure public goods are relatively rare. There are variations in which non-rivalness or non-excludability is imperfectly met. Club goods, such as security in alliances, offer viable mechanisms for excluding states from the benefits of a good but may produce goods that are non-rival within the club. Common-pool resources, such as ocean fish populations, are non-excludable but are rival, in that overfishing can reduce fish populations.
Benjamin Herborth and Oliver Kessler
The term “public” is predominantly used in International Relations (IR), often appearing as an attribute in collocations such as “public goods” or “public opinion.” The study of public spheres can be meaningfully situated within the scope of the emerging field of International Political Sociology (IPS). At the heart of the study of public spheres as an integral part of IPS is the challenge of theorizing the relations between public spheres and an emerging postnational political order. One perennial concern of IPS that can be addressed through the study of public spheres is the relation between empirical and normative inquiry. In addition, the study of public spheres constitutes an interdisciplinary arena that contributes to the process of opening up IR to the theoretical and methodological toolkit of adjacent intellectual fields. In this context, the study of social movements comes to mind, especially when it directly tackles processes of “contentious politics.” An analysis of the way in which the term “public” is used in IR can offer important insights into the social-theoretical presuppositions and implicit concepts of social and international order that go along with it. The study of public spheres is not confined to the study of a set of firmly delineated empirical phenomena, which may or may not be observed. It can also be used to elucidate the oft-neglected problem of how political authority is constituted in terms of both theoretical and empirical inquiry.
Mark J. C. Crescenzi, Rebecca H. Best, and Bo Ram Kwon
Reciprocity refers to the character of the actions and reactions between two or more actors. This character is commonly one of responding in kind to the actions of another. As such, reciprocity is considered one of the fundamental processes observed by scholars in the study of international relations (IR). In the realm of international politics, the study of reciprocity typically encompasses formal/experimental and empirical research. Some scholars look at ethical dimensions and the propagation of norms such as the Golden Rule, while others undertake empirical analysis of patterns of reciprocity in search of answers to questions about the existence, predictability, and diffusion of reciprocity. As a concept, reciprocity has applications in a range of IR topics such as the basic ingredients of cooperation, the escalation and return of conflict, and the adherence to international law. Within the realm of conflict processes, the iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma (PD) and formal frameworks are often used to represent arms races and similar security concerns. Related to the iterated PD is the work of Robert Axelrod, who demonstrated the robustness of the reciprocal strategy known as tit-for-tat (TFT). One puzzle on reciprocity that deserves consideration in future research is that the expectation of a long time horizon for interaction should stimulate the incentive to cooperate, but long time horizons may also be associated with long pasts. One way to find the answer to this puzzle is to incorporate reciprocity into more general models of international interaction.
Mariya Y. Omelicheva and John James Kennedy
After years of communism and central planning, Russia and China embarked on broad transformations from planned to market economy and limited political liberalization reforms. Chinese reforms commenced in 1978, while those in the Soviet Union started in 1991. The two countries took contrasting paths to economic reform, and their experiences during economic transition have been viewed as polar opposites. The reform experiences of Russia and China sparked intense academic debates over a variety of issues surrounding transition from communism to market economy. The primary source of scholarly disagreement is whether the pace, the sequence, or country-specific initial conditions determines the success of economic and political reforms. The debates revolved around questions such as whether there is a relationship between economic processes and political reforms in the transitional states, or whether economic liberalization should pave the way for political liberalization. Two dominant approaches to transition from socialism to capitalism advanced in the literature are “shock therapy” and gradualism; the former was adopted by the Russians and the latter by the Chinese. Several lessons can be learned from the Russian and Chinese transition, such as the impact of structural forces on the leadership’s policy preferences and the importance of tenable development policies to ensure the success of economic reforms. Notwithstanding these lessons, there remain a number of questions that deserve further investigation, mainly in terms of the role of China and Russia in world politics.
Benjamin Meiches and Raymond Hopkins
The term “international regime” was originally used to describe formal agreements between states, but the concept has since evolved after going through considerable critique and reformulation. A universal agreement on the precise nature or elements of a regime has remained elusive, despite a general consensus on the definition. Nevertheless, the concept of regime offers a unique opportunity to better understand international relationships by underscoring the importance of specific attributes of international, multinational, and nongovernmental groups, sets of behavioral or epistemic practices, and processes of learning. As a heuristic device, regime theory helps to explain the rise of complex interaction between states, organizations, corporations, and other institutions as well as the potential for ideas or behavior to shape the international system. Regime theory has supplemented traditional explanations of international order, including hegemonic stability theory or neorealism, by explaining the emergence of cooperation and organization within what would traditionally be considered anarchical or highly unpredictable conditions. Common approaches to regime theory include realism, neoliberalism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Part of the strength of regime theory is that it has remained an elastic concept and has been used to analyze a huge diversity of issues, with many promising results. Regime theory should continue highlighting both the ideational and material dimensions of organization and bringing together positivist, inductive, and critical approaches to understanding power, interest, and identity so as to generate a series of new conversations or trajectories for exploring the creation of international order.
Filippo Costa Buranelli and Aliya Tskhay
“Regionalism” is a polysemic term that represents both a subfield of international relations (IR) that studies regions of the world and a process of formation of regions themselves. Its meaning and content have evolved substantially from its inception in the 1940s to its most recent contributions in the early 21st century. More precisely, the field of regionalism was severely marked by neofunctionalism theory and an economic reading of international relations in the years of the Cold War and then embraced new contributions from post-positivist and critical theories and methodologies from the 1990s onward, which featured not only different manifestations and causes but also different normative meanings. Regionalism has progressively moved away from Europe over the years (both as a site of production of research and as an empirical case study) to explore non-European and, more widely, non-Western and postcolonial domains, challenging Eurocentric theoretical and epistemological assumptions in IR. In addition, the two subfields of comparative regionalism and interregionalism have become prominent. The field of regionalism is more dynamic than ever, developing, self-innovating, and becoming more conceptually aware, while at the same time being susceptible to weaknesses, blind spots, and potential for further improvement and deeper dialogue with IR theory.
Daniel Warner and Georg von Kalckreuth
The term “refugee crisis” is used throughout the literature to refer to situations where large numbers of refugees or displaced persons more generally are present, whereas “humanitarian crisis” refers to situations where the lives, health, safety or well-being of a large number of people are at substantial risk. The term “complex emergency” is defined as “a humanitarian crisis typically characterized by extensive violence and loss of life, massive displacements of people, widespread damage to societies and economies, and hindrance of humanitarian assistance by security risks and political and military constraints.” A typical complex emergency consists of one or more humanitarian and refugee crises, regardless of their actual causes, and necessitates an international and United Nations system-wide response because of its complexity. Humanitarian and refugee crises have often generated international response efforts that were intended to help affected individuals, alleviate their suffering, and restore their situation from the plight of crisis to some level of normality. In addition to the UN and its specialized agencies, international responses bring together a large and diverse set of actors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and its national societies, national and international nongovernmental organizations, and the governments of third states. Their responses have drawn scholarly interest, especially after World War II. However, the literature on international responses to humanitarian and refugee crises does not offer a comprehensive and exhaustive scholarly treatment of the issue. This is an obvious gap that needs to be addressed in future research.
Andrei P. Tsygankov and Pavel A. Tsygankov
Unique features of Russia’s perspectives on international politics as practice can be obtained quite clearly through the investigation of the debates on Russian foreign policy orientations. Russian foreign policy has been framed out of identity politics among different political factions under highly politicized conditions. Structural changes in international politics in the 1990s complicated internal reforms in Russia and the aggravation of socio-economic conditions due to the rapid reforms which intensified conflicts between conservatives and progressives in Russian domestic politics. Unfortunately, the aspirations of Russian reformist elites to make Russia strong could not reconcile with the conservative tendency the nation showed during the worsened economy in that period. This led to conflicting evaluations of Russian identity, which caused a fundamental shift in domestic sources for foreign policies. This transformed Russia’s perspectives on international politics, which brought about changes in its foreign policy orientation. Pro-Western Liberalism played a major role in defining Russian foreign policy under the A. Kozyrev doctrine, which defines Russia’s identity as one of the agents in the West-/US-centered system of liberal democracy and the market economy. Significant challenges to this pro-Western foreign policy came not only from outside, but also from internal changes that brought more fundamental changes to Russian foreign policy. This change should be understood within the cultural and institutional context of Russian society, since this framework determines the conceptualization of “national interest” and/or the formulation of diplomatic and security policies.
“Sea power” refers to the power exerted by a state through its capacity to use the sea for both military and civilian purposes. The ability to use the seas for transport and other civilian purposes such as fishing and, more recently, exploitation of resources on or under the sea bed has generated considerable debate. This has resulted in the notion that military power deployed at or from the sea is the key component of a state’s sea power. It was Alfred Thayer Mahan who first coined the term “sea power.” In his 1980 book “Influence,” Mahan outlined six “principal conditions affecting the sea power of nations”: geographical position, physical conformation, extent of territory, number of population, national character, and character of government. After Mahan, other writers advanced a variety of ideas regarding the concept of sea power, including Philip Colomb, who emphasized the importance of “command of the sea”; Sir Julian Corbett, who discussed the importance of maritime “lines of passage and communication” as “the preoccupation of naval strategy,” and control of such lines as the essence of “command of the sea”; and Sir Herbert Richmond, whose definition of sea power can be summed up as the “power to control movements at sea.” Others who have contributed to the scholarly literature on sea power include Raoul Castex, Bernard Brodie, Stephen Roskill, Sir Peter Gretton, Sir James Cable, Sergei G. Gorshkov, Paul Kennedy, Ken Booth, Richard Hill, and Geoffrey Till.
Rosemary E. Shinko
The concept of sovereignty has been the subject of vigorous debate among scholars. Sovereignty presents the discipline of international law with a host of theoretical and material problems regarding what it, as a concept, signifies; how it relates to the power of the state; questions about its origins; and whether sovereignty is declining, being strengthened, or being reconfigured. The troublesome aspects of sovereignty can be analyzed in relation to constructivist, feminist, critical theory, and postmodern approaches to the concept. The most problematic aspects of sovereignty have to do with its relationship to the rise and power of the modern state, and how to link the state’s material reality to philosophical discussions about the concept of sovereignty. The paradoxical quandary located at the heart of sovereignty arises from the question of what establishes law as constitutive of sovereign authority absent the presumption or exercise of sovereign power. Philosophical debates over sovereignty have attempted to account for the evolving structures of the state while also attempting to legitimate these emergent forms of rule as represented in the writings of Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. These writers document attempts to grapple with the problem of legitimacy and the so-called “structural and ideological contradictions of the modern state.” International law finds itself grappling with ever more nuanced and contradictory views of sovereignty’s continued conceptual relevance, which are partially reflective and partially constitutive of an ever more complex and paradoxical world.
Michael Colaresi and Jude C. Hays
Time and space are two dimensions that are likely to provide the paths—either singly or in tandem—by which international policy decisions are interdependent. There are several reasons to expect international relations processes to be interdependent across space, time, or both dimensions. Theoretical approaches such as rational expectations models, bureaucratic models of decision-making, and psychological explanations of international phenomena at least implicitly assume—and in many cases explicitly predict—dependence structures within data. One approach that researchers can use to test whether their international processes of interest are marked by dependence across time, space, or both time and space, is to explicitly model and interpret the hypothesized underlying dependence structures. There are two areas of spatial modeling at the research frontier: spatial models with qualitative and limited dependent variables, an co-evolution models of structure and behavior. These models have theoretical implications that are likely to be useful for international relations research. However, a gap remains between the kinds of empirical models demanded by international relations data and theory and the supply of time series and spatial econometric models that are available to those doing applied research. There is a need to develop appropriate models of temporal and spatial interdependence for qualitative and limited dependent variables, and for better models in which outcomes and structures of interdependence are jointly endogenous.
Michael D. Ward
The origin of the statistical analysis of international relations can be traced back to 1920s with the work of Quincy Wright, who founded the University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations. He led an interdisciplinary study of war that provided a first compendium of what was then known about the causes of war. Wright's studies and those that came after them were based on the assumption that systematic data were required to advance our knowledge about the causes of violent conflicts, and that an analysis of the dynamics of strategic decision making were essential; in short, systematic data coupled with a theoretical framework that focused on the decision-making calculus. However, debates soon raged over whether this scientific approach was better than the classical approach, which was based on philosophy, history, and law, and did not conform to strict standards of verification and proof. Since then, the literature has evolved into studies with a strong theoretical motivation, often expressed via game theoretical analytics, examined empirically with statistical frameworks that are specifically sculpted to probe those strategic dependencies. As such, existing models have resolved the levels of analysis problem that appeared daunting to earlier generations by actually focusing on the modeling of aspects of world politics that enjoin many different levels simultaneously.
Steven E. Lobell
Structural realism, or neorealism, is a theory of international relations that says power is the most important factor in international relations. First outlined by Kenneth Waltz in his 1979 book Theory of International Politics, structural realism is subdivided into two factions: offensive realism and defensive realism. Structural realism holds that the nature of the international structure is defined by its ordering principle, anarchy, and by the distribution of capabilities (measured by the number of great powers within the international system). The anarchic ordering principle of the international structure is decentralized, meaning there is no formal central authority. On the one hand, offensive realism seeks power and influence to achieve security through domination and hegemony. On the other hand, defensive realism argues that the anarchical structure of the international system encourages states to maintain moderate and reserved policies to attain security. Defensive realism asserts that aggressive expansion as promoted by offensive realists upsets the tendency of states to conform to the balance of power theory, thereby decreasing the primary objective of the state, which they argue is ensuring its security. While defensive realism does not deny the reality of interstate conflict, nor that incentives for state expansion do exist, it contends that these incentives are sporadic rather than endemic. Defensive realism points towards “structural modifiers” such as the security dilemma and geography, and elite beliefs and perceptions to explain the outbreak of conflict.
Craig Douglas Albert
International relations (IR) theory is favorably described in almost every syllabus since 1930. The most important questions asked were: “What is theory?” and “Is there a reason for IR theory?” The most widely used texts all focus on the first question and suggest, among others, that IR theory is “a way of making the world or some part of it more intelligible or better understood.” We can gauge where the teaching of IR theory is today by analyzing a sample of syllabi from IR scholars serving on the Advisory Board of the International Studies Association’s (ISA) Compendium Project. These syllabi reveal some trends. Within the eight undergraduate syllabi, for example, a general introduction to IR theory is taught in four separate classes. Among the theories discussed in different classes are realism, classical realism, neo-realism, Marxism and neo-Marxism, world-systems theory, imperialism, constructivism, and international political economy. Novel methods for teaching IR theory include the use of films, active learning, and experiential learning. The diversity of treatments of IR theory implied by the ISA syllabi provides evidence that, with the exception of the proliferation of perspectives, relatively little has changed since the debates of the late 1930s. The discipline lacks much semblance of unity regarding whether, and how, to offer IR theory to students. Nevertheless, there have been improvements that are likely to continue in terms of the ways in which theories may be presented.
Sai Felicia Krishna-Hensel
Throughout history, technology has played a significant role in international relations (IR). Technological development is an important factor underlying much of humanity’s social, economic, and political development, as well as in interstate and interregional relationships. Beginning with the earliest tool industries of the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods to the present time, technology has been an integral component of the transformative processes that resulted in the organization, expansion, and establishment of distinctive societies. The presence or absence of equal access to technology has often determined the nature of relationships between societies and civilizations. Technology increases the options available to policymakers in their pursuit of the goals of the state, but also complicates their decision making. The question of whether, and how much, technological change has influenced IR has been the subject of considerable debate. Scholars are divided on the emphasis that should be placed on technological progress as an independent variable in the study of relations between states and as a factor in analyzing power configurations in the international system. Among the scientific and technological revolutions that are believed to have contributed to the changing nature of power and relations between states are transportation and communication, the industrial revolution, the nuclear revolution, and the contemporary information revolution. Future research should focus on how these technological changes are going to influence the debates on power, deterrence, diplomacy, and other instruments of IR.
Thierry Balzacq and Stéphane J. Baele
International Relations (IR) theory has undergone a series of debates which have left profound changes on the discipline as a whole. These debates, though highly influential, have still caused some controversy among those in the field. Indeed, IR scholars have yet to reach a consensus as to the number of debates in IR, let alone whether or not the third debate should be recognized as part of that esteemed history, or, further still, whether or not the debates should remain part of IR discourse at all. The eclectic nature of the third debate, after all, makes it difficult to classify, as there are multiple definitions and accounts of what the third debate truly entails. The third debate originated in the 1980s, as a certain set of scholars attempted to open up the theoretical field of international relations to previously neglected viewpoints. These so-called “dissidents,” more specifically, had aimed to liberate the field from the neo-utilitarian tradition of thought. The epistemological-ontological common ground of traditional IR theories stands at the very center of dissidents’ attack, because of their commitment to undermine “foundationalist discourses.” Furthermore, the third debate is credited with the emergence of constructivism as a mainstream theory of IR, the opening up of IR to new objects and subfields, and the growth of critical approaches to IR.
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.