International relations scholars of all stripes have long been interested in the idea of “international order.” At the most general level, international order entails some level of regularity, predictability, and stability in the ways that actors interact with one another. At a level of higher specificity, however, international orders can vary along a number of dimensions (or fault lines). This includes whether order is thin or thick, premised on position or principles, regional or global in scope, and issue specific or multi-issue in nature. When it comes to how orders emerge, the majority of existing explanations can be categorized according to two criteria and corresponding set of questions. First, are orders produced by a single actor or a select subset of actors that are privileged and powerful, or are they created by many actors that are roughly equal and undifferentiated in capabilities and status? Second, do orders come about from the purposive behavior of particular actors, or are they the aggregated result of many behaviors and interactions that produce an outcome that no single actor anticipated? The resulting typology yields four ideal types of order explanations: hegemonic (order is intentional, and power is concentrated), centralized (order is spontaneous, but power is concentrated), negotiated (order is intentional, but power is dispersed), and decentralized (order is spontaneous, and power is dispersed). Finally, it is useful to think about the process by which order can transform or break down as a phenomenon that is at least sometimes distinct from how orders emerge in the first place. The main criterion in this respect is the rapidity with which orders transform or break down. More specifically, they can change or fall apart quickly through revolutionary processes or more gradually through evolutionary ones.
Kyle M. Lascurettes and Michael Poznansky
Stefan H. Fritsch
Traditionally, international relations (IR) conceptualized technology primarily as a static, neutral, and passive tool, which emanates from impenetrable black boxes outside the international system. According to this predominant instrumental understanding of technology, IR “added” technology as a residual variable to existing explanatory frameworks. Consequently, qualitative systemic change—as well as continuity—could only be addressed within existing models and their respective core variables. Subsequently, traditional approaches increasingly experienced difficulties to adequately capture and explain empirically observable systemic changes in the form of growing interdependence, globalization, or trans-nationalization, as well as a plethora of technology-induced new policy challenges. Contrary to traditional conceptualizations, a growing number of scholars have instead embarked on a project to open the “black box” by redefining technology as a highly political and integral core component of global affairs that shapes and itself is shaped by global economics, politics, and culture. A rapidly growing body of theoretically diverse interdisciplinary literature systematically incorporates insights from science and technology studies (STS) to provide a more nuanced understanding of how technology, the global system, and its myriad actors mutually constitute and impact one another.
On the African continent, a commitment to Pan-African unity and multilateral organization exists next to a postcolonial society whose 54 Westphalian states interpret the commitment to unity and integration to different degrees. The tension between a long-term Pan-African vision for a unified continent that prospers and is economically self-empowered, and the national concerns of governing state-centered elites with immediate domestic security and political and economic interests, lies at the heart of the politics surrounding African integration and affects both the continent and its regions. The politics of integration demand that a patchwork of regionalisms be consolidated; states give up on multiple memberships; and designated regional economic communities (RECs) take the lead on integration or subordinate themselves to the strategy and complement the institutions of the African Union (AU). In the interest of widening the social base of regional organization, politics needs to recognize and give status to informal regional actors engaged in bottom-up regionalism. Of issue in the politics of integration and regionalism are themes of norm adaptation, norm implementation, intergovernmentalism and supra-nationality, democracy, and authoritarianism.
Menevis Cilizoglu and Bryan R. Early
Economic sanctions are an integral part of states’ foreign policy repertoire. Increasingly, major powers and international organizations rely on sanctions to address an incredibly diverse array of issues—from fighting corruption to the prevention of nuclear weapons. How policy makers employ economic sanctions evolved over time, especially over the past two decades. The recognition of the adverse humanitarian impact of economic sanctions in the late 1990s and the “War on Terrorism” following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have led to major changes in the design and enforcement patterns of economic sanctions. Academics’ understanding of how these coercive tools work, when they are utilized, what consequences they create, and when they succeed are still heavily shaped by research findings based on observations from the latter half of the 20th century. Insights based on past sanctions episodes may not fully apply to how sanctions policies are being currently used. In the latter half of the 20th century, the majority of sanctions cases were initiated by the United States, targeted governments, and involved restrictions on international trade. In the last two decades, however, additional actors, such as the European Union, the United Nations, and China, have emerged as major senders. Modern sanctions now most commonly involve targeted and financial sanctions and are imposed against individuals, organizations, and firms. The changing nature of the senders, targets, stakeholders, and economic tools associated with sanctions policies have important implications for their enforcement, effectiveness, and consequences. The legal-regulatory and bureaucratic infrastructure needed to implement and enforce modern economic sanctions has also become far more robust. This evolution of modern sanctions has provided the scholarly community with plenty of opportunities to explore new questions about economic coercion and revisit old ones. The research agenda on economic sanctions must evolve to remain relevant in understanding why and how modern sanctions are used and what their consequences are.
The crime–terror nexus is the convergence of two types of disruptive nonstate group activities, crime and terrorism. The phrase can also be used to refer to cooperation between criminal and terrorist groups. When conceptualizing the crime–terror nexus, it’s helpful to categorize relationships in three ways. To achieve nexus status, groups either collaborate, combine, or convert. The most common presentation of nexus (or hybrid) groups is terrorist “conversion,” when a purely terrorist organization transitions into a more diversified model, rather than criminal groups moving toward political violence (though there are some notable exceptions) or two groups of different types “joining forces.” Responses to the crime–terror nexus have been uneven. Organized crime and terrorism research have traditionally been siloed from each other, with academics, policymakers, and law enforcement specializing in one or the other—an artificial divide that has become particularly problematic given the modern interconnectedness of political and economic systems wrought by globalization. Traditional security thinking is biased against crime–terror convergence because it emphasizes the difference in motivation between criminal and terrorist groups. Adherents have argued that any such relationships would be transactional and short-lived because criminal groups are interested in remaining out of the public eye, while terrorist groups are explicitly interested in drawing attention to themselves. However, this perspective misses both the potential benefits of diversified activities for violent nonstate groups, and the idea that groups can pursue a range of goals simultaneously across different levels of the organization. Notable exceptions to this institutional siloing include “deep web” and “dark networks” research, which have identified criminal–extremist relationships as relying on similar infrastructure and thus persisting over a longer time span. Both law enforcement and researchers should take their cue from this wholistic orientation. Siloing crime and terrorism from one another presents operational problems: while these groups and their activities may move easily between criminal and political violence, states often separate their law enforcement from their military and domestic security agencies, creating bureaucratic hurdles for effective disruption of hybrid groups. A small cadre of researchers, however, have begun to rectify these artificial disciplinary boundaries. Recent literature on the crime–terror nexus can be broadly categorized into four major buckets: the causes and enabling conditions that allow for such interactions, the spectrum of possible relationships, the ways that groups change as they move into the other’s area of operation, and the policy implications for melded groups. Drawing on work across criminology, sociology, political economy, history, and organizational behavior, in addition to political science, we can more effectively map and understand the contours of the crime–terror nexus. Criminally diversified terrorist groups are a distinct security threat because they are more adaptable, resilient, and entrenched than their traditionally resourced counterparts. Further, criminal activity may alter a group’s long-term political goals, making negotiated settlements and demobilization agreements more challenging. By including the crime–terror nexus in assessments, both academics and policymakers can make more accurate assessments of the contours of low-intensity and asymmetric warfare, leading to better policy outcomes, durable institution building, and increased protections for populations impacted by violent nonstate actors.
Mariana Santos and David Bassens
Money and finance are often thought of as forming a uniform, frictionless global space. While events in the last decades have certainly shown how monetary and financial practices and events have consequences that span the globe, this global reach of money and finance is far from evenly distributed. Rather, money flows and lumps unevenly across space, with the financial system connecting some places better than others, producing effects that are geoeconomic, sociocultural, and material in nature. One productive way of opening the black box of “global finance” is by exploring money’s manifold entailments with space and borders. Borders is here meant writ large. It means, of course, the geopolitical borders of the sovereign state and jurisdictional territory, showing how global finance is rooted in the contemporary architecture of states and international relations. But it also means attending to how lines in this cartographical space of geopolitical borders are rearranged, stretched, and inflected through cross-border networks of actors, notably financial institutions, concentrated in key places of international finance. This article seeks to bring to the broader academic debate on money and borders a reading whereby the “plumbing and wiring” of international finance is seen as entailed with practices of “b/ordering” that “dissolve” borderlands and connect space as much as they produce margins, edges, and fringes. Thinking money and finance in terms of borders and frontiers help us understand how money and financial markets (notably, credit–debt relations) materialize differently on either side of financial inclusion and exclusion lines, with implications for the bodies that inhabit them.
Robert G. Blanton and Shannon Lindsey Blanton
While various forms of slavery and forced labor have existed throughout human history, trafficking in humans is a relatively new area of global concern, as specific laws date back only to 2000. As a legal concept, human trafficking is defined according to its requisite acts (recruitment, transport, harboring of victims), means (use of force, fraud, or coercion), and purpose (exploitation). As a basis for scholarly analysis and public policy, trafficking can be viewed in terms of multiple dimensions, as it constitutes a criminal activity, an egregious abuse of human rights, and a pervasive illicit market. Each of these frames suggests different scholarly approaches to examining trafficking, as well as different policy responses to combat it. For example, a criminal activity frame connotes a prosecutorial response toward traffickers by state agencies, while a human rights-based approach suggests increased attention and services to trafficking victims. There is a significant, though underdeveloped, body of scholarship on the causes of human trafficking. Broadly put, extant work focuses on economic, political, and demographic variables, each of which are part of the wider array of factors that can make trafficking more or less likely. Economic factors can be assessed at both micro and macro levels, ranging from the cost–benefit analyses of traffickers to macroeconomic factors such as poverty and globalization. Political correlates of trafficking include armed conflict, the presence of peacekeepers, and the strength and capacity of domestic political institutions. For their part, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can also play a significant role in shaping state responses to trafficking. As trafficking commonly involves the movement of people across borders, some of the same demographic factors that drive migration are also associated with trafficking flows. Taken as a whole, there are still many underexplored avenues for future research. While well over a thousand articles and books have been published on human trafficking since 2000, a majority of extant research is non-empirical in nature, including general overviews of trafficking or analyses of relevant laws. A key factor contributing to this relative dearth of empirical literature is the lack of comprehensive data that reflects the complex and nuanced nature of trafficking. Given the policy-relevant nature of human trafficking, as well as its implications for human rights, there remains a great need for additional evidence-based research in this area.
Elena McLean and Muhammet Bas
Natural disasters such as cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides, volcanoes, or pandemics routinely have cross-border implications. Transboundary risks of natural disasters tend to be the greatest for neighboring countries but often extend regionally or even globally. Even disasters with seemingly localized impacts contained within the national borders of a given state may have indirect short-term or long-term effects on other countries through refugee flows, conflict spillovers, volatility of global commodity prices, disruption of trade relations, financial flows, or global supply chains. Natural disasters may increase the risk of interstate conflict because of commitment problems, reduced opportunity costs of conflict, shocks to status quo divisions of resources, or demarcation of territories among countries, or because of leaders’ heightened diversionary incentives in favor of conflict. In some cases, disasters may have a pacifying effect on ongoing hostilities by creating opportunities for disaster diplomacy among conflict parties. Population displacement in disaster zones can send refugee flows and other types of migration across borders, with varying short-term and long-term socioeconomic and political effects in home and host countries. Adverse effects of natural disasters on regional and global economic activity shape patterns of international trade and financial flows among countries. To mitigate such risks from natural disasters and facilitate adjustment and recovery efforts, countries may turn to international cooperation through mechanisms for disaster relief and preparedness. Regional and global governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are common means to initiate and maintain such cooperative efforts.
Luis L. Schenoni
Somewhere in between unipolar and imperial orders, hegemonies divide the continuum from anarchy to hierarchy in world politics, connoting interstate systems of the highest concentration of authority. However, depending on the author, hegemony might denote the concentration of relative capabilities in a single state, the presence of a state that seeks international leadership, general consent in the international society regarding subordination to a central order, or a combination of these phenomena. Similarly, scholars debate the extent to which the relation of authority entailed by hegemony should encompass the economic, military, and/or ideational domains. Given this multiplicity of meanings, this review of extant definitions illuminates some issues that must be addressed explicitly when dealing with this concept. Although hegemony might mean different things for different intellectual traditions, these understandings are interconnected in a family resemblance structure that has facilitated mutual intelligibility. A mapping of this network of meanings suggests that special attention needs to be paid to how scholars have thought about the capabilities that would-be hegemons have, the roles they play, and the type of response they elicit from subordinate states. It also suggests the economic, military, and ideational dimensions of hegemony should be explicitly considered in theoretical discussions. Finally, it highlights the importance of avoiding ambiguity by connecting theory with empirics and providing clear measurement strategies. Measurement is essential to delineate the geographical and temporal scope of hegemonies with more precision, to compare them, and to evaluate their effects on certain outcomes. Debates about hegemony have undergone important empirical progress throughout the decades rendering this a promising area for future research.
The political economy of violent conflict is a body of literature that investigates how economic issues and interests shape the dynamics associated to violent conflict after the Cold War. The literature covers an area of research focusing on civil wars—the predominant type of conflict in the 1990s and early 2000s—and an area of research focusing on other types of violent conflict within states, such as permanent emergencies, criminal violence, and political violence associated to turbulent transitions. The first area involves four themes that have come to characterize discussions on the political economy of civil wars, including research on the role of greed and grievance in conflict onset, on economic interests in civil wars, on the nature of conflict economies, and on conflict financing. The second area responds to the evolution of violent conflict beyond the categories of “interstate” or “civil” war and shows how political economy research adapted to new types of violent conflict within states as it moved beyond the “post-Cold War” era. Overall, the literature on the political economy of violence conflict emphasizes the role of informal systems behind power, profits and violence, and the economic interests and functions of violence underlying to violent conflict. It has also become a conceptual laboratory for scholars who after years of field research tried to make sense of the realities of authoritarian, violent or war-affected countries. By extending the boundaries of the literature beyond the study of civil wars after the Cold War, political economy research can serve as an important analytical lens to better understand the constantly evolving nature of violent conflict and to inform sober judgment on the possible policy responses to them.