The earliest scholarly writing on “cyberpolitics” focused mainly on the domestic sphere, but it became clear by the mid-2000s that the Internet-generated “cyberspace” was also having massive effects on the broader dynamics and patterns of international politics. A great deal of the early research on this phenomenon focused on the way cyberspace might empower nonstate actors of all varieties. In many respects that has been the case, but states have increasingly asserted their “cyberpower” in a variety of ways. Some scholars even predict a coming territorialization of what was initially viewed as a technology that fundamentally resisted the dictates of sovereign borders. Such disparate possibilities speak to the ambiguity surrounding the intersection of the international system and the political affordances generated by the Internet and related technologies. Does cyberpolitics challenge the international system as we know it—perhaps altering the very nature of war, sovereignty, and the state itself—or will it merely be subsumed within some structurally mandated logic of state-centric self-help? As might be expected, research that speaks to such foundational questions is quite sprawling. It is also still somewhat inchoate because the object of study is complex and highly malleable. The cyber-“domain” involves a physical substrate ostensibly subject to a territorially demarcated international system, but Internet-enabled activities have expanded rapidly and unpredictably over the past few decades because it also involves a virtual superstructure designed to be a network of networks, and so fundamentally at odds with centralized control. As such, some argue that because cyberspace has so enmeshed itself into all aspects of society, international politics and cyberspace should be seen as coevolving systems, and concomitantly that fields such as International Relations (IR) must update their theoretical and methodological tools. Such contentions indicate that an understanding of extra-domestic cyberpolitics has not so much involved progressively developing insights as differing perspectives compete to explain reality, but rather the growing recognition that we are only now catching up to a rapidly changing reality. As part of that recognition, much of the cutting-edge International Studies (IS) work on cyberpolitics is aimed at researching how the central actor in global politics, the state, is increasingly a cyberpolitical actor. This has meant the abandonment of strong assertions about the way cyberspace would exist separate from the “real world” of state interaction, or that it would force the alteration of especially hierarchical forms of state power. Instead, burgeoning literatures examine the myriad ways states seek to resist and control cyberpolitical activity by others, deploy their own cyberpolitical power, and even shape the very cyberspace in which all of this can occur. This focus on “international cyberpolitics” thus involves tracking a complex and growing milieu of practices, all while reflecting on the possibly fundamental changes being forced upon the international system. All of this points to the likelihood that the study of international politics will increasingly also be the study of international cyberpolitics.
Benjamin R. Banta
Scholarship in international studies has usually tended to focus on the great powers. Yet, studying small state behavior can in fact reveal deep-seated structural changes in the international system and provide significant insights into the management of power asymmetries. Overcoming the methodological limitations of gigantism in scholarship and case study selection is another epistemological benefit. Rather than conventional assumptions of weaknesses and vulnerabilities, research on small states has moved in fascinating directions toward exploring the various strategies and power capabilities that small states must use to manage their relationships with great powers. This means, even in some cases, attempts to forcibly shape their external environments through military instruments not usually associated with the category of small states. Clearly, small states are not necessarily hapless or passive. Even in terms of power capabilities that often define their weaknesses, some small states have in fact adroitly deployed niche hard power military capabilities and soft power assets as part of their playbook. These small states have projected influence in ways that belie their size constraints. Shared philosophies and mutual learning processes tend to underpin small state strategies seeking to maximize whatever influence and power they have. These include forming coalitions, principled support for international institutions, and harnessing globalization to promote their development and security interests. As globalization has supercharged the rapid economic development of some small states, the vicissitudes that come with interdependence have also injected a new understanding of vulnerability beyond that of simply military conflict. To further complicate the security environment, strategic competition between the major powers inevitably impacts on small states. How small states boost their “relevance” vis-à-vis the great powers has broader implications for questions that have animated the academy, such as power transitions and the Thucydides Trap in the international system. While exogenous systemic variables no doubt remain the focus of analysis, emerging research shows how endogenous variables such as elite perceptions, geostrategic locations and availability of military and economic resources can play a key role determining the choices small states make.
Timothy J. A. Passmore
UN peacekeeping serves as the foremost international tool for conflict intervention and peace management. Since the Cold War, these efforts have almost exclusively targeted conflicts within, rather than between, states. Where traditional peacekeeping missions sought to separate combatants and monitor peace processes across state borders, modern peacekeeping in civil wars involves a range of tasks from intervening directly in active conflicts to rebuilding political institutions and societies after the fighting ends. To accommodate this substantial change, peacekeeping operations have grown in number, size, and scope of mandate. The increasing presence and changing nature of peacekeeping has sparked great interest in understanding when and how peacekeeping is used and how effective it is in delivering and sustaining peace. Significant advances in peacekeeping data collection have allowed for a more rigorous investigation of the phenomenon, including differentiation in the objectives, tasks, and structure of a mission as well as disaggregation of the activities and impact of peacekeepers’ presence across time and space. Researchers are particularly interested in understanding the adaption of peacekeeping to the unique challenges of the civil war setting, such as intervention in active conflicts, the greater involvement and victimization of civilians, the reintegration of rebel fighters into society, and the establishment of durable political, economic, and social institutions after the fighting ends. Additional inquiries consider why the UN deploys peacekeeping to some wars and not others, how and why operations differ from one another, and how the presence of and variation across missions impacts conflict countries before and after the fighting has stopped.
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.
Paul F. Diehl
Peace is an elusive concept with many different meanings. Traditionally, it has been equated with the absence of war or violence, but such “negative peace” has limited value as it lumps wildly disparate situations together, such as rivalries (India–Pakistan) and close political relationships (e.g., European Union). Nevertheless, this conception remains the predominant approach in theory, research, teaching, and policy discourse. “Positive peace” definitions are much broader and encompass aspects that go beyond war and violence, but there is far less consensus on those elements. Conceptions include, among others, human rights, justice, judicial independence, and communication components. Best developed are notions of “quality peace,” which incorporate the absence of violence but also require things such as gender equality in order for societies to qualify as peaceful. Many of these, however, lack associated data and operational indicators. Research on positive peace is also comparatively underdeveloped. Peace can also be represented as binary (present or not) or as a continuum (the degree to which peace is present). Peace can be applied at different levels of analysis. At the system level, it refers to the aggregate or global conditions in the world at a given time. At the dyadic or k‑adic level, it refers to the state of peace in relationships between two or more states. Finally, internal peace deals with conditions inside individual states, and the relationships between governments, groups, and individuals. Aspects of peace vary according to the level of analysis, and peace at one level might not be mirrored at other levels.
Scholarly attention on both Peace Studies (PS) and contemporary security issues, in particular “terrorism” and “counterterrorism,” is notable and has been growing in recent decades. Several academic institutions now offer undergraduate and postgraduate modules on “Terrorism Studies” (TS) and PS all over the world, and in recent years there has been growing interest in both areas. Still, the two fields have long remained stubbornly distant and only a few scholars have investigated the interaction between Peace and Terrorism Studies. This article, building on the openings produced by seminal contributions on the possible intersection between the two areas of research, seeks to review such contributions and point to some commonalities and issues affecting both fields to finally underline fruitful areas of cross-pollination. To achieve its aim, the article is structured in the following way: it begins with an investigation of characteristics common to both fields as well as common issues affecting them, then reports the results of a preliminary review of the most relevant contributions investigating the possibilities of crossroads between Terrorism Studies and Peace Studies. The contributions succinctly reviewed in this article are full of important considerations (theoretically and empirically informed) about the feasibility and desirability of intersections between TS and PS and are particularly welcomed for opening up new avenues for research. However, given the initial stage of this enterprise, they should be better regarded as excellent launch pads for stimulating further research and for encouraging more dialogue between disciplines.
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.
Barry Buzan and Lene Hansen
International security studies (ISS) has significantly evolved from its founding core of “golden age” strategic studies. From the onset of the Cold War in the late 1940s through to the 1970s, strategic studies virtually was ISS, and remains a very large part of it. The fact that it continues to stand as the “mainstream” attacked by widening/deepening approaches further speaks to its status as a “core.” This core consists of those literatures whose principal concern is external military threats to the state, and the whole agenda of the use of force which arises from that. This core was originally focused on nuclear weapons and the military-political rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union, but has since adapted its focus to changes in the salience and nature of military threats caused by the end of the Cold War and 9/11. It includes literatures on deterrence, arms racing, arms control and disarmament, grand strategy, wars (and “new wars”), the use of force, nuclear proliferation, military technology, and terrorism. Debates within ISS are structured, either implicitly or explicitly, by five questions: (1) which referent object to adopt, (2) whether to understand security as internally or externally driven, (3) whether to limit it to the military sector or to expand it, (4) what fundamental thinking about (international) politics to adopt, and (5) which epistemology and methodology to choose.
David M. Rowe
Economic sanctions are a versatile instrument of statecraft used by states to try to influence the behavior of foreign actors by threatening or restricting customary cross-border trade or financial flows to an intended target. Examples of economic sanctions are retaliatory tariffs imposed in trade disputes and the complete cessation of economic flows aimed at undermining a certain regime. The importance of economic sanctions to policy makers has spawned a substantial amount of scholarly work dominated by two questions: whether sanctions “work” and whether states should use them. The long-running scholarly debate about whether sanctions work is essentially a dispute over how to classify cases. However, comparing cases of success and failure is problematic, in part because the very notion of what constitutes the successful use of sanctions is not clear and policy makers rarely seek to influence a single target or pursue a single policy goal when using sanctions. One of the most promising developments in the literature has been the increasing use of game theory to analyze sanctions, but this approach does not adequately determine the appropriateness of sanctions as a policy instrument. Sanctions research should focus instead on the basic strategic dynamics of the sanctions episode in order to identify those factors that contribute most strongly to the effective use of sanctions and to enable policy makers to understand more about the consequences of using sanctions as an instrument of statecraft.
Laura J. Shepherd
In challenging conventional conceptualizations of the human subject, the state, and the international system, early feminist security studies (FSS) offered new ways to think about security from inside and outside the disciplinary boundaries of international relations (IR). Indeed, FSS scholars illustrate that security not only means different things in different contexts but also functions in different ways to constitute particular social/political realities. Politicizing the everyday, or rather, demanding that the everyday be recognized as political, is a core assumption of FSS. Further contributions of early FSS to the replacement of the human subject in matters of security include a form of engagement with the very language used in speaking of security matters. Moreover, FSS scholars argue that insecurities permeate the very condition of human existence, bringing FSS insights to bear on economic processes, technological development, state building, and reconstruction. Ranging from analysis of violent conflict and political violence using a gendered framework to critiques of the policies and practices governing post-conflict reconstruction, and encompassing strong and vital interjections on debates over securitizing development, migration, health, human rights, and peace, FSS scholarship is accessible, innovative, and by no means limited to “women and war.” Relocating FSS scholarship from the margins to the center and listening to the voices of those human subjects erased from the academic study of security brings new challenges but also new opportunities for collaboration, with the sighting and citing of FSS by other critical scholars.