Juliann Emmons Allison
Ecofeminism can be described as both an ecological philosophy and a social movement that draws on environmental studies, critiques of modernity and science, and feminist critical analyses and activism to explicate connections between women and nature, and the implications of these relationships for environmental politics. Feminist writer Françoise d’Eaubonne is widely credited to be the founder of ecofeminism in the early 1970s. Ecofeminists embrace a wide range of views concerning the causal role of Western dualistic thinking, patriarchal structures of power, and capitalism in ecological degradation, and the oppression of women and other subjugated peoples. Collectively, they find value in extending feminist analyses to the simultaneous interrogation of the domination of both nature and women. The history of ecofeminism may be divided into four decade-long periods. Ecofeminism emerged in the early 1970s, coincident with a significant upturn in the contemporary women’s and environmental movements. In the 1980s, ecofeminism entered the academy as ecofeminist activists and scholars focused their attention on the exploitation of natural resources and women, particularly in the developing world. They criticized government and cultural institutions that constrained women’s reproductive and productive roles in society, and argued that environmental protection ultimately depends on increasing women’s socioeconomic and political power. In the current postfeminist and postenvironmentalist world, ecofeminists are less concerned with theoretical labels than with effective women’s activism to achieve ecological sustainability.
Wesley B. O'Dell
The notion that Great Powers fulfill a leadership role in international politics is old, influential, and contested. As the actors in the international system with the greatest capacity for taking action, Great Powers are assumed to think both further ahead and in broader, more systemic terms than other states; they then use their preeminent positions to organize others to promote public goods, reaping benefits along the way thanks to their direction of events. At the core of this understanding is the assumption that Great Power actions are, or ought to be, inspired by something more than simple self-interest and the pursuit of short-term gains. As an organic creation of international practice, Great Power leadership was traditionally the domain of historians and international legists; early students of the topic utilized inductive reasoning to derive general precepts of Great Power sociology from the landmark settlements of the 18th and 19th centuries. The framing of Great Powers as a leadership caste originated in the struggle against Louis XIV, was given tentative institutional form through settlements such as the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), and deepened considerably in both institutionalization and sophistication in the 19th century Concert of Europe. The return of France to full Great Power status, the Congress (1878) and Conference (1884) of Berlin, and the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion (1899–1901) all demonstrated the willingness and ability of the Powers to cooperate in the management of international change. In the early 20th century, the leadership of the Great Powers was both challenged as an unjust agent of catastrophe as well as increasingly formalized through recognition in new international institutions such as the League of Nations and the United Nations. Theorists of international relations began to formulate theories based on Great Power management at the time of the discipline’s beginnings in the early 20th century. Realists and liberals frequently utilize Great Power concepts to explain processes of equilibrium, hegemonic competition, and institution building, while approaches influenced by constructivism focus on the role of ideas, statuses, and roles in the formulation of Great Power identities and policies. The doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a 21st-century manifestation of the application of Great Power leadership to international problems; though hailed by some as the future of Great Power management, it provokes controversy among both theorists and practitioners. Similarly, extensive scholarly attention has been devoted to the management and accommodation of “rising powers.” These are states that appear likely to obtain the status of Great Power, and there is extensive debate over their orientation toward and potential management of international order. Finally, the position of Russia and China within this literature has provoked deep reflection on the nature of Great Power, the responsibilities of rising and established powers, and the place of Great Power management amidst the globalized challenges of the 21st century.
John M. Hobson, George Lawson, and Justin Rosenberg
Over the past 20 years, historical sociology in international relations (HSIR) has contributed to a number of debates, ranging from examination of the origins of the modern states system to unraveling the core features and relative novelty of the contemporary historical period. By the late 1980s and 1990s, a small number of IR scholars drew explicitly on historical sociological insights in order to counter the direction that the discipline was taking under the auspices of the neo-neo debate. Later scholars moved away from examining the specific interconnections between international geopolitics and domestic social change. A further difference that marked this second wave from the first was that it was driven principally by IR scholars working within IR. To date, HSIR has sought to reveal not only the different forms that international systems have taken in the past, but also the ways in which the modern system cannot be treated as an ontological given. Historical sociologists in IR are unanimous in asserting that rethinking the constitutive properties and dynamics of the contemporary system can be successfully achieved only by applying what amounts to a more sensitive “nontempocentric” historical sociological lens. At the same time, by tracing the historical sociological origins of the present international order, HSIR scholars are able to reveal some of the continuities between the past and the present, thereby dispensing with the dangers of chronofetishism.
Dirk Nabers and Frank A. Stengel
International Political Sociology (IPS) emerged as a subfield of International Relations (IR) in the early 2000s. IPS itself may be understood as constituted by a field of tension between the concepts of “the International,” “the Political,” and “the Social.” Against this background, the centrality of anarchy and sovereignty as the fundamental structuring principles of international politics are increasingly called into question. While IPS remains an exciting, creative and important endeavor, researchers are also exploring paths toward what might be called a Global Political Sociology (GPS). Although IPS has become more global in orientation, more sociological with respect to sources, and more political in its stance, three ongoing shifts need to be made in order to transform IPS into GPS: first, insights from disciplines foreign to IR—both Western and non-Western—need to be employed in order to illustrate that specific localities have implications for the global as a whole; second, the continued engagement with causal theorizing must be replaced with contingency and undecidability as the fundamental constituting features of the political; and third, if the international that has been the nucleus of IR activities for decades, but impedes our understanding of politics instead of stimulating it, then alternative ways of theorizing global politics must be explored.
There are two primary reasons why empires are central to our understanding of International Relations (IR). First, the empire has been replaced by juridically equal sovereign territorial states over the past century. Formal empires no longer exist, and only one head of state retains the title of Emperor—Akihito of Japan. The second reason why the study of empire matters to IR is that much of the conventional distinction between hierarchy and anarchy has been subject to various criticisms from a wide array of methodological and political perspectives. In particular, International Political Sociology (IPS) has offered a framework for critical analyses of phenomena such as systemic transformation, international unevenness, and global inequality, or war, violence, and racism in international politics. Since the end of the Cold War, new theorizations of empire have placed empire and imperialism at the center of debates in IR. Contemporary investigations of empire in IR, and IPS in particular, have dwelled on a number of political debates and methodological issues, including the nature of American imperialism, the link between IR and global history, and the relationship between empire and globalization. The category “empire” continues to both illuminate the pertinence of IR to social theory more generally and at the same time highlights the shortcomings of the discipline in addressing the causes and dynamics of global inequality, violence, and uneven development.
Conceptions of “risk” have permeated different forms of governance in both developed and developing countries. Many scholars have theorized how societies, states, organizations, and economic actors cope with uncertainty, giving rise to an international political sociology (IPS) of risk. A major concern of the IPS of risk is how uncertainty has become a central problem for governance. The ways in which risks are assessed and managed are taken as problematic spaces from which to question the roles of states, societies, economic actors, and individuals in coping with uncertainty. The origin of risk research as a disciplined field can be traced to Chauncey Starr’s article “Social Benefits versus Technological Risks” (1969), which offers a way of measuring the social acceptability of risks associated with technological development. Starr’s argument exemplifies what is known as the problem of “the ethical transformation of risk.” Risk as an ethical problem is central to modern debates on the distinction between “risk” and “uncertainty.” International Relations (IR) as a discipline has slowly begun to incorporate theoretical developments in risk theory arising from sociology, economics, and anthropology. Beyond rational choice theory implementations of threat-based conceptions of risk, IR scholars began to be influenced by three main currents of thinking risk: the risk society thesis, the governmentality of risk, and modern systems theory. A host of challenges remain with regard to the development of an IPS of risk, foremost of which is theorizing the ways in which power proceeds through practices of uncertainty.
Postmodernity is commonly perceived as a stage of late modernity or late capitalism that follows modernity, whereas postmodernism is understood as a theoretical trend that attempts to unsettle a number of key concepts associated with the Enlightenment, such as grand narratives of progress, a linear unfolding of history, and traditional notions of reason and rationality. Within the discipline of International Relations (IR), however, late modernity is used interchangeably with postmodernity/postmodernism. Postmodernist/poststructuralist accounts in IR emerged in the 1980s, drawing their inspiration from authors identified with poststructuralism, such as Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, and Julia Kristeva. Three important themes can be identified in the development of a set of concerns that shaped International Political Sociology (IPS) as a subfield of IR: the self-understanding of IR and its relation to broader sociopolitical structures and institutions; limits, borders, and frontiers; and the emergence of a concern with practices of power perceived as acting in various sites, such as security and citizenship. The concretization of a different set of research preoccupations that are associated with IPS has resulted in some of the more significant developments in postmodern IR theory. Nevertheless, there are a few issues that deserve further consideration in social research that would help decenter the Western frame of IR, including the need for postcolonial discussions concerning the project of Enlightenment.
Since the late eighteenth century, nationalist movements have been one of the world’s most powerful agents of social change. As a social movement, nationalism serves as a primary instrument both for popular aspiration and for ruling ideology. It is embedded in political contexts and can only be explained in relation to the resulting dynamics of contention. There is considerable debate over types of nationalist movements and their role in history, in large part because nationalism is not often explicitly conceptualized as a social movement. These debates, especially those that played out through the 1980s and into the mid-1990s, offer important insights into nationalist mobilization and its conditions of emergence and development. In order to understand the dynamics of nationalism as a social movement, one may draw insights from the “political process” school of social movement scholarship, where the exercise of state power is seen as framing movement identification and as structuring mobilization. Three interrelated dimensions deserve consideration in this regard: material interests and resources, institutional opportunities, and ideological framing of nationalist mobilization. Each is linked to the other by a process of capitalist development that creates systemic inequalities and fragments global society into national units. What emerges is a political sociology of nationalist movements, where movements are embedded in the social forces that they inhabit. The interaction of social forces and nationalist mobilization can be conceived of as a hierarchy, where one leads to the other.
Theoretical debates for a better definition of nationalism have played a key role in understanding the core issues of history, sociology, and political sciences. Classical modernist theories of nationalism mainly synthesized former sociological and historical approaches with a political science perspective. Within the classical modernist perspective, the necessity and importance of transformation from traditional culture and society to a horizontal one in the agenda of modernization was characterized as a universal consequence of industrialization. Some of the foremost complexities and problems involved in the classical and contemporary studies of nation and nationalism include the logic of dualization; the definition of nationalism with reference to its substantive and paradigmatic nature; and whether it is possible to concretely construct a universal theory of nationalism. Both classical and contemporary theories of nations and nationalism can be postulated with reference to two major theoretical sides. Universalist theories of nations and nationalism focus on the categorical structure of nationalism in conceptual grounds while being associated with (neo)positivistic methodological points of departure. On the other hand, particularist theories of nationalism underline the immanent characteristics of nations and nationalism by going through nominalism and relativism in methodological grounds. Considering the conceptual, epistemological, and theoretical contributions of “postclassical approach to nationalism” in the 1990s, three major contributions in contemporary nationalism studies can be marked: the increasing research on gender, sexuality, and feminist social theory; the framework of “new social theory” or “critical social theory”; and the discussions derived from political philosophy and normative political theory.
Yale H. Ferguson and Richard W. Mansbach
The “state” is the theoretical and empirical bedrock of the international relations field, yet it is a hotly debated concept and is routinely defined to suit the normative and/or empirical ends of scholars and practitioners. It is thus a conceptual variable. The state has so many “meanings” and connotations that the term must be carefully defined every time it is used. Perhaps the most that can be said, with any degree of certainty, is that today the sovereign state has a recognized status in international law, continues to be an important identity symbol for many citizens, and is the focus of citizen demands for the provision of collective goods. Beyond such a statement, the going gets far more difficult.
Different “schools” of social science theory view the state with different lenses. Whether the concept of state has any applicability to polities that predated early modern Europe is dubious. In any event, the state and all its variants were contingent products of particular times and European space, and states have continued to adapt and evolve over the centuries to such an extent that the “modern” state bears little resemblance to its Westphalian predecessor. Indeed, modern states themselves evince such a remarkable diversity that they have little in common with one another except sovereign legal independence. That status, in turn, is not to be confused with “real” independence, which has become increasingly evident in our present-day substantially globalized world. The traditional “inside/outside” distinction offers little consolation to state decision makers who find the “outside” severely constraining their capacity to offer their citizens security and welfare. The state’s “crisis of authority” has only worsened with the spread of illiberal populist nationalism and the “return of geopolitics.”
Teaching international political sociology (IPS) is intellectually rewarding yet pedagogically challenging. In the conventional International Relations (IR) curriculum, IPS students have to set aside many of the premises, notions, and models they learned in introductory classes, such as assumptions of instrumental rationality and canonical standards of positivist methodology. Once problematized, these traditional starting points in IR are replaced with a number of new dispositions, some of which are counterintuitive, that allow students to take a fresh look at world politics. In the process, IPS opens many more questions than it provides clear-cut answers, making the approach look very destabilizing for students. The objective of teaching IPS is to sow the seeds of three key dispositions inside students’ minds. First, students must appreciate the fact that social life consists primarily of relations that make the whole bigger than the parts. Second, they must be aware that social action is infused with meanings upon which both cooperative and conflictual relations hinge. Third, they have to develop a degree of reflexivity in order to realize that social science is a social practice just like others, where agents enter in various relations and struggle over the meanings of the world. There are four primary methods of teaching IPS, each with its own merits and limits: induction, ontology, historiography, and classics.
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.
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.