Both historical and contemporary trends suggest that the meaning of diplomacy varies considerably over time and across space. Diplomacy is defined neither by the types of actors on behalf of which it is undertaken nor by the status of those actors vis-à-vis one another, in the sense of their being, for example, sovereign and equal. There are, however, four common threads underlying these historical variations on diplomacy. The first is an assumption about the necessarily plural character of social relations, namely that people live in groups which regard themselves as separate from, yet needing or wanting relations with, one another. The second is that this plural social fact gives rise to relations that are somehow distinctive to and different from relations within groups. People believe and feel themselves to be under fewer obligations to those whom they regard as others than to those whom they regard as their own. Third, therefore, if these relations are to remain peaceful and productive, they require careful handling by specialists who should be treated neither as one’s own nor, at least in the usual sense, as others. Fourth, these specialists develop a measure of solidarity as the managers of relations in worlds distinguished by the plural social fact. Where these four elements are in play, then there emerges a system of relations which can be recognized as having the character of diplomacy.
Iver B. Neumann
The diplomat is formed in certain socially specific ways, and is defined by the role they play within certain contexts in the field of international relations. Since it is human beings, and not organizations, who practice diplomacy, the diplomats’ social traits are relevant to their work. Historically, diplomats can be defined in terms of two key social traits (class and gender) and how their roles depend on two contexts (bureaucrat/information gatherer and private/public). Before the rise of the state in Europe, envoys were usually monks. With the rise of the state, the aristocracy took over the diplomatic missions. Nonaristocrats were later allowed to assume the role of diplomats, but they needed to be trained, both as gentlemen and as diplomats. From the eighteenth century onwards, wives usually accompanied diplomats stationed abroad, though by the end of the nineteenth century, a few women came to work as typists and carry out menial chores for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). As women became legal persons through performing such labor, they later became qualified to legally serve as diplomats. Meanwhile, in terms of context, the key context change for a diplomat is from “at home” (as in “my home country”) to “abroad.” Historically, work at home is the descendant of bureaucratic service at the MFA, and work abroad of the diplomatic service.
John D. Stempel
There is a potentially serious difference between diplomacy and intelligence. Creative tension between diplomacy and intelligence stems from the involvement of both with questions of strategy and statecraft. Indeed, the source of this conflict is often clandestine or covert activities that become public and adversely affect both relations between states and diplomats’ ongoing work. Early works in the intelligence scholarship focuses basically at the descriptive level and centers on acquiring information. In 1922, studies began considering the political aspects of the intelligence–diplomacy connection, zeroing in on the defects of US intelligence and the adequacy of policies, including those related to intelligence gathering and its impact on diplomacy. Studies about the details of the intelligence–diplomacy connection also began to appear. These studies look at the interplay between intelligence and policy making as well as the morality of clandestine operations. In order to link intelligence goals to policy needs, future studies on the intelligence–diplomacy connection should further assess the impact of culture on intelligence gathering and perception, provide better insight into the characteristics of good versus bad intelligence officers and diplomats, include qualitative estimates of the effectiveness and efficacy of techniques and strategies as well as legal and ethical discussions of control and policy, and explore the strategic interactions between intelligence officers and diplomats and how these are managed in various governing systems.
Within the international society, law and diplomacy have always been complementary and interdependent. However, lawyers and diplomats deal with international issues differently, making them rivals to be the primary mode of international interaction. Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of states; it usually refers to international diplomacy, the conduct of international relations through the mediation of professional diplomats with regard to a full range of topical issues. Nations sometimes resort to international arbitration when faced with a specific question or point of contention in need of resolution. For most of history, there were no official or formal procedures for such proceedings. They were generally accepted to abide by general principles and protocols related to international law and justice. International law is the set of rules generally regarded and accepted as binding in relations between states and between nations. It serves as a framework for the practice of stable and organized international relations. Much of international law is consent-based governance. This means that a state member is not obliged to abide by this type of law, unless it has expressly consented to a particular course of conduct, or entered a diplomatic convention. Interdisciplinary courses, like diplomacy and international law, are designed to help one think critically about diplomatic and international legal issues in real-life contexts, while applying theory to practice and addressing some of the key questions facing the world today.
Public opinion has long been associated with diplomacy. The earliest records of public involvement in diplomacy are available from the city-states of ancient Greece, where diplomats in the Greek city-states were chosen by public assemblies following thorough public deliberations. However, the growth of a sense of professional community among diplomats following the rise of foreign ministries led to a gradual structuring of the communication patterns. Most generally, a cleavage started to appear between modes of communication in relation to actors within the professional community and in relation to actors outside it. Within the diplomatic community, communication followed the rules, norms, and procedures of emerging diplomatic practice and ceremony. Outside the diplomatic community, the patterns that emerged can be conceptualized along two paths: (1) information gathering, and (2) informing the public at home and abroad about foreign policy. Modern professional diplomacy has been seeking to strike a balance between limiting public access to diplomatic processes and trying to communicate with the public with the aim of generating a public opinion favorable to government foreign policy. The current information-intensive global environment poses a challenge to foreign ministries’ institutionalized mode of limited public communication along two dimensions: the rising importance of so-called public diplomacy, and the increasing need for public legitimization of foreign policy decisions.
Religion has long been seen as an obstacle to diplomacy, especially in disputes and conflicts that seem to be related to or motivated by religion. The very nature of religion—its concerns for dogma, truth, and certainty— would seem to be contrary to the nature of successful diplomacy, with its emphasis on empathy, dialogue, understanding, negotiation, and compromise. However, religion and diplomacy have become more interrelated since the end of the twentieth century. Globalization and the changing nature of conflict have exposed the limits of conventional diplomacy in resolving these new conflicts in a global era, and this has opened up new opportunities for religious actors involved in diplomacy. A so-called “faith-based diplomacy” has emerged, which promotes dialogue within and between religious traditions. Particularly in the Islamic world, with a new generation of theologians and politicians, it is recognized that there is a key role for religious leaders and faith-based diplomacy in the Middle East. Faith-based diplomacy can be distinguished from the traditional models of peacemaking and conflict resolution by its holistic approach to the sociopolitical healing of a conflict that has taken place. In other words, the objective of faith-based diplomacy is not only conflict resolution but also the restoration of the political order that has suffered from war and injustice, and the reconciliation of individuals and social groups.
The relationship between diplomacy and revolution is often intertwined with the broader issue of the international dimensions of revolution. Diplomacy can offer important insights into both the historical evolution of world order and its evolving functional and normative needs. In other words, the most important dimension of diplomacy, beyond its concrete symbolic and pragmatic operational value, is its very existence as raison de système. A number of scholarly works that explore the link between revolution and the international arena have given rise to a minority subfield of scholarly research and debate which is particularly vibrant and plural. Three basic lines of research can be identified: case studies undertaken by historians and area studies scholars that focus on the international dimensions surrounding particular revolutions; comparative political studies that address the international implications of revolutions by departing from a more comprehensive theoretical framework but still based in comprehensive case studies; and more theoretically comprehensive literature which, in addition to careful case studies, aims to provide a general and far-reaching explanatory theoretical framework on the relationship between revolution and long-term historical change from different perspectives: English school international theory, neorealism, world systems analysis, postmarxism, or constructivism. In a context of growing inequality and global exploitation, the international dimension of revolutions is receiving renewed attention from scholars using innovative critical theoretical approaches.
Paul Sharp and Robert Weiner
Scholars acknowledge that there is a close connection between diplomacy and war, but they disagree with regard to the character of this connection—what it is and what it ought to be. In general, diplomacy and war are assumed to be antagonistic and polar opposites. In contrast, the present diplomatic system is founded on the view that state interests may be pursued, international order maintained, and changes effected in it by both diplomacy and war as two faces of a single statecraft. To understand the relationships between diplomacy and war, we must look at the development of the contemporary state system and the evolution of warfare and diplomacy within it. In this context, one important claim is that the foundations of international organizations in general, and the League of Nations in particular, rest on a critique of modern (or “old”) diplomacy. For much of the Cold War, the intellectual currents favored the idea of avoiding nuclear war to gain advantage. In the post-Cold War era, the relationship between diplomacy and war remained essentially the same, with concepts such as “humanitarian intervention” and “military diplomacy” capturing the idea of a new international order. The shocks to the international system caused by events between the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003 have intensified the paradoxes of the relationship between diplomacy and war.
Donna Lee and Brian Hocking
Mainstream studies of diplomacy have traditionally approached international relations (IR) using realist and neorealist frameworks, resulting in state-centric analyses of mainly political agendas at the expense of economic matters. Recently, however, scholars have begun to focus on understanding international relations beyond security. Consequently, there has been a significant shift in the study of diplomacy toward a better understanding of the processes and practices underpinning economic diplomacy. New concepts of diplomacy such as catalytic diplomacy, network diplomacy, and multistakeholder diplomacy have emerged, providing new tools not only to recognize a greater variety of state and nonstate actors in diplomatic practice, but also to highlight the varied and changing character of diplomatic processes. In this context, two themes in the study of diplomacy can be identified. The first is that of diplomat as agent, in IR and international political economy. The second is how to fit into diplomatic agency officials who do not belong to the state, or to a foreign ministry. In the case of the changing environment caused by globalization, economic diplomacy commonly drives the development of qualitatively different diplomatic practices in new and existing economic forums. Four key modes of economic diplomacy are critical to managing contemporary globalization: commercial diplomacy, trade diplomacy, finance diplomacy, and consular visa services in relation to increased immigration flows. The development of these modes of economic diplomacy has shaped the way we think about who the diplomats are, what diplomats do, and how they do it.
Virginie Mamadouh and Herman van der Wusten
The fields of geography and diplomacy are closely intertwined. The traditional view of diplomacy describes it as the conduct of statecraft in all the nonviolent manifestations of external relations. Statecraft encompasses the responses to security concerns, the regulation of transboundary flows, and the pursuance of a state’s material interests and the projection of positive perceptions concerning the state to the outside world. Diplomacy can also be more narrowly defined as an institution dealing with these matters in the preparatory and implementation stages of the foreign policy cycle with a distinctive, carefully recruited, and socialized personnel. In the nineteenth century, European diplomacy was overwhelmingly dominated by the major powers. Small powers were only occasionally involved, and some countries like China were practically forced into diplomatic relations with Western powers as European influence expanded. Diplomacy got a niche in the European state system. Of relevance in this context is the field of critical geopolitics, which investigates and deconstructs geopolitical reasoning—that is, the geographical assumptions and claims in the making of world politics. The engineering of geographical representations by diplomats is a new topic in international relations. Two concepts have been introduced to deal with attempts to win the “hearts and minds” of foreign audiences: public diplomacy and nation branding. Future prospects for diplomacy result from efforts to reshape the field’s identity—civilized, effective interaction across divides—in appropriate formats for a new period.
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.
James P. Muldoon
In the field of international studies, multilateralism is a kind of alliance where multiple countries progress any given goal. Multilateralism can be defined as global governance of the many, and its chief principle is the opposition of bilateral discriminatory arrangements that are believed to enhance the leverage of the powerful over the weak and to increase international conflict. Multilateralism serves to bind the great powers, discourage unilateralism, and give the small powers a voice and voting opportunities that they would not otherwise have. As such, power disparities are accommodated to the weaker states by having more predictable bigger states and means to achieve control through collective action. Powerful states also buy into multilateral diplomatic agreements by writing the rules and having privileges such as veto power and special status. Multilateral diplomacy is the management of international relations by negotiations among three or more states through diplomatic or governmental representatives. Ideally, for multilateral diplomacy to be of any effect there needs to be one rule for all and everyone would need to work together. Consensus is to be reached by debates, discussions, and compromises but, ultimately, there would be a democratic vote—majority vote is applied, which means no state is undermined.
Joana Setzer and Karen Anderton
Subnational diplomacy has become an increasingly important part of foreign policy and international relations. This observation concerns a state of affairs that is not necessarily obvious or given. First, by definition, subnational governments usually conduct subnational activities and address problems that affect their constituencies. Second, in many countries subnational governments undertake such an agenda without an actual legal framework authorizing such initiatives. However, with an intensified global interdependency, policy areas such as environmental protection, human rights, immigration, and trade, just to name a few, require action both at the international and territorialized levels, as many of them transcend political administrative boundaries.
As a result, in the early 21st century it is possible to determine various forms of international relations conducted by subnational leaders. This activity involves direct interactions undertaken by subnational leaders and bureaucrats with other actors across borders (private, non-governmental, and governmental—national or subnational), participation in transnational networks, and/or participation in international policymaking. Because subnational governments are closer to the people and can test experimental or groundbreaking policies with less risk, oftentimes they can become pioneers of measures that can be rolled out or replicated elsewhere in the international domain. Such policy leadership is just one element of subnational engagement in the diplomatic arena whereby subnational governments move across jurisdictional levels, breaking the fixed scales in which they would traditionally operate.
In the past years, scholars investigating the external relations undertaken by subnational governments have dedicated great effort to understanding the motivations for regions to go into the international arena. What these studies lack, however, is an understanding of what the implications are of subnational governments’ engagement in international relations.