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Article

Anarchy in International Relations  

Silviya Lechner

The concept of anarchy is seen as the cardinal organizing category of the discipline of International Relations (IR), which differentiates it from cognate disciplines such as Political Science and Political Philosophy. It is important to distinguish between concepts of anarchy and theories where anarchy operates as a central premise. The concept of anarchy can mean (a) a lack of a common superior in an interaction domain; (b) chaos or disorder; or (c) a horizontal relation between nominally equal entities sovereign states. The first and the third senses of “anarchy” are central to IR as a field, and figure as premises within three broad families of IR theory: (a) realism and neorealism, (b) English School theory (international society approach), and (c) Kant’s republican peace. Despite normative and conceptual differences otherwise, all three bodies of theory are ultimately based on Hobbes’s argument for a “state of nature,” and on an understanding that the key actors in international relations are sovereign states. The major challengers to the discourse of international anarchy are theories of international politics that rely on the methodology of economics as well as cognate approaches that prioritize the “global” over the “international” such as theories of globalization, global hierarchy, and global governance.

Article

Annexation  

Brendan O'Leary

Annexation refers to both the unlawful and the lawful incorporation of a territory and its people into another state. In contemporary international law, unilateral annexation of a territory is unlawful. It was not always so. Previous international law recognized a right of conquest and other modes of acquiring territory without popular consent. Unification of territories accomplished through authentic processes of consent may, however, lead to annexation that is lawful, both domestically and internationally. The subdisciplines of international law, international relations, and comparative politics respectively have distinct literatures on annexation. International law addresses its normative appropriateness, international relations examines whether the incidence of unilateral annexation has declined because of legal prohibitions or for other reasons, and scholars of comparative politics address why governments may annex territories—among other options.

Article

The Geopolitics of Race, Empire, and Expertise at the ICC  

Oumar Ba, K. Jo Bluen, and Owiso Owiso

With the adoption of the Rome Statute in 1998, the international community created the first permanent international tribunal to hold perpetrators of atrocity crimes—namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression—accountable. Whereas linear and teleological narratives of progress toward a world of justice and accountability would hail such a major step as a culmination of a journey that Nuremberg set in motion, a critical reading of the origins, discourses, and mechanisms of the Rome Statute system shows the fissures and shaky foundations of problematic dispositions of international criminal law and the current international justice ecosystem. The International Criminal Court, through its design, operations, and mechanisms ensures that accountability for powerful states and their citizens are as constricted as possible, leaving room for an unbalanced, two-tiered international legal system eager to criminalize the subaltern, racialized, citizen of the Global South “other.” As the crisis that marked the (short) history of the Court has deepened, efforts to review and reform the institution have addressed some of these challenges, while still evading other subjects.

Article

Global Governance  

Roberto Domínguez and Rafael Velázquez Flores

The goal of this article is to provide an overview of the literature on global governance, key elements for understanding its conceptualization, and a gateway to capture its multidimensionality. From this perspective, global governance is conceived as a framework of analysis or intellectual device to study the complexity of global processes involving multiple actors that interact at different levels of interest aggregation. The article is divided into four parts. The first section describes the origins, definitions, and characteristics of global governance. The second categorizes global governance based on different thematic areas where there is a confluence of governance practices, on the one hand, and the inclusion of a global level of interaction, on the other. The third discusses the different conceptual inquiries and innovations that have been developed around the term. Finally, the last part maps the different academic institutions that have focused their research on global governance and offer programs on this subject.

Article

The Institutions of International Society  

Tonny Brems Knudsen

The “fundamental” or “primary” institutions of international society, among them sovereignty, diplomacy, international law, great power management, the balance of power, trade, and environmental stewardship, have been eagerly discussed and researched in the discipline of international relations (IR), at the theoretical, meta-theoretical, and empirical levels. Generations of scholars associated with not only the English School, but also liberalism and constructivism, have engaged with the “institutions of international society,” as they were originally called by Martin Wight and Hedley Bull in their attempt to develop a historically and sociologically informed theory of international relations. The fact that intense historical, theoretical, and empirical investigations have uncovered new institutional layers, dynamics, and complexities, and thus opened new challenging questions rather than settling the matter is part of its attraction. In the 1960s and 1970s, the early exponents of the English School theorized fundamental institutions as historical pillars of contemporary international society and its element of order. At the turn of the 21st century, this work was picked up by Kal Holsti and Barry Buzan, who initiated a renaissance of English School institutionalism, which specified the institutional levels of international society and discussed possibilities for institutional change. Meanwhile, liberal and constructivist scholars made important contributions on fundamental institutions in key engagements with English School theory on the subject in the late 1980s. These contributions and engagements have informed the most recent wave of (interdisciplinary) scholarship on the subject, which has theorized the room for fundamental institutional change and the role of international organizations in relation to the fundamental institutions of international society.

Article

International Law and World Order: Theoretical Perspectives  

Dennis R. Schmidt

Debates about the nature and role of international law have preoccupied international relations (IR) scholars since the inception of the discipline. They involve some of the most fundamental questions about the theory and practice of world order: to what extent is IR a rule-based activity? How do rules and institutions emerge and function under conditions of anarchy and power competition? What effects, if any, does law have on the behavior, interests, and identities of global actors? One way of developing and organizing answers to these questions is through theoretical investigation. Each of the discipline’s main theoretical approaches makes arguments about the role of law in the construction and maintenance of the processes and patterns that constitute political order at the global level. Structural realists such as Kenneth Waltz largely dismissed international law as an epiphenomenon to power politics and security competition. Rational institutional literature emerging in the 1980s developed a more nuanced picture, highlighting law’s role in fostering order and cooperation among sovereign states. Contemporary constructivist approaches go one step further and acknowledge law’s centrality for understanding patterns and processes of social ordering, while critical scholarship, including Third World approaches to international law, focuses on revealing and challenging the structures that underpin the formation and operation of law in a stratified global order marked by legacies of colonialism and economic and political inequalities. Some of those theoretical claims are related to and derived from historical analysis, and there now is a recognizable, interdisciplinary move among historians, IR scholars, political theorists, and international lawyers to engage with the role of law in the historical evolution of world order.

Article

International Order in Theory and Practice  

Kyle M. Lascurettes and Michael Poznansky

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.

Article

International Regime Complexity  

Laura Gómez-Mera

A regime complex is an array of overlapping international institutions and agreements that interact to govern in a particular issue area of international relations. International regime complexity refers to the international political dynamics that emerge from the interaction among multiple overlapping institutions within regime complexes. Scholars have identified several factors explaining the emergence of regime complexes and the growing regime complexity in world politics. Some have emphasized the functional rationale for creating institutional linkages to contain negative spillovers across regimes. Others have focused instead on actors’ incentives, pointing to the various expected benefits of governing through regime complexes rather than through separate comprehensive institutions. Scholars have also disagreed about the consequences of regime complexes and, in particular, about the extent to which regime complexity facilitates or hinders international cooperation. The early literature tended to emphasize how institutional proliferation and fragmentation contributed to regulatory conflicts, thus undermining global governance outcomes. By contrast, other works provide a more nuanced account of the effects of regime overlaps, showing that under certain conditions regime complexity contributes to the effectiveness of cooperation. A rich body of empirical evidence drawn from the study of regime complexes in several issue areas, including environmental, trade, security, migration, and public health governance, suggests that what matters is not the fragmentation and overlaps per se but how they are managed. The increasing institutional density and overlaps in international politics in the 21st century has generated significant interest among scholars of international relations (IR). The literature on international regime complexity and regime complexes has evolved theoretically and empirically since the beginning of the 12st century. Three main questions have guided and informed theoretical debates and empirical research on regime complexes. First, what are regime complexes and how are they composed? What is meant by international regime complexity? Second, what causes regime complexity and how do regime complexes emerge? And third, what are the effects and consequences of regime complexity?

Article

Legal Perspectives in IR and the Role of Latin America  

Juliana Peixoto Batista

The room for dialogue between international law (IL) and international relations (IR) is vast. Since the emergence of the liberal world order in the 20th century, there is a growing closeness between IL and IR approaches. Latin America played a significant role in this process, helping to shape the liberal world order. Despite the fact that liberal approaches to IR and IL promote the most self-evident interdisciplinary dialogue, there is a growing intersection field in critical approaches to IR and IL that should be further explored, and Latin America also has a role to play in that cross-fertilization process. By analyzing critical approaches, the narrative in both disciplines can be expanded, bringing a Global South perspective to the mainstream debate. How did IL scholars read changes in the international system from the second half of the 20th century? How did IR scholars read changes in the role of IL in the international system at the beginning of the 21st century? What is the role of Latin America and its contribution to these changes? With this in mind, intersection spaces can be revealed where room for conceptual, methodological, and collaborative work can be explored.

Article

Muslim Views of the Polity: Citizenry, Authority, Territoriality, and Sovereignty  

Nassef Manabilang Adiong

Muslim views on the polity represent the paradigmatic understandings of how Muslims relate citizenry, authority, territoriality, and sovereignty to the overarching influence of the Western nation-state system. For instance, the meaning of citizenry in the modern state system was adopted by several Muslim societies during the decolonization period. Faith or submission to the will of God was the main criterion to become part of the group (usually referred to as the ummah). However, orientalists regarded ummah as a synonym for tribe, while Arab linguists insisted on a religious connotation. Authority, on the other hand, is ultimately enshrined in the personhood of the Prophet who is the spiritual leader, executor, legislator, and judicial interpreter of God’s message. Since in reality the Prophet is no longer existing, leadership is bestowed on the subsequent followers, and sometimes the ummah may possess leadership status through a social contract between the ruler and the ruled. The manifestation of operationalized authority needs a political space, domain, or place, which is attainable via the notion of territoriality. This is loosely conceptualized as an ummah that has geographical aspects, cultural traits, and a lingua franca. In the 8th century, jurists divided Muslim territoriality into two analytical terms, the abode of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the abode of war/the enemy (dar al-Harb), while the Shia version of abodes rests in the Qur’anic dichotomy of “oppressed–oppressor.” The last concept pertains to sovereignty (hakimiyyah), commonly understood as “the will of God” and advanced by Islamists in the 20th century. In medieval times, it was understood as the promotion of public welfare envisaged in Shari’ah, while in modern times, Islamic modernists argued that Islamists wrongfully understood sovereignty and that the root word used in the Qur’an meant “to govern.” Nowadays, the assertion that symbolizes God’s sovereignty can be found in some modern Muslim states.

Article

Neutrality Studies  

Pascal Lottaz

The study of neutrality, as an academic subject in the fields of history and the social sciences, is concerned with the politics, laws, ethics, economics, norms, and other social aspects of states and international actors that attempt to maintain friendly or impartial relations with other states who are—or might become—parties to international conflict. In this regard, neutrality studies is a subject of international politics in its broadest sense, encompassing international law and international relations. It is an open space that has been explored through various academic lenses, including (but not limited to) realism, liberalism, constructivism, and poststructuralism. Most neutrality research in the early 21st century is focused on particular periods or forms of neutrality. To discuss this topic, it is helpful to distinguish two levels of analysis. First, there is historical research that describes the observable phenomenon of neutral behavior and its related effects, in other words, specific instances when countries (or actors) remained neutral. This is mostly the domain of historians. The second level is the moral, legal, political, and ideational assessment of neutral situations, which are theoretical discussions that treat issues (including but not limited to) the underlying reasons and the larger impact of neutrality on specific conflict dynamics, security systems, identities, and norms. Ideological debates often occur on this level since theoretical assessments of neutrality depend heavily on the subjective framing of the conflicts they accompany.

Article

Order and Justice  

Andrew Hurrell

Order and justice are deeply intertwined in English School writing. The central concern of the English School is with the problem of order and with the question: To what extent does the inherited political framework provided by the international society of states continue to provide an adequate basis for world order? This kind of question links closely with the debates on international institutions and global governance that have been so prominent since the end of the Cold War. But the English School focus is less on theoretical understanding of particular institutions and more on assessing the overall character of institutionalization in world politics, the normative commitments inherent in different ways of governing the globe, and the adequacy of historical and existing interstate institutions for meeting practical and normative challenges. There are four specific themes that are central to the pluralist wing of English School writing on order and justice. The first theme concerns power and the conditions of order, while the second concerns diversity and value conflict. Meanwhile, a third theme emerges from the idea that moral values should, so far as possible, be kept out of international life and of particular international institutions. Finally, the fourth theme concerns the argument that international society has the potential not just to help manage international conduct in a restrained way but also to create the conditions for a more legitimate and morally more ambitious political community to emerge. As power diffuses away from the Western, liberal developed core, and as the intractability of the international system to liberal prescriptions becomes more evident, so one can detect new changes in the way in which global justice is understood.

Article

The Sources of International Disorder  

Aaron McKeil

Debates on the decline and future of the “liberal” international order have produced increasing interest in the concept and sources of disorder in world politics. While the sources of disorder in world politics remain debated and pluralistic, the concept is increasingly used with more analytical clarity and theoretical interest. This growing research on the intended and unintended sources of disorder in world politics contributes to advancing thinking about the problem and future of international order in world politics.

Article

The Rise of Linear Borders  

Kerry Goettlich

Since roughly the late 19th century, international borders have generally been characterized by linearity, or the appearance as a series of one-dimensional points, connected by straight lines. Prior to this, various kinds of frontiers existed globally, some of them being more linear than others, but most included some kind of formal ambiguity. International relations (IR) often takes for granted the historical process which brought about the global linearization of borders, culminating in the late 19th century and still ongoing in ocean spaces and in outer space. But because cross-border relations are the main substance of inquiry in IR, many theories and areas of study in IR contain some perspective on that process, at least implicitly.

Article

Utilitarianism and International Ethics  

Gerard Elfstrom

Utilitarianism is inextricably linked to international ethics. The roots of the principle of utility can be traced to the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was employed by thinkers such as David Hume. However, Jeremy Bentham first formulated utilitarianism in detail and carefully studied its implications. According to Bentham, happiness is a condition in which an individual enjoys more pleasure than pain. Because utilitarianism is focused on the welfare of the individual, state boundaries are of little consequence. Its reach is inherently global. There are different varieties of utilitarianism. What sets them apart from other ethical theories is their stipulation that whatever is of value should be maximized for all and whatever of disvalue should be minimized for all. For Bentham, pleasure is the ultimate value. Later, John Stuart Mill distinguished between higher and lower pleasures and argued that higher pleasures should be given greater weight. In the 20th century, authors such as R. M. Hare determined that maximal satisfaction of preferences is the value to be sought. The utilitarian emphasis on maximization of value and its choice of values have generated much criticism from those who espoused human rights theories, such as John Rawls and those influenced by his work. At present, the scholarly literature dealing with issues related to international ethics mostly comes from those who are committed to human rights theory or who are committed to equality of outcomes for human beings.