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Article

Craig Douglas Albert

International relations (IR) theory is favorably described in almost every syllabus since 1930. The most important questions asked were: “What is theory?” and “Is there a reason for IR theory?” The most widely used texts all focus on the first question and suggest, among others, that IR theory is “a way of making the world or some part of it more intelligible or better understood.” We can gauge where the teaching of IR theory is today by analyzing a sample of syllabi from IR scholars serving on the Advisory Board of the International Studies Association’s (ISA) Compendium Project. These syllabi reveal some trends. Within the eight undergraduate syllabi, for example, a general introduction to IR theory is taught in four separate classes. Among the theories discussed in different classes are realism, classical realism, neo-realism, Marxism and neo-Marxism, world-systems theory, imperialism, constructivism, and international political economy. Novel methods for teaching IR theory include the use of films, active learning, and experiential learning. The diversity of treatments of IR theory implied by the ISA syllabi provides evidence that, with the exception of the proliferation of perspectives, relatively little has changed since the debates of the late 1930s. The discipline lacks much semblance of unity regarding whether, and how, to offer IR theory to students. Nevertheless, there have been improvements that are likely to continue in terms of the ways in which theories may be presented.

Article

Critical theory in International Relations originated from the Marxist tradition which, during the mid- to late Cold War, formed the basis of dependency and world systems theory. In the years before and after the Cold War, critical theory became part of a larger post-positivist challenge to the discipline and to the development of critical security studies. At the heart of contestation within the broader arena of critical security is the concept of emancipation, developed by members of the Frankfurt School such as Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Several key debates have been at the center of critical security studies relating to the construction of threats, identity and difference, human security, and emancipation. In particular, critical security analysts have addressed the question of how, given the range of threats or risks that exist in the world, some threats come to have priority over others and become the focus of discourses of security. Also, some scholars have disputed the idea that identity is dependent on difference. The concept of human security shifts attention away from states to individuals, emphasizing human rights, safety from violence, and sustainable development. In the case of emancipation, critical theorists have expressed concern that the concept is too closely linked with modernity, meta-narratives, especially Marxism and liberalism, and the Enlightenment belief that humanity is progressing toward a more perfect future. What is needed is not to avoid emancipation per se, but to pay close attention to its underlying assumptions.

Article

Feminist Gramscian international political economy (IPE) is an interdisciplinary intellectual project that has focused both on theoretical and empirical analysis of women and gender within the field. Feminist Gramscian IPE emerged from the confluence of an eclectic body of work over the last several years encompassing fields as disparate as international relations, IPE, feminist economics, the literature on gender and development, and feminist literature on globalization. As with feminist perspectives in other disciplinary fields, Gramscian feminists have largely embraced postpositivist, interpretivist, and relational analysis while trying to maintain the emancipatory potential of their work for women the world over. Current Gramscian feminist analyses are firmly grounded and draw from early Marxist/Socialist feminist interventions. They have also engaged with the three major categories of analysis in Gramscian thought—ideas, material capabilities, and institutions—in order to understand hegemonic processes that function to (re)construct and (re)produce both gendered categories of analysis and practice. Feminist revisions of Gramscian IPE have focused on international institutions, rules and norms, while simultaneously shedding light on contemporary states and how they are being transformed in this current phase of globalization. Three central tasks that feminist Gramscian scholars may consider in future research are: to be more engaged with the notion of hegemony, to revisit the political methodology employed by many feminist Gramscian analyses, and to devote more attention to non-mainstream perspectives.

Article

Development cannot be separated from global political economy, but it is an inherent component of the latter. The concept of development was popularized through expansion of colonization, and underwent various transformations as the socio-political structure of the world changed over time. Thus, the central task of development theory is to determine and explain why some countries are underdeveloped and how these countries can develop. Such theories draw on a variety of social science disciplines and approaches. Accordingly, different development paradigms have emerged upon which different scholars have shown profound interests and to which they gave extensive criticisms—modernization, dependency, Marxism, postcolonialism, and globalization. With the recent emergence of the post-modern critique of development, power has become an important subject in the discourse of development. Nevertheless, a full theoretical understanding of the relations between power and development is still in its fledgling stage. Though highly apparent in human societies, social power per se is a polylithic discourse with no unified definition and implication, which has led different proponents of development paradigms to understand power differently. Although there is a dialectic contradiction between the different dialogic paradigms, the reality of development theory is that there is a large choice of theories and models from which field practicioners will draw pragmatically the most appropriate elements, or they will create their own model adapted to the situation.

Article

Tony Evans and Alex Kirkup

The literature on the relationship between globalization and human rights has laid out three responses to the economic, political, and social transformations of globalization within the human rights. First, some scholars consider globalization as complementary to the progressive realization of universal human rights on a global scale. They cite the extension and deepening of the formal human rights regime through international institutions and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the emergence of new private, corporate forms of authority. Second, others perceive of globalization as creating substantial challenges for the realization of universal human rights on a global scale. Such scholars are engaged in criticism of the existing institutional arrangements of the formal human rights regime. They highlight the way in which human rights act as a form of power over people, especially where different ways of life are brought into contact and conflict through transformations associated with globalization. Furthermore, they reject the idea of the progressive realization of human rights as some form of an inevitable unfolding of history or as a singularly desired end point, and instead acknowledge conflicting conceptions of rights as expressions of social struggle A third group of scholars are engaged in the critique of the conception and function of human rights within globalization. From this viewpoint, globalization reveals that ideas of universal and indivisible human rights, along with their progressive realization, are flawed and need to be replaced by more substantive concepts. The critiques stem from the perspectives of neo-Marxism, postpositivism, feminism, and cultural relativism.

Article

Poststructural research in International Political Economy (IPE) is a relatively young and growing field of studies that includes a variety of very diverse theories and approaches. These approaches to IPE emphasize the contingency of structures and meanings, and the struggles within the processes in which structures and objectivities are constructed. Poststructuralists argue that the subject is an inherent part of the structure. However, the fact that the structure itself is dislocated means that it is unable to completely determine the subject. From a poststructuralist perspective, it is not the absent structural identity, but the failed structural identity that renders the subject possible. Far from being relativist, the concept of contingency points to a structured uncertainty, that is, chance backed by force. Poststructural approaches aim at deconstructing ahistorical truth claims by exploring the processes of meaning-making and the various struggles for objectivity. Accordingly, they characterize the relation between state, economy, and society as a product of sedimentations arising from a series of social and political struggles. Relying on postpositivist methodology, poststructural approaches proceed on the assumption that meaning, truth, and facts are socially and politically constructed. For this reason, poststructural research has a special interest in studying the conflictual processes in which some meanings and truth claims prevail while others are rejected.

Article

The concept of international political economy (IPE) encompasses the intersection of politics and economics as goods, services, money, people, and ideas move across borders. The term “international political economy” began to draw the attention of scholars in the mid-1960s amid problems of the world economy and lagging development in the third world. IPE was later replaced by the term “global political economy” (GPE) in recognition of the fact that what happens in the world is not only about interactions between states, and that the global political economy includes many different kinds of actors. In general, GPE better suits the reality of a globalizing world. Early works that explored the relationship between economic activities and state interests originated long before the term “political economy” was coined. Examples are those by Aristotle, Kautilya, Ibn Khaldun, and Niccolò Machiavelli. Adam Smith used the word “mercantilism” to describe the various theories and policies on how states should intervene in markets in order to increase wealth and power. “Mercantilism” was supplanted by “economic nationalism” in the twentieth century, followed by classical liberalism, neoliberal institutionalism, and neoclassical liberalism. Whereas both mercantilism and economic nationalism emphasize state power and state interests, liberal writers such as John Locke and Immanuel Kant argue that possessive individualism and the individual are the bearer of rights. Other major schools of thought that have conceptualized important concepts, relationships, and causal understandings in IPE include Marxism and its variants, feminist approaches, and communitarianism.

Article

Bipolarity was viewed both as an empirical condition and as a central explanatory concept, albeit contested, during the Cold War (1945–1989), when two superpowers dominated the international system. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) confronted each other as military and ideological rivals heading competing alliance systems—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), founded in 1949, and the Warsaw Pact established in 1955. Nuclear weaponry added a new wrinkle to the global superpower competition, particularly after the Soviet Union broke the American nuclear monopoly in 1949. A rich literature around these themes emerged as scholars sought to grapple with the explanatory dynamics propelling state behavior under the systemic constraints of bipolarity and the technological challenges presaged by the nuclear age. Such an academic focus meant that the study of international politics, particularly in the United States, was largely refracted through the prism of U.S.-Soviet competition and centered on the nature and implications of polarity, power, alliances, and nuclear deterrence. When the Soviet Union imploded, bipolarity in the sense of two predominant powers ended, as did the division of the world into two opposing blocs. In the post-Cold War period, scholars turned their attention to investigating questions regarding the impact on the nature of system structure and the international order of the collapse of one of the poles. Accordingly, during the Cold War, scholars debated the conceptual and empirical understandings of bipolarity as well as its implications and the causal factors on which the expectation of bipolar stability was based. In the post-Cold War period, scholars reflected over whether the end of ideological (capitalism/democracy vs. communism/single party authoritarianism) conflict presaged the end of history or inaugurated a clash of civilizations, with some questioning the salience of the concept of polarity and the viability of the state system in the face of rising subnational and transnational pressures.

Article

Robert H. Donaldson

Russian foreign policy has both been similar and unique to that of other great powers. As a general rule of statecraft, Russia has pursued balance-of-power policies, which essentially involves the mobilization of power to countervail the power of an enemy or a potential adversary. The enduring goals pursued by Russian foreign policy have placed primary emphasis on ensuring national security, promoting the economic wellbeing of the country, and enhancing national prestige. The dominant theme in the Russian foreign policy under the tsars is that of expansionism. No single motive force can be found to explain tsarist Russian expansionism; rather, the influences of geography, regime type, the international system, and ideology all weigh in, though in different proportions at different times. The ideology known as Marxism–Leninism has also had a significant effect on Soviet and post-Soviet policy. Meanwhile, Russian Federation president Boris Yeltsin’s primary aim in foreign policy, like Mikhail Gorbachev’s before him, was to create a nonthreatening external environment that would be most conducive to his country’s internal economic and political development. On the other hand, Vladimir Putin pursued a pragmatic, cautious, and nuanced policy. The most visible change that Putin brought to Russia’s foreign policy was a heightened level of presidential activism. In his second presidential term, Putin further changed the direction of Russian foreign policy, increasingly demanding that Russia be recognized as a great power and be given commensurate weight in the resolution of global issues.