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Revisionism in International Relations  

Jonathan M. DiCicco and Victor M. Sanchez

International relations analysts often differentiate between status-quo and revisionist states. Revisionist states favor modifications to the prevailing order: its rules and norms, its distribution of goods or benefits, its implicit structure or hierarchy, its social rankings that afford status or recognition, its division of territory among sovereign entities, and more. Analyses of revisionist states’ foreign policies and behaviors have explored sources and types of revisionism, choices of revisionist strategies, the interplay of revisionist and status-quo states, and the prospects for peaceful or violent change in the system. Intuitive but imprecise, the concepts of revisionism and revisionist states often are used without explicit definition, reflective discussion, or rigorous operationalization. For these reasons, efforts to conceptualize and measure revisionism merit special attention. Highlighted works promise to improve understanding of revisionism as a phenomenon, as well as its use in theoretical and empirical analyses of international conflict, war, and the peaceful accommodation of rising powers. Three questions guide the survey. First, who is seeking to revise what? This question opens a foray into the realm of the status quo and its distinct components, particularly in the context of rising and resurgent powers. Second, what is revisionism, and how is it detected or recognized? This question prompts an exploration of the concept and how it is brought to life in scholarly analyses. The third guiding question invites theoretical perspective: How does revisionism help one understand international relations? Provisional answers to that question open avenues for future inquiry.