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Article

Anna M. Agathangelou and Heather M. Turcotte

Feminist international relations (IR) theories have long provided interventions and insights into the embedded asymmetrical gender relations of global politics, particularly in areas such as security, state-nationalism, rights–citizenship, and global political economies. Yet despite the histories of struggle to increase attention to gender analysis, and women in particular, within world politics, IR knowledge and practice continues to segregate gendered and feminist analyses as if they are outside its own formation. IR as a field, discipline, and site of contestation of power has been one of the last fields to open up to gender and feminist analyses. One reason for this is the link between social science and international institutions like the United Nations, and its dominant role in the formation of foreign policy. Raising the inferior status of feminism within IR, that is, making possible the mainstreaming of gender and feminism, will require multiple centers of power and multiple marginalities. However, these institutional struggles for recognition through exclusion may themselves perpetuate similar exploitative relationships of drawing boundaries around legitimate academic and other institutional orders. In engaging, listening and writing these struggles, it is important to recognize that feminisms, feminist IR, and IR are intimately linked through disciplinary struggles and larger geopolitical struggles of world affairs and thus necessitate knowledge terrains attentive to intersectional and oppositional gendered struggles (i.e., race, sexuality, nation, class, religion, and gender itself).

Article

The engagement between the discipline of international relations (IR) and feminist theory has led to an explosion of concerns about the inherent gendered dimension of a supposedly gender-blind field, and has given rise to a rich and complex array of analyses that attempt to capture the varied aspects of women’s invisibility, marginalization, and objectification within the discipline. The first feminist engagements within IR have pointed not only to the manner in which women are rendered invisible within the field, but also to IR’s inherent masculinity, which masks itself as a neutral and universally valid mode of investigation of world politics. Thus, the initial feminist incursions into IR’s discourse took the form of a conscious attempt both to bridge the gap between IR and feminist theory and to bring gender into IR, or, in other words, to make the field aware that “women are relevant to policy.” In the 1990s, feminist literature undertook incisive analyses of women’s objectification and commodification within the global economy. By the end of the 1990s and into the first decade of the 21st century, the focus turned to an accounting for the agency of diverse women as they are located within complex sociopolitical contexts. The core concern of this inquiry lay with the diversification of feminist methodologies, especially as it related to the experience of women in non-Western societies.

Article

Dawisson Belém Lopes, João Paulo Nicolini, and Thales Carvalho

The Brazilian field of international relations (IRs) has evolved over the course of two centuries. Since Brazil’s independence in 1822, international topics have deserved attention from local practitioners and scholars. The emergence of Brazilian standpoints about international affairs and of a Brazilian IR scholarship developed after the consolidation of similar fields in other Western countries. Multiple schools of thought held sway over local understandings, thereby leading to the formation of a different field as compared to characteristics of the Anglo-American mainstream. The institutionalization of the area has come about through the creation of scholarly departments and national government agencies. It all led to a unique combination of methods, theories, and issues being currently explored in the Brazilian branch of IR scholarship.

Article

Roger A. Coate, Jeffrey A. Griffin, and Steven Elliott-Gower

Interdependence is a key structural feature of the international system. While ambiguity exists over the concept and its usage, interdependence is central for explaining the nature and dynamics of international organization (IO), as well as international relations more broadly conceived. Interdependence involves interconnection/linkages among actors and systems of interrelationships of actors. Yet, interdependence means more than simple interconnectedness. It entails a relationship in which two or more parties are linked in a system of action in such a way that changes in one party impact in some meaningful way on the attainment of needs, values, and/or desired outcomes of the others. In other words, the satisfaction of each party’s needs and values is contingent to some degree on the behavior of others. The concept of interdependence is used in several areas. In general international systems, a system functions as a whole because of the interdependence of its parts. Interdependence also plays a significant role in Immanuel Wallenstein’s world-systems theory, as well as the closely related concept of dependency. Another important analytical thread in interdependence theorizing has been international integration, where the creation of cooperative transnational linkages for dealing with technical issues could result in a learning process that changed attitudes about cooperation. Finally, with interdependence as a core element, more systematic frameworks for analyzing and explaining the nature and role of transnational relations in world politics can be made.

Article

Finance  

Tony Porter

The literature on the global organization of finance has grown along with the global financial system, but also in response to theoretical innovations that suggested new lines of inquiry. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the emerging field of international political economy began to make valuable contributions to our understanding of global finance, but these focused on monetary politics or the formal intergovernmental organizations such as the IMF. By the 1990s, the literature focused on the greater complexity evident in global finance as traditional bank lending was increasingly displaced by other types of financial instruments, such as bonds, equities, and derivatives, which were also spreading geographically to influence “emerging markets” in the developing world and in countries in transition from communism. Since the mid-1990s, three interconnected changes in theory and practice are evident in international political economy (IPE) literature on the global organization of finance. First, the theoretical changes that characterized the broader fields of international relations and IPE were evident in the study of the global organization of finance as well, including the emergence of a new divide separating rational choice approaches from constructivism and other approaches. Second, the growing prominence of the concepts of globalization and global governance in the study and practice of international affairs inspired new literatures that overlapped and interacted with the IPE literature. Third, criticisms of globalized financial markets and questions of accountability and democracy directed at these markets grew and their role in structural adjustment.

Article

International relations theory has much to gain from studying ethnicity, nationalism, and colonialism. Research on nationalism has produced important theoretical contributions to constructivist approaches in international relations. Similarly, postcolonial theory can contribute to international relations theory by exploring aspects of identity construction that are neglected in studies with exclusive focus on Western states. For example, postcolonial theory can be used in the study of ethnic conflict by combining both aspects of identity construction and strategizing, and how research on ethnicity and nationalism and postcolonial studies can benefit from closer dialogue. Moreover, postcolonial studies raise important epistemological and normative questions that need to be taken seriously by international relations scholars. Postcolonial and subaltern studies question the knowledge claims made by area studies by criticizing their representational strategies of colonialism and the postcolonial situation. They pose a challenge for international relations as a discipline by questioning the knowledge–power nexus. They assert that the presumably “scientific” accounts of the non-West carry the ideological baggage of colonialism. What is needed therefore is to account first for the historical representation of the non-West in Western scientific discourse and produce a critique of this knowledge system as a legitimating and administrative discourse in the service of colonialism.

Article

Thomas Kwasi Tieku

There has been a proliferation of works on informal dimensions of international relations. Putting the scholarship under the banner of informal international relations (IIR), [A1] the value preposition of research and publications on informal aspects of international political life is critically explored in order to chart promising pathways to further research in this growing field of study. Three generations of IIR scholarship may be identified. The first-generation scholarship took the IIR approach without explicitly acknowledging it. The second-generation scholars treated it primarily as an anomaly that ought to be explained. The third-generation scholarship seeks to give IIR a conceptual clarity, theorize it, and show the analytical utility of the concept. Although the IIR scholarship has given us a new outlook into international political life, the IR literature on informality is biased in at least three ways. First, it focuses mostly on informal politics in international organizations (IOs) housed in Western Europe and North American states. It is insightful and informative in the discussion of informality in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) but lacks similar cutting-edge analysis when it comes to informal aspects of international life in the rest of the world. The IIR scholarship neglects the rich tapestry of materials and insights from the Global South and Eastern Europe. Second, it is dominated by studies of informal governance. Other aspects of informal relations, namely, informal practices, processes, norms, and informal rules, have received little attention. Third, it is dominated by rational choice approaches. Perspectives such as critical constructivism, practice theory, intersectionality, neocolonialism, decolonial perspective, and postcolonialism, among others, are rarely used by third-generation scholars to explore informal international life. Finally, IIR ideas are deployed primarily as a last resort or as something used to explain negative political outcomes. IR scholars turn to the informal as a unit of analysis when traditional issue-areas such as formal state structures, formal IOs, official processes, codified norms, and written rules cannot help, and they deploy informal ideas only when well-known variables including state power, powerful registered domestic groups, and legalized nonstate actors are unable to explain a given political problem. But as those who have studied the issue carefully observed, the informal rather than the formal should be the baseline for IR analysis. The discipline of IR will be improved considerably if informality is prioritized and all facets of informal international life are explored in a systematic manner.

Article

The central feature of the English School is now usually considered to be its commitment to the proposition that international relations (IR) take place within an international society of shared norms and some shared values. However, an exclusive focus on norms has the effect of denuding the school of the more pluralistic dimensions that were advocated by some of the founding members of the British Committee on the Theory of International Politics. Hedley Bull, in particular, stressed that to account for international order it is necessary to view IR from three divergent perspectives: the international system, the international society, and world society. The early British Committee discussions, directed toward delineating the “fundamentals” of international theory, used the terms international society, international system, and states system interchangeably. But the idea of a states system was distinctive to the emerging English School. A distinguishing marker of the English School is the claim that not only is there a need to accommodate societal norms in theoretical accounts of world politics, but that there is also a systemic logic, and that these analytics together have explanatory power in considering how the world hangs together. The essential elements of the school’s thinking were most fully and effectively realized in The Expansion of the International Society, the central work where the international system–international society distinction is employed. This grand narrative represents a crucial contribution to the field of IR but one that has been very generally underappreciated across the discipline. To generate a deeper understanding of the two concepts, it is clear that much more research needs to be carried out on international societies and systems around the world.

Article

The English School conceived “international theory” as a way to approach the political philosophy and political speculation by examining historical traditions of international relations. The starting point for this line of inquiry was to organize the wide range of material contained in the history of ideas about international politics into a much simpler, and thus more intelligible, scheme, in the event comprising three traditions. Martin Wight called them realism, rationalism, and revolutionism, but they are also known as Hobbesianism (or Machiavellianism), Grotianism, and Kantianism. The fundamental difference between the three traditions is that each represents an idea of what international society is, from which they derive various propositions about more specific topics such as how to deal with peoples from different cultures, how to conduct diplomacy and wage war, or what obligations under international law are. For realists, international society is the state of nature, and since they see the state of nature as a state of war, the answer to the question “What is international society?” is “nothing.” Rationalists agree that international society is the state of nature, but for them it is a state of “goodwill, mutual assistance and preservation,” and so “international society is a true society, but institutionally deficient; lacking a common superior or judiciary.” Revolutionists, by contrast, reject the analogy with the state of nature. Instead, they have an immanent conception of international society, in the sense that they look beyond the apparent or present reality of a society of sovereign states and see behind it a true international society in the form of a community of mankind. Ultimately, these three traditions has exercised a profound influence on the ways in which international relations scholars think about the history of ideas.

Article

Changes in the environment can impact international relations theory, despite enjoying only a limited amount of attention from scholars of the discipline. The sorts of influence that may be identified include ontology, epistemology, concepts, and methods, all of these being related to varying perspectives on international relations. It is likely that the most profound implications arise at the ontological level, since this establishes assumptions about, for example, whether the world we wish to understand is both political and ecological. However, more recently the recognition of the practical challenge presented by the environment has become widespread, though it has not yet translated into a significant impact on the discipline of international relations, even when theoretical implications are noted. It is now almost obligatory to include the environment in any list of modern international relations concerns, as over time it has become necessary to include peace, underdevelopment, gender, or race, as they quite rightly became recognized as significant aspects of the field. Moreover, the environment, as a relatively novel subject matter, has naturally brought some critique and innovation to the field. However, studies of the environment are also subject to such descriptors as “mainstream” and “radical” in debates about how best to tackle the subject. As is often the case, the debates are sharpest among those with the greatest interest in the subject.

Article

The growth of research on emotion in international relations (IR) has produced a significant body of literature. This body of literature has raised a number of interesting questions, debates, and theoretical positions regarding the agentic properties of international actors and how they are embedded in international structures. Emotions have long been viewed in IR as self-evident and irrational by-products of cognitive processes and have, until recently, remained largely implicit and undertheorized. The first wave of research lamented the discipline’s neglect and marginalization of emotions in mainstream IR theories and concepts. The second wave has turned to specific ways to integrate the consideration of emotion into existing research within specific issue areas, from diplomacy, security, war, and ethnic conflict to transnational actors, institutions, governance, and conflict management. The literature on this topic is so extensive that many even speak of an “emotional turn.” Its intellectual roots stem from various disciplines, such as psychology, neuroscience, sociology, history, and cultural studies, and this diversity is reflected in ongoing challenges of how to study emotions and their political effects in IR. These challenges relate to a number of ontological and epistemological questions, including how to conceptualize emotions, how to capture emotions methodologically, and how to move from the individual to the collective level of analysis. Whatever divergent claims are made by these scholars, there is by now a firm consensus in the discipline that emotions matter for international and global politics.

Article

Feminist theories of international relations have thrived over the past decade as evidenced by the many and varied feminist contributions to the international relations field. At the same time, international relations feminists have had rich theoretical debates among themselves over critical questions about epistemology, ontology, methodology, and ethics. Feminist theories of international relations are distinguished by their ethical commitments to inclusivity and self-reflexivity, and attentiveness to relationships and power in relationships. These norms implicitly guide feminists to put into practice their own critical theories, epistemologies, and explicit normative commitments. Thus, rather than a source of division, the contestations among international relations feminisms about the epistemological grounds for feminist knowledge, the ontology of gender, and the appropriate ethical stance in a globalizing albeit grossly unequal world are a source of their strength. With a shared normative commitment to global social change, feminist scholarship and social movements can appreciate and even celebrate internal diversities and multidimensional identities. In this respect, feminist international relations can be described as a movement that shows what is to come and that offers innovative methods to get there. In the context of current United Nations reform, feminist movements have cited the need for a global institutional powerhouse to promote the rights of women and girls worldwide, rather than a system where everyone is responsible for integrating gender perspectives.

Article

Since the 1980s, scholars disputing the hegemony of positivist methodologies in the social sciences began to promote interpretive approaches, creating discussions about methodological pluralism and enabling a slow, and often resisted, proliferation of theoretical diversity. Within this context, “interpretivism” acquired a specific definition, which encompassed meaning-centered research and problematized positivist ideas of truth correspondence, objectivity, generalization, and linear processes of research. By critiquing the methodological assumptions that were often used to make positivism appear as a superior form of social science, interpretive scholars were confronted with questions about their own knowledge production and its validity. If meanings could be separated from objects, phenomena and identities could be constructed, and observers could not step out of their situated participation within these constructions, how could scholars validate their knowledge? Despite important agreements about the centrality, characteristics, and intelligibility of meaning, interpretivists still disagree about the different ways in which this question can be answered. Scholars often use diverse strategies of validation and they objectivize their interpretations in different degrees. On one side of the spectrum, some post-structuralist, feminist, and postcolonial scholars renounce methodological foundations of objectification and validation as much as possible. This opens the possibility of empirically researching epistemic assumptions, which scholars interpret either as components of dominant discourses or as alternatives that create possibilities of thinking about more multiplicity, difference, and diversity. On the other side, a number of constructivist, feminist, and critical scholars attach meanings to social structures and view their interpretations as reflecting parts of intersubjectivities, lifeworlds, cultures, etc. Since they use their own strategy to objectify interpretations and they solve the methodological question of validity, the scholars on this side of the spectrum either tend to pursue empirical research that does not analyze epistemic dimensions or they generalize particular experiences of domination. This disagreement influences not only the kind of empirical research that scholars pursue, but also creates some differences in the definitions of key interpretive notions such as power relations, reflexivity, and the role of empirical evidence. Within these agreements and disagreements, interpretivism created an overarching methodological space that allowed for the proliferation of theoretical approaches. Since the 1980s, post-structuralist, feminist, constructivist, neo-Marxist, postcolonial, green, critical, and queer theories have sought to expand the study of meanings, uncover aspects of domination, listen to previously marginalized voices, unveil hidden variations, and highlight alternatives. Some of the branches of these theories tend toward the different sides of the methodological spectrum and they disagree about the epistemic strategies that they can use to validate their knowledge production, but the opening of this interpretive space has allowed for scholars to deconstruct, reconstruct, and juxtapose meanings, contributing to the field from different perspectives and within particular empirical areas of research. Moreover, this diversifying process continues to unfold. Approaches such as the decolonial perspective that emerged in Latin American Studies continue to enter International Studies, creating new transdisciplinary debates and promoting other possibilities for thinking about international and global politics.

Article

Autonomy is a concept constantly referred to in Latin American foreign policy analysis, especially with respect to Argentina and Brazil. As great powers continue to exert effective control over peripheral economies and their political decision making, autonomy emerges as a possibility for self-determination in the areas where hegemonic powers’ economic, political, and cultural interferences are expressed. Although this is not a new concept, the quest for autonomy within the “global periphery”—and elsewhere too—still remains relevant. Helio Jaguaribe and Juan Carlos Puig’s theoretical approaches are fundamental epistemological contributions to international relations (IR), not only in South America (where the theoretical approach was first developed) but also to the wider IR field outside the mainstream scholarship. In line with global historical changes, autonomy took on some subsequent new meanings, which led to new and heterogeneous formulations that transformed, and in certain cases also contradicted, the very genesis of the idea of autonomy. As a result, the so-called autonomy “with adjectives” emerged within IR peripheral debates. The 21st century witnessed the rebirth of the concept amid the rise of multilateralism and the new Latin American regionalism, which brought its relational character to the fore. Some of the new approaches to autonomy, especially from Brazil, used the concept as a methodological tool to understand the historical evolution of the country’s foreign policy. As such, autonomy and its theoretical reflection remain central to the analyses and interpretations of the international relations of peripheral countries, and it is in this sense that the autonomy can be highlighted broadly as a Latin American contribution to IR discipline. The concept of autonomy has a unique and foundational content referred to the discussion of the asymmetries in the global order. Studying autonomy is critical to understanding peripheral countries’ problems and dynamics.

Article

Xinyuan Dai, Duncan Snidal, and Michael Sampson

The study of international cooperation has emerged and evolved over the past few decades as a cornerstone of international relations research. The strategy here for reviewing such a large literature is to focus primarily on the rational choice and game theoretic approaches that instigated it and have subsequently guided its advance. Without these theoretical efforts, the study of international cooperation could not have made nearly as much progress—and it certainly would not have taken the form it does in the 21st century. Through this lens, we can identify major themes in this literature and highlight key challenges for future research

Article

Constitutive theory is a philosophical analysis of the logical interconnections between actors, their actions, and the social practices within which they perform these. It draws on insights from the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, as developed and extended by Peter Winch and John Searle. It highlights that actors and their actions can only be understood from within the practices in which they are constituted as actors of a certain kind, who have available to them a specific repertoire of meaningful action. It stresses that the interpretation of their actions involves: understanding the language internal to the practices in which they take place; understanding the rule-boundness of that language; the meaning of its terms; a holist perspective on the practice; and, crucially, an understanding of the ethics embedded in it. It briefly explores the implications of such a philosophical analysis for those seeking to understand the actors and their interactions in global practices. It highlights how international actors (both states and individuals) are constituted as international actors in two major international practices, the practice of sovereign states and the global rights practice. It indicates the guidance constitutive theory might provide for all who would better understand international affairs.

Article

John M. Owen IV

Liberalism has always been concerned with security, albeit the security of the individual; institutions, including the state, are all established and sustained by individuals and instrumental to their desires. Indeed, liberalism cannot be understood apart from its normative commitment to individualism. The tradition insists that all persons deserve, and it evaluates institutions according to how far they help individuals achieve these goals. Nor is liberalism anti-statist. Liberal theory has paid particular attention to the state as the institution defined by its ability to make individuals secure and aid their commodious living. Although liberal security literature that only examines individual states’ foreign policies may be guilty of denouncing the role of international interaction, the general liberal claim argues that the international system, under broad conditions, permits states choices. As such, for liberalism, states can choose over time to create and sustain international conditions under which they will be more or less secure. Liberalism’s history can be traced from the proto-liberalism in the Reformation to the emergence of the social contract theory and neo-theories, as well as liberalism’s focus on increasing security. Meanwhile, current debates in liberalism include the democratic peace and its progeny, reformulations of liberal international relations (IR) theory, and meta-theory. Ultimately, liberalism’s most striking recent successes concern the democratic peace and related research on democratic advantages in international cooperation. Liberalism is a useful guide to international security insofar as individuals and the groups they organize affect or erode states.

Article

An international organization (IO) is an ordering principle and a method of conducting international relations. It may refer to formal institutions set up by more than three sovereign states through multilateral treaties to achieve, with the support of a permanent secretariat, shared interests, and desirable objectives. IOs are a byproduct of the European Westphalian anarchical interstate system of international relations and can be traced back to the “Concert of Europe” and to institutions set up throughout the 19th century to facilitate interstate international economic or technical cooperation. After a pause in the 1910s and 1930s, the number of institutions dealing with an ever-expanding range of transnational issues grew exponentially in the second half of the 20th century, becoming a ubiquitous component of the international relations landscape. Numerous contributing factors have accounted for this momentous transformation in interstate relations, and these developments have also fed a steady stream of contending and constantly shifting theoretical approaches to international relations within IO scholarship. There is now a glut of theories, each making different assumptions about the nature of international politics, focusing attention on different aspects of international organization and propounding widely diverging conclusions about the role and functions of IOs. There is, however, a trend among these: the legal/historical tradition which initially provided the intellectual lens through which international organizations were understood has given way to a mix of realist regime theory and liberal intergovernmentalism views.

Article

Critical international relations theory (CIRT) is not only an academic approach but also an emancipatory project committed to the formation of a more equal and just world. It seeks to explain the reasons why the realization of this goal is difficult to achieve. What is crucial here is not only the social explanation, but also politically motivated action to achieve an alternative set of social relations based on justice and equality. Critical theory in international relations (IR) is part of the post-positivist turn or the so-called “fourth debate,” which followed the inter-paradigm debate of the 1970s. Post-positivism consists of a plurality of theoretical and epistemological positions that opened up wide ranging criticisms of the neo-realist “orthodoxy” that has dominated IR theorizing since the beginning of 1980s. Critical theory has challenged the mainstream understanding of IR, and has spurred the development of alternative forms of analysis and approaches. Moreover, since the beginning of the 1980s, different types of CIRT have become the main alternative to mainstream IR. The general aim of CIRT can be summed up by Marx’s eleventh thesis on Feuerbach that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” A specific tradition of critical thought in IR, derived from Marx, comprises the normative Critical Theory (CT) of the Frankfurt School—termed the “structural critical theory”—since it focuses more on the sociological features and dynamics of capitalism.

Article

Although the study of the international politics of space remains rather descriptive and undertheorized, important progress has been made to the extent that there is already a growing literature examining certain aspects of space activities from an International Relations (IR) theory perspective, reflecting the broader surge of interest in the utilization of space for civilian, military, and commercial purposes. In this regard, this is the first systematic attempt to outline this emerging and vibrant multidisciplinary subfield of IR. In doing so, it covers a substantial body of research on the politics of space that builds on realism, liberalism, constructivism, Marxism, critical theory, poststructuralism, feminism and gender studies, postcolonialism, and eclecticism. The study also discusses a distinctive approach concerned with examining the process of space policy decision-making at different levels of analysis, what can be called “Space Policy Analysis (SPA).” The study concludes by briefly considering possible avenues for future research.