Much of the contemporary literature in the field of international studies deals with the concept of authority. Scholars concerned with global policymaking often suggest that the increasing importance of transnational actors, such as subnational networks, nonprofit organizatons, and business associations, leads to a loss of authority at the expense of state-based forms of governance. This perspective is closely linked to the concept of global governance and challenges classical approaches to international politics and conventional concepts of authority in world politics. However, other scholars take a different view and contend that the development of transnational governance initiatives does not imply a one-sided shift of authority from national governments and international institutions to sub- and nonstate actors. While these authors recognize the emergence of novel forms of authority in global policymaking, they stress the persistent authority of nation-states and underline the centrality of established modes of interstate cooperation. In terms of a theoretical middle ground between these two perspectives, one can argue that we observe a reconfiguration of authority across various actors and levels of decision making. This development does not automatically question the prevailing position of national governments and their institutions. Instead, state power seems to be expressed and rearticulated in new ways within a changing global environment. This ongoing debate pertaining to the changing patterns of authority is key to our understanding of the role and function of state and sub- and nonstate actors as well as their interactions in contemporary global politics.
Jacques E.C. Hymans
Nuclear proliferation became an increasingly major concern after France and then China joined the nuclear “club” in the 1960s. However, it was not until India’s “peaceful nuclear explosive” test of 1974 that a real sense of potential worldwide crisis emerged, which also spawned a substantial amount of serious writing on the issue. The basic puzzle facing the study of nuclear proliferation is why there is a considerable and persistent disparity between the number of nuclear weapons-capable states and the number of actual nuclear weapons states. Three early works that represented crucial conceptual breakthroughs in the struggle toward a proper descriptive inference of the dynamics of proliferation are William Epstein’s The Last Chance (1976), Stephen M. Meyer’s The Dynamics of Nuclear Proliferation (1984), and Opaque Nuclear Proliferation (1991), edited by Benjamin Frankel. More contemporary political science work features attempts by each of the major international relations paradigms to tackle the proliferation puzzle: realism, psychological constructivism, neoliberal institutionalism, liberalism, and sociological constructivism. While scholars disagree over a host of issues, a consensus on the dynamics of nuclear proliferation may be discerned. In particular, there are five points on which most recent works converge: that proliferation has been historically rare; that we cannot take the demand for nuclear weapons for granted; that domestic politics and identity considerations play a crucial role in shaping proliferation choices; and that theory-guided, in-depth comparative case studies are the most appropriate means of advancing the state of our knowledge at this point in time.
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.