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Yale H. Ferguson and Richard W. Mansbach

Postinternational theory in international relations (IR) theory offers an alternative to the state-centric perspectives on the world that have dominated IR theory. A state-centric approach is far too restrictive. Despite the resurgence of populist nationalism, contemporary scholars are much more aware than in the past of the enormous variety of states, the important distinction between state and nation, the fact that states, even at the policy-making level, are not unitary actors, and the recurring possibility that violence will be intrastate or trans-state rather than interstate. It is apparent, too, that the stage of global politics is crowded by countless actors of different types, whose complex interactions substantially determine the intermediate and longer-range scenes in particular dramas. Moreover, the flow of events significantly reflects not only such ideational factors as competing identities, ideologies, and mental spaces, but also the pace and volume of globalization in its multiple dimensions and related localization dynamics that include resistance to globalization. Postinternational theory embodies the foregoing worldview. It shares some areas of agreement with leading schools of IR theory, but provides a much better foundation for future theory building as well as a policy-relevant way of thinking about the world and analyzing global political issues.


Prateek Goorha

Modernization theory studies the process of social evolution and the development of societies. There are two levels of analysis in classical modernization theory: the microcosmic evaluations of modernization, which focuses on the componential elements of social modernization; and the macrocosmic studies of modernization focused on the empirical trajectories and manifest processes of the modernization of nations and their societies, economies, and polities. However, there are two key sources of problems with classical modernization theory. The first is the determinism implied in the logic of modernization, while the second relates to the specific development patterns that modernization theory must contend with. A contemporary theory on modernization relates structural change at a higher level of analysis to instrumental action at a lower level of analysis, doing so within a stochastic framework rather than the deterministic one that classical modernization theory implied. In addition, the refocused attention of social scientists on the process of development has led to a renewed interest in the characterization of the relationship between economic development and democratization. The transformation of knowledge into economic development can be examined by looking at the weightless economy—a collection of “weightless” knowledge products such as software, the Internet, and electronic databases. It is closely connected to a weightless political concept called the credible polity, which is a government that creates institutions that credibly protect property rights and are also transparent in their functioning to all members of its society.


John Boli, Selina Gallo-Cruz, and Matt Mathias

World-polity theory is a widely used sociological perspective for the analysis of world culture, organization, and change. Also known as world-society theory, global neo-institutionalism, and the “Stanford school” of global analysis, world-polity theory is largely compatible with the globalization perspective associated with Roland Robertson and the cultural analysis approach of anthropologists Ulf Hannerz and Arjun Appadurai. Proponents of world-polity theory argue that rationality, purposes, and interests are profoundly cultural constructs bound up in an over-arching canopy (or underlying foundation) that endows actors with properties, identity, meaning, interests, and guides to action. The theory also recognizes the key role played by international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) in the formation, codification, and propagation of world culture. The intellectual foundations of world-polity theory can be traced to the work of its founder, John W. Meyer, as well as Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Erving Goffman. Two institutional domains of world society that have generated the most attention in world-polity theory are the responsible and responsive state, and the sacred and empowered individual. A variety of criticisms have emerged regarding world-polity theory, such as the alleged failure of world-polity research to address issues of inequality and stratification more directly. Among other issues, future research should focus on elucidating the ontological structure and normative order of global culture, as well as the historical origins, growth, and development of world culture, transnational organization, and global actor models over the longue durée (the past millennium or so).