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Article

Rodger A. Payne and Nayef H. Samhat

Power plays an important role in the formation of international organizations (IOs), including the formal institutions established by nation-states to promote collective action at the intergovernmental level. Power is commonly defined as the ability or authority to act, to accomplish a task or to create something new. Those who wield power are typically seen as having the ability to influence or even control the behavior of others. The willingness of states to employ material (or “hard”) power to accomplish their goals—whether those goals primarily reflect the interests of the strongest states or the shared preferences of many states—has long been the subject of scrutiny by international relations (IR) scholars. More recent scholarship approaches the topic from different perspectives, with particular attention to both the power generated by collective action and the collective identity created during the recognition and pursuit of common purposes. According to Michael Barnett and Raymond Duvall, there are four types of power: compulsory, institutional, structural, and productive. This typology can be linked to the way four major schools of IR theory view IOs: realism, neoliberalism, constructivism, and critical theory. Realist and neoliberal institutionalist schools use compulsory or institutional views of power to explain the development of regimes and their effects, while social constructivists and critical theorists rely on productive or structural power to tackle the meaning and importance of regimes. Scholars argue that regimes serve a cooperative function very similar to more formal IOs and provide a rationalist account of regime formation and behavior.

Article

Yee-Kuang Heng

Scholarship in international studies has usually tended to focus on the great powers. Yet, studying small state behavior can in fact reveal deep-seated structural changes in the international system and provide significant insights into the management of power asymmetries. Overcoming the methodological limitations of gigantism in scholarship and case study selection is another epistemological benefit. Rather than conventional assumptions of weaknesses and vulnerabilities, research on small states has moved in fascinating directions toward exploring the various strategies and power capabilities that small states must use to manage their relationships with great powers. This means, even in some cases, attempts to forcibly shape their external environments through military instruments not usually associated with the category of small states. Clearly, small states are not necessarily hapless or passive. Even in terms of power capabilities that often define their weaknesses, some small states have in fact adroitly deployed niche hard power military capabilities and soft power assets as part of their playbook. These small states have projected influence in ways that belie their size constraints. Shared philosophies and mutual learning processes tend to underpin small state strategies seeking to maximize whatever influence and power they have. These include forming coalitions, principled support for international institutions, and harnessing globalization to promote their development and security interests. As globalization has supercharged the rapid economic development of some small states, the vicissitudes that come with interdependence have also injected a new understanding of vulnerability beyond that of simply military conflict. To further complicate the security environment, strategic competition between the major powers inevitably impacts on small states. How small states boost their “relevance” vis-à-vis the great powers has broader implications for questions that have animated the academy, such as power transitions and the Thucydides Trap in the international system. While exogenous systemic variables no doubt remain the focus of analysis, emerging research shows how endogenous variables such as elite perceptions, geostrategic locations and availability of military and economic resources can play a key role determining the choices small states make.

Article

H.E. Goemans

War termination can be defined as the tacit or formal agreement and implementation of decisions to cease fighting on the battlefield. In older literature, scholars focused on the roles of the “winner” and the “loser,” and the endogeneity of the belligerents’ war aims. One group argues that war ends when the “loser” recognizes his position and accedes to the “winner’s” demands. A second group argues that war ends when the combatants agree to a settlement which both prefer over continued fighting. In other words, war is seen as a form of bargaining, where states make rational cost–benefit calculations about war and its termination. These scholars by and large contend that the belligerents’ war aims fluctuate during war, and that the terms of settlement may be very different from the combatants’ original aims. Few studies have highlighted the role of domestic politics. Central in this research is the recognition that the outcome of war and the terms of settlement will affect the domestic political balance of power, and will leave some groups and individuals as domestic political “losers” and others as “winners.” Ikle (1971), for example, argued that the question whether and on what terms to end a war will be particularly difficult to decide for the government that is losing the war. “Hawks”— those who want better terms and favor a continuation of the war—will face off against “Doves,” who would prefer to end the war and are willing to grant more generous terms.

Article

Sports diplomacy is a new term that describes an old practice: the unique power of sport to bring people, nations, and communities closer together via a shared love of physical pursuits. This “power”—to bring strangers closer together, advance foreign policy goals or augment sport for development initiatives—remains elusive because of a lack of a robust theoretical framework. Four distinct theoretical frameworks are, however, beginning to emerge: traditional sports diplomacy, new sports diplomacy, sport-as-diplomacy, and sports antidiplomacy. As a result of these new frameworks, the complex landscape where sport, politics, and diplomacy overlap become clearer, as do the pitfalls of using sport as a tool for overcoming and mediating separation between people, nonstate actors, and states. The power of sport has never been more important. So far, the 21st century has been dominated by disintegration, introspection, and the retreat of the nation-state from the globalization agenda. In such an environment, scholars, students, and practitioners of international relations are beginning to rethink how sport might be used to tackle climate change, gender inequality, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, for example. To boost these integrative, positive efforts is to focus on the means as well as the ends, that is, the diplomacy, plural networks, and processes involved in the role sport can play in tackling the monumental traditional and human security challenges of our time.

Article

Karl P. Mueller

Air power refers to the use of aviation by nations and other political actors in the pursuit of power and security interests, along with the use of long-range missiles. Since armies and navies first began to experiment with the use of airplanes as implements of war, air power has emerged as an integral component of modern warfare. Air power was born in the crucible of World War I, but came of age in the conflagration of World War II. The developmental history of air power is significant to security studies in general and to the study of air power in particular. Owing to the rapid series of state changes in air power, trying to understand the nature of air power and its effects on modern warfare and international security has become more complicated. Two questions that are central to the study of international security are whether air power facilitates offense as a whole and whether it encourages aggression as a result. There has also been a debate over the issue of how air power can most effectively be used to coerce an enemy through strategic bombing. Another source of disagreement is the question of whether air and space power constitute one subject or two. In general, there are compelling merits in treating space power as a domain of national security theory and policy separate from those of land, sea, and air power.

Article

Postcolonial feminism in international relations (PFIR) is a disciplinary field devoted to the study of world politics as a site of power relations shaped by colonization. PFIR combines postcolonial and feminist insights to explore questions such as how the stratum of elite power intersects with subterranean layers of colonization to produce our contemporary world politics; how these interrelationships between race, gender, sex, and class inform matrices of power in world politics; and how we account for elite and subaltern agency and resistance to the hegemonic sphere of world politics. PFIR is similar to Marxism, constructivism, and postmodernism in that they all posit that the masses underwrite hegemonic rule and, in so doing, ultimately have the means to do away with it. One difference is that PFIR emanates from the position of the subaltern; more specifically, the colonized’s colonized such as women, children, the illiterate, the poor, the landless, and the voiceless. Three major components are involved in PFIR in its analysis of world politics: culture, politics, and material structures. Also, eight common foci emerge in PFIR: intersectionality, representation, and power; materiality; relationality; multiplicity; intersubjectivity; contrapuntality; complicity; and resistance and accountability. PFIR gives rise to two interrelated projects: an empirical inquiry into the construction and exercise of power in daily life, and theory building that reflects this empirical base. A future challenge for PFIR is to elucidate how we can transform, not just alleviate, the hegemonies that persist around the world.

Article

Anna Leander

The terms habitus and field are useful heuristic devices for thinking about power relations in international studies. Habitus refers to a person’s taken-for-granted, unreflected—hence largely habitual—way of thinking and acting. The habitus is a “structuring structure” shaping understandings, attitudes, behavior, and the body. It is formed through the accumulated experience of people in different fields. Using fields to study the social world is to acknowledge that social life is highly differentiated. A field can be exceedingly varied in scope and scale. A family, a village, a market, an organization, or a profession may be conceptualized as a field provided it develops its own organizing logic around a stake at stake. Each field is marked by its own taken-for-granted understanding of the world, implicit and explicit rules of behavior, and valuation of what confers power onto someone: that is, what counts as “capital.” The analysis of power through the habitus/field makes it possible to transcend the distinctions between the material and the “ideational” as well as between the individual and the structural. Moreover, working with habitus/field in international studies problematizes the role played by central organizing divides, such as the inside/outside and the public/private; and can uncover politics not primarily structured by these divides. Developing research drawing on habitus/field in international studies will be worthwhile for international studies scholars wishing to raise and answer questions about symbolic power/violence.

Article

For more than four decades, advocates of consociationalism and their opponents have been engaged in a debate over about how to design institutions to achieve sustainable peace in divided societies. In general, existing theories acknowledge the importance and usefulness of institutional design in conflict resolution, but offer rather different prescriptions as to the most appropriate models to achieve stable conflict settlements. Three such theories are of particular significance: power sharing in the form of its liberal consociational variant, centripetalism, and power dividing. Consociationalism, centripetalism, and power dividing offer a range of distinct prescriptions on how to ensure that differences of identity do not translate into violence. They often go beyond “politics at the center” and also provide arguments on territorial dimensions of ethnic conflict settlement. Practitioners of conflict resolution recognize the need to combine a range of different mechanisms, giving rise to an emerging practice of conflict settlement known as “complex power sharing.” None of the three theories of conflict resolution fully captures this current practice of complex power sharing, even as liberal consociationalism appears to be the most open to incorporation of elements of centripetalism and power dividing. A theory of complex power sharing would need to explain why there is empirical support for a greater mix of institutions than existing theories recommend.

Article

Poststructural/postmodern international relations (IR) is a mode of critical thinking and analysis that joined disciplinary conversations during the 1980s and, despite the dismissive reception it has initially faced, it is a vibrant and expanding area of research within the field today. Providing a radical critique of politics in modernity, it is less a new paradigm or theory. Instead, it is better described as “a critical attitude” that focuses on the question of representation and explores the ways in which dominant framings of world politics produce and reproduce relations of power: how they legitimate certain forms of action while marginalizing other ways of being, thinking, and acting. To elaborate the insights of poststructuralism/postmodernism, the article starts off by situating the emergence of these critical perspectives within the disciplinary context and visits the debates and controversies it has elicited. This discussion is followed by an elaboration of the major themes and concepts of poststructural/postmodern thought such as subjectivity, language, text, and power. The convergences and divergences between poststructuralism and its precursor—structuralism—is an underlying theme that is noted in this article. The third and fourth sections make central the epistemological and ontological challenges that poststructuralism/postmodernism poses to disciplinary knowledge production on world politics. While the former focuses on how central categories of IR such as state and sovereignty, violence, and war were problematized and reconceptualized, the latter attends to the poststructuralist/postmodern attempts to articulate a different political imaginary and develop an alternative conceptual language to think the international beyond the confines of the paradigm of sovereignty and the modern subject. The article concludes with a brief look at the future directions for poststructural/postmodern investigations.

Article

Karen A. Rasler and William R. Thompson

There are various approaches, both simple and complex, to systemic conflict. The simpler ones include balance of power, polarity, concentration, polarization, and democratization. More complex systemic approaches to conflict range from power transition and relative power cycle to leadership long cycle and world-systems. Some of these programs continue to generate scholarly interest and produce new findings, while others have been beset with little activity. Yet, none of these research programs have captured enough scholarly attention to be fully “mainstreamed.” That is, they have not been co-opted as central interpretations of international politics. The theoretical literature on simpler approaches to systemic conflict persists today but was more common prior to the mid-1970s. Since systemic analyses were not well developed in the first two or three decades after World War II, scholars grappled with what systemic analyses meant. One question is whether we should differentiate between a global system and its multiple regional subsystems. Complex systemic research programs have declined in analytical popularity after peaking in the 1980s, in large part because perceptions of the world situation changed in the 1990s. Whether “traditional” system dynamics will regain its lost status in light of the globalization processes perceived to be at work remains unclear, but there is cause for optimism about the future contributions of systemic theory as research programs in this area have expanded to include new topics and issues, along with new theoretical developments in other areas that will be pertinent to systemic perspectives.

Article

Eric Grove

“Sea power” refers to the power exerted by a state through its capacity to use the sea for both military and civilian purposes. The ability to use the seas for transport and other civilian purposes such as fishing and, more recently, exploitation of resources on or under the sea bed has generated considerable debate. This has resulted in the notion that military power deployed at or from the sea is the key component of a state’s sea power. It was Alfred Thayer Mahan who first coined the term “sea power.” In his 1980 book “Influence,” Mahan outlined six “principal conditions affecting the sea power of nations”: geographical position, physical conformation, extent of territory, number of population, national character, and character of government. After Mahan, other writers advanced a variety of ideas regarding the concept of sea power, including Philip Colomb, who emphasized the importance of “command of the sea”; Sir Julian Corbett, who discussed the importance of maritime “lines of passage and communication” as “the preoccupation of naval strategy,” and control of such lines as the essence of “command of the sea”; and Sir Herbert Richmond, whose definition of sea power can be summed up as the “power to control movements at sea.” Others who have contributed to the scholarly literature on sea power include Raoul Castex, Bernard Brodie, Stephen Roskill, Sir Peter Gretton, Sir James Cable, Sergei G. Gorshkov, Paul Kennedy, Ken Booth, Richard Hill, and Geoffrey Till.

Article

Wesley B. O'Dell

The notion that Great Powers fulfill a leadership role in international politics is old, influential, and contested. As the actors in the international system with the greatest capacity for taking action, Great Powers are assumed to think both further ahead and in broader, more systemic terms than other states; they then use their preeminent positions to organize others to promote public goods, reaping benefits along the way thanks to their direction of events. At the core of this understanding is the assumption that Great Power actions are, or ought to be, inspired by something more than simple self-interest and the pursuit of short-term gains. As an organic creation of international practice, Great Power leadership was traditionally the domain of historians and international legists; early students of the topic utilized inductive reasoning to derive general precepts of Great Power sociology from the landmark settlements of the 18th and 19th centuries. The framing of Great Powers as a leadership caste originated in the struggle against Louis XIV, was given tentative institutional form through settlements such as the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), and deepened considerably in both institutionalization and sophistication in the 19th century Concert of Europe. The return of France to full Great Power status, the Congress (1878) and Conference (1884) of Berlin, and the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion (1899–1901) all demonstrated the willingness and ability of the Powers to cooperate in the management of international change. In the early 20th century, the leadership of the Great Powers was both challenged as an unjust agent of catastrophe as well as increasingly formalized through recognition in new international institutions such as the League of Nations and the United Nations. Theorists of international relations began to formulate theories based on Great Power management at the time of the discipline’s beginnings in the early 20th century. Realists and liberals frequently utilize Great Power concepts to explain processes of equilibrium, hegemonic competition, and institution building, while approaches influenced by constructivism focus on the role of ideas, statuses, and roles in the formulation of Great Power identities and policies. The doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a 21st-century manifestation of the application of Great Power leadership to international problems; though hailed by some as the future of Great Power management, it provokes controversy among both theorists and practitioners. Similarly, extensive scholarly attention has been devoted to the management and accommodation of “rising powers.” These are states that appear likely to obtain the status of Great Power, and there is extensive debate over their orientation toward and potential management of international order. Finally, the position of Russia and China within this literature has provoked deep reflection on the nature of Great Power, the responsibilities of rising and established powers, and the place of Great Power management amidst the globalized challenges of the 21st century.

Article

Stephen Zunes, Hardy Merriman, and Maria J. Stephan

Recent decades have witnessed a dramatic upsurge in the use of strategic nonviolent action as a method of political struggle worldwide, pressing governments and other institutions to change policies and even successfully ousting autocratic regimes. This has led to a growth in scholarly research on the history and dynamics of such popular civil resistance movements, along with growing empirical evidence indicating that nonviolent means are generally effective than armed resistance. Such nonviolent civil resistance is distinguished from pacifism in that it is not predicated on a principled commitment to nonviolence but out of recognition that it is the most effective means of popular struggle under the particular circumstances. Some theorists of nonviolent action advocate a more pluralistic model of power than found in traditional political science literature, emphasizing the withdrawal of consent, while others emphasize a structural analysis whereby the civil resistance targets pillars of support of a regime or other power holders. There are hundreds of methods of nonviolent resistance, which can be utilized in different circumstances and in varying phases of a struggle, which tend to result in higher levels of popular mobilization and defections by security forces and other regime supporters than armed methods.

Article

The academic study of conflict resolution was born as as a critique of mainstream International Relations (IR), which explains why feminist theory and conflict resolution share many things in common. For example, both feminists and conflict resolution scholars challenge traditional power politics grounded in realist or neorealists analyses of conflict. They also share the core belief that war is not inevitable and that human beings have the capacity to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means. In the past two decades, with the expansion of feminist scholarship in IR, feminist interventions in conflict resolution have gained more currency. This essay reviews feminist scholarship in conflict resolution, with particular emphasis on five elements: critiques of the absence and/or marginalization of women in the field and an effort to include women and to make women visible and heard; articulation of a unique feminist standpoint for approaching peacemaking and conflict resolution, which is essentially different to, and qualitatively better than, mainstream (or male-stream) perspectives; feminist theorization of difference in conflict resolution theory and practice (challenges to essentialism, intersections, power and privilege, culture); feminist redefinition of central concepts in the field, especially violence, power, peace, and security; and original feminist research and theorizing, including field research in conflict areas, designed to transform rather than just reform the field. This essay argues that in order to further expand and institutionalize conflict resolution studies, mainstream scholars must be willing to engage seriously the contributions and critiques of feminists.

Article

Much of what goes on in the production of a security state is the over-zealous articulation of the other, which has the effect of reinforcing the myth of an essentialized, unambiguous collective identity called the nation-state. Indeed, the focus on securing a state (or any group) often suggests the need to define more explicitly those who do not belong, suggesting, not only those who do, but where and how they belong and under what conditions. Feminists are concerned with how highly political gender identities often defined by masculinism are implicated in marking these inclusions and exclusions, but also how gender identities get produced through the very practices of the security state. Feminists in the early years critiqued the inadequacy of realist, state-centric notions of security and made arguments for more reformative security perspectives, including those of human security or other nonstate-centric approaches. At the same time, feminist research moved to examine more rigorously the processes of militarism, war, and other security practices of the state and its reliance on specific ideas about women and men, femininity and masculinity. Feminist contributions from the mid-1990s through the first decade of the millennium reveal much about the relationships between gender identities, militarism, and the state. By paying attention to gendered relationships of power, they expose the nuances in the co-constitution of gender identities and the security state.

Article

Cynthia M. Nolan

Oversight of intelligence agencies maintains public control and knowledge of their activities through an assurance of accountability and responsible use of power. It reflects the essential part of democratic checks and balances as applied to intelligence and security services in government. The US intelligence community and its oversight offices are the most extensive, oldest, and most studied in the world. Here, oversight of intelligence had developed as a series of checks and balances against the often unchecked power that had revealed itself in a scandal of some sort. Meanwhile, early descriptions of the activities of the intelligence agencies have given way to more systematic examinations of the quality of intelligence. And as oversight has been formalized, so too have academic descriptions of that oversight, both to expose that oversight to scrutiny and to aim to improve it. It is the use and form of these advances in government and their relationships to the necessity of democratic control and accountability that present the most intriguing challenges to academic theories of government conduct. In a democracy, intelligence must deliver high-quality assessments, analysis, and warnings in the advancement of US interests while at the same time acting within the law and respecting the rights of US citizens. These two sides of the same coin give intelligence oversight multiple objectives and make the task of the overseer even more difficult.

Article

The concept of sovereignty has been the subject of vigorous debate among scholars. Sovereignty presents the discipline of international law with a host of theoretical and material problems regarding what it, as a concept, signifies; how it relates to the power of the state; questions about its origins; and whether sovereignty is declining, being strengthened, or being reconfigured. The troublesome aspects of sovereignty can be analyzed in relation to constructivist, feminist, critical theory, and postmodern approaches to the concept. The most problematic aspects of sovereignty have to do with its relationship to the rise and power of the modern state, and how to link the state’s material reality to philosophical discussions about the concept of sovereignty. The paradoxical quandary located at the heart of sovereignty arises from the question of what establishes law as constitutive of sovereign authority absent the presumption or exercise of sovereign power. Philosophical debates over sovereignty have attempted to account for the evolving structures of the state while also attempting to legitimate these emergent forms of rule as represented in the writings of Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. These writers document attempts to grapple with the problem of legitimacy and the so-called “structural and ideological contradictions of the modern state.” International law finds itself grappling with ever more nuanced and contradictory views of sovereignty’s continued conceptual relevance, which are partially reflective and partially constitutive of an ever more complex and paradoxical world.

Article

Sai Felicia Krishna-Hensel

Throughout history, technology has played a significant role in international relations (IR). Technological development is an important factor underlying much of humanity’s social, economic, and political development, as well as in interstate and interregional relationships. Beginning with the earliest tool industries of the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods to the present time, technology has been an integral component of the transformative processes that resulted in the organization, expansion, and establishment of distinctive societies. The presence or absence of equal access to technology has often determined the nature of relationships between societies and civilizations. Technology increases the options available to policymakers in their pursuit of the goals of the state, but also complicates their decision making. The question of whether, and how much, technological change has influenced IR has been the subject of considerable debate. Scholars are divided on the emphasis that should be placed on technological progress as an independent variable in the study of relations between states and as a factor in analyzing power configurations in the international system. Among the scientific and technological revolutions that are believed to have contributed to the changing nature of power and relations between states are transportation and communication, the industrial revolution, the nuclear revolution, and the contemporary information revolution. Future research should focus on how these technological changes are going to influence the debates on power, deterrence, diplomacy, and other instruments of IR.

Article

Claudia Aradau

Sovereignty has been variously understood as the given principle of international relations, an institution, a social construct, a performative discourse subject to historical transformation, or a particular practice of power. The “articulations” of sovereignty refer to sovereignty as a practice that is worked on and in turn works with and against other practices. Alongside territory and supreme authority, sovereignty is characterized by the capacity to make and enforce laws. Sovereignty has also been defined in opposition to rights, as the spatiotemporal limits it instantiates are also the limits of rights. Another conceptualization of sovereignty has been revived in international relations, partly in response to the question of exclusions and limits that sovereign practices enacted. In addition, sovereignty is not inextricably tied up with the state but is articulated with heterogeneous and contradictory discourses and practices that create meaning about the international, and has consequences for the kind of community, politics, and agency that are possible. There are three effects of the logic of sovereignty in the international system: the ordering of the domestic and the international, the spatio-temporal limits to politics, and the exclusions from agency. In addition, there are three renditions of the international as a “thick” social space: those of globalization theories, of biopolitics, and of empire.

Article

Matthew Weinert

Literature concentrated on sovereignty’s location laid the groundwork for the distinctive sort of ethical detachment that has characterized sovereignty in international relations (IR). While it is customary to refer to sovereign absolutism as linking a logic of prerogative with sovereignty, mainstream IR theory has reproduced its own variation on the theme and done little until recently to decouple the two. Yet beginning in the late 1970s, the literature began to entertain the idea that interdependence and globalization impede, constrain, corrode, or diminish the core assumptions of sovereignty: the centralization of power and authority, the supremacy of the state, the state’s capabilities to achieve its objectives, and the degree of permissiveness afforded by an anarchical system. Put differently, the space within which sovereignty could operate unencumbered rapidly diminished in size and scope, and the sovereign state, by losing control over various functions, was becoming incoherent at minimum, and irrelevant at maximum. If these arguments focused on a narrow question, then a new literature emerged in the mid to late 1990s that focused on, and questioned, sovereignty as authority. Moreover, the debates about globalization underscored sovereignty’s disjunctive nature. Yet by linking it so closely with material structures and factors, the literature generally elided consideration of the constitutive effect of international norms on sovereignty and the ways the institution of sovereignty has changed over time.