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Article

Definitions of Geopolitics  

Igor Kovac

International relations literature and the foreign policy community offer and use multiple definitions of geopolitics. More often than not, both camps use the term even without providing or hinting at its conceptualization. This causes muddy thinking and misunderstandings among scholars, as well as misunderstandings between scholars and policymakers. It is unrealistic to expect that at some point, the scholarship will agree on a single common definition, nor is this something worth aiming for. Instead, raising awareness about ontological differences when defining geopolitics, as each definition leads to different (foreign) policy implications, makes more sense for academia and policymakers. Being cognizant of ontological diversity propels clarity of academic writing and informs policymaking. Thus, a conceptual analysis of the term geopolitics is needed to facilitate greater transparency when using the term. Probably the best place to start such an analysis is with the etymology of geopolitics, since no one objects to that: two ancient Greek words: gê (earth) and politikós (statesman). Gê personifies objectivity and determinism, while politikós represents subjectivity and interpretivism. Some definitions of geopolitics stress the first set of characteristics, while others emphasize the second. Moreover, two ontological continua—material–ideational and praxis–science—can be formed from this etymology that form an ontological matrix of geopolitics. Using this matrix, nine different types of definitions of geopolitics can be identified: classical geopolitics; geopolitics as strategic geography; cognitive geopolitics; global geopolitics; critical geopolitics; geopolitics as philosophy of statesmen; anti-geopolitics; geopolitics as logos, pathos, and ethos; and geopolitics as nexus. Each of them carries its unique ontological take on geopolitics, as well as lays particular foundations for policymakers. Such a typology excels other endeavors of classifying geopolitics, since they suffer from one or more vices: they are not systemic, they lack clear classification criteria, they cannot encapsulate all definitions of geopolitics, and their classroom and policy utility are mediocre. Finally, the functionality of the ontological matrix of geopolitics for didactical purposes and for bridging the gap between academia and policymaking is apparent. Namely, making students understand that meta-theoretical issues matter is much easier if visualization is possible. Depicting and explaining ontological positions on the geopolitical matrix is instrumental as similarities and differences become illustrative. Being exposed to the geopolitical matrix equips the people committed to the process of bridging the gap between academia and practice with a new and helpful tool.

Article

International Relations and Comparative Politics  

Vidya Nadkarni and J. Michael Williams

Both the political science fields of International Relations (IR) and Comparative Politics (CP) developed around a scholarly concern with the nature of the state. IR focused on the nature, sources, and dynamics of inter-state interaction, while CP delved into the structure, functioning, and development of the state itself. The natural synergies between these two lines of scholarly inquiry found expression in the works of classical and neo-classical realists, liberals, and Marxists, all of whom, to varying degrees and in varied ways, recognized that the line dividing domestic and international politics was not hermetically sealed. As processes of economic globalization, on the one hand, and the globalization of the state system, on the other, have expanded the realm of political and economic interaction, the need for greater cross-fertilization between IR and CP has become even more evident. The global expansion of the interstate system has incorporated non-European societies into world politics and increased the salience of cultural and religious variables. These dynamics suggest that a study of cultures, religions, and histories, which shape the world views of states and peoples, is therefore necessary before assessments can be made about how individual states may respond to varied global pressures in their domestic and foreign policy choices.

Article

Environmental Activism  

Rodrigo G. Pinto

Social science research on environment and activism with a cross- or transnational scope (REACTS) is described as a consolidated but confused, stagnant field of scholarship, one which has yet to surpass the comparable state of international studies at large. Previous reviews of the literature in this growing and interdisciplinary research domain have gone so far as so divide it into either its cross-national or its transnational branch, respectively associated with cross-national and environmental social science (CESS), or transnational and environmental social science (TESS). As evidence of stagnancy, once the CESS and TESS branches of REACTS are combined, changes in the cross-national research agenda have been merely the reverse of the transnational one. From 1969–75, REACTS literature covered the themes of population, catastrophic limits to growth, interstate conferences and organizations, North–South relations, survivalist/lifeboat ethics, resource and land conservation, and the social movement organization/non-governmental organization/"third sector." From 1977–91, the issues covered shifted to emphasize violence/conflict, counter environmentalist backlash, seal hunting, whaling, rural energy (improved bioenergy cookstoves), and possibly baby foods, though the earlier concerns with population, (nature) conservation, interstate conferences and survivalist/lifeboat ethics continued. The resistance literature was considerably consolidated and there was a quantitative change in the attention that environmental activism itself received within the pre-existing orientations. In the post-1992 era, the thematic array of transnational REACTS expanded even further as additional issues made it to the agenda in international and environmental studies.

Article

International Relations as a Social Science  

Anne-Marie D'Aoust

The nature of the debates surrounding international relations (IR) as a social science have pointed to issues of ontology, epistemology, methodology, philosophy of science, history, and sociology of knowledge, yet they are all crucial in understanding the character of international relations. Such an idea was brought about by Stanley Hoffman’s 1977 article, “An American Social Science: International Relations.” For Hoffmann, IR developed the way it did out of a set of distinctive intellectual predispositions, political circumstances, and institutional opportunities. His insights, however controversial, thus reveal fundamental questions about the work of IR scholars. The key issues here are the definition of IR as a discipline, the definition of IR as a science, and the definition of IR as an American social science in particular. The large variety of inquiries explored in IR, the “kind” of social science IR scholars are engaged in, as well as how “progress” is assessed, all reveal some important nuances in international relations as a discipline. Moreover, the debates surrounding the scientific legitimacy of IR scholarship reveal how IR gained legitimacy as a discipline. The historical development of IR could in fact be described as a series of debates, known among those in the field as the “great debates,” which eventually became the coherent whole understood to be the field of international relations.

Article

IR in Mexico  

Arturo Santa-Cruz

Mexican International Relations (IR) is peculiar not only in that it stands apart from the contributions of both culturally similar countries, such as those in Latin America, and structurally similar positioned states, such as Canada, as well as from those originating in the United States, but also for its paucity. Since very little IR theory is done in Mexico, it is not surprising that Mexican IR appears to be “an American social science.” However, beyond the syllabi in the discipline’s university departments throughout Mexico, the practice of what little IR research there is in the country is anchored in approaches that are not mainstream in the United States. Thus, counterintuitively, Mexican IR is very similar to IR in other countries—and U.S. IR, not Mexico’s, is an outlier.

Article

Conflict Escalation  

Richard Bösch

Even though most conflicts in everyday life manifest themselves as cursory bagatelles, there are conflicts that end up in situations of organized, collective violence (e.g., armed conflict). To understand how trivial contradictions can become meaningful conflicts in a broader societal context, it is crucial to examine the process of conflict escalation. Conflict escalation can be understood as an intensification of a conflict with regard to the observed extent and the means used. An escalating conflict represents a developing social system in its own right, having the legitimization of violence as a key feature. Here, a broader social science perspective on the concept of conflict escalation is offered, outlining its intellectual history, explaining its major perspectives and current emphases, and exploring newer avenues in approaching social conflict.

Article

International Studies as a Discipline and Women’s Status Therein  

Meredith Reid Sarkees and Marie T. Henehan

As a distinct discipline, international studies is relatively young, emerging in the United States only after World War II. The study of the status of women in international studies is also a fairly new field, appearing more recently than that in other fields in academia, including political science. In the United States, political science evolved through at least six distinct phases. The first two phases occurred during the American Revolution and the post-Civil War era, while the next four took place in the twentieth century, described by David Easton as the formal (legal), the traditional (informal or pre-behavioral), the behavioral, and the post-behavioral stages. It was during this period that the study of women in politics began. As political science began to solidify itself as a separate academic discipline at the beginning of the twentieth century, there was also an attempt to include international relations within its domain. Despite the increase in the number of women in international studies and the advances that women have made in publications and positions, the field remains dominated by men. In other words, it is still not an equitable place for women to work. In order to overcome many of these enduring barriers, there should be a greater willingness to investigate and publish more studies about the status of women and to take more proactive steps to resolve the issues that have stalled women’s progress.

Article

Origins and Theory of Climate Change Politics  

Loren R. Cass

Climate change politics refers to attempts to define climate change as a physical phenomenon as well as to delineate and predict current and future effects on the environment and broader implications for human affairs as a foundation for political action. Defining the causes, scale, time frame, and consequences of climate change is critical to determining the political response. Given the high stakes involved in both the consequences of climate change and the distributive implications of policies to address it, climate change politics has been and remains highly contentious both within and across countries. Climate politics presents difficulties for study given its interdisciplinary nature and the scientific complexities involved in climate change. Climate change politics emerged in the mid- to late 1980s, as climate science became more accessible to policymakers and the public. However, scholarship on international climate politics was relatively slow to develop. Prior to 2008, major publications on international relations (except for policy journals) only lightly touched upon climate politics. Climate change was frequently referenced in articles on a range of topics, but it was not the primary focus of analysis. Since 2008 there has been a dramatic increase in literature focusing on climate change. The possibility of massive economic, political, and ecological dislocation from the consequences of climate change as well as from policies to address the problem have resulted in an extensive literature. Scholars have addressed aspects of climate politics from every paradigm within international relations, as well as drawing on research from numerous related disciplines. The international relations theories that shaped the scholarship on climate politics provide the foundation for understanding the ongoing normative debates surrounding domestic and international policies to address climate change.

Article

Modernity and Nationalism  

Jonathan M. Acuff

The question of the historical origins of nations and nationalism has long been the subject of vigorous debate among scholars. Indeed, there has been no interdisciplinary convergence among historians, sociologists, and anthropologists regarding the exact timeline of the emergence of nations and nationalism. Much contemporary international relations (IR) and political science scholarship relating to nations is primarily divided between two opposing assumptions: a relatively simplistic “ancient hatreds/modernist” dichotomy versus primordialist and other kinds of claims. This disagreement over the historical origins of nationalism influences both the ontological notions governing the nature of modernity and nations, as well as important epistemological implications as to the selection and interpretation of variables. Modernists argue that nationalism is the product of the specific effects of the modern age, dating roughly to the late Enlightenment or to the French Revolution specifically. They also emphasize the role of the international system in the forging of national identity. Primordialists and ethnosymbolists have advanced their own theories of nationalism, but most contemporary IR scholars favor the “modernist” paradigm. However, it is necessary to evaluate a larger literature beyond the modernist corpus in order to tackle questions such as whether modern nations are more conflict-prone than their more aged ethnic counterparts, or whether structural changes in the international system since the end of the Cold War have opened a window of opportunity for irredentist claims for nascent nations.

Article

What is Theory?  

Patrick Thaddeus Jackson

The concept of theory takes part in a conceptual network occupied by some of the most common subjects of European Enlightenment, such as “science” and “reason.” Generally speaking, a theory is a rational type of abstract or generalizing thinking, or the results of such thinking. Theories drive the exercise of finding facts rather than of reaching goals. To formulate a theory, or to “theorize,” is to assert something of a privileged epistemic status, manifested in the traditional scholarly hierarchy between theorists and those who merely labor among the empirical weeds. In so doing, a theory provides a fixed point upon which analysis can be founded and action can be performed. Scholar and author Kenneth W. Thompson describes a nexus of relations between and among three different senses of the word “theory:” normative theory, a “general theory of politics,” and the set of assumptions on the basis of which a given actor is acting. These three types of theory are somehow paralleled by Marysia Zalewski’s triad of theory as “tool,” theory as “critique,” and theory as “everyday practice.” While Thompson’s and Zalewski’s interpretations of theory are each inherently consistent, both signal a different philosophical ontology. Thompson’s viewpoint is dualist, presuming the existence of a mind-independent world to which knowledge refers; while Zalewski’s is more of a monist, rejecting the mind/world dichotomy in favor of a more complex interrelationship between observers and their objects of study.

Article

Foreign Policy Analysis: Origins (1954–93) and Contestations  

Valerie Hudson

A country’s foreign policy, also called its foreign relations, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve goals within its international relations (IR) milieu. The study of such strategic plans is called foreign policy analysis (FPA). The inception of foreign relations in human affairs and the need for foreign policy to deal with them is as old as the organization of human life in groups. In the twentieth century, due to global wars, international relations became a public concern as well as an important field of study and research. Gradually, various theories began to grow around international relations, international systems, and international politics, but the need for a theory of foreign policy continued to be neglected. The reason was that states used to keep their foreign policies under official secrecy and it was not considered appropriate for the public, as it is today, to know about these policies. However, although foreign policy formulation continued to remain a closely guarded process at the national level, wider access to governmental records and greater public interest provided more data for researchers to work on and, eventually, place international relations in a structured framework of political science.

Article

Gender, Women, and Representation in State Politics  

Mona Lena Krook and Sarah Childs

The main contribution of research on women, gender, and state-level politics has been the introduction of the concept of gender and an expansion of traditional definitions of politics. These studies have continued to expand over the years, opening up some major areas of research as well as introducing challenges to feminist research on women, gender, and state-level politics. Social movements are among the key topics of recent studies. This is due to the fact that women have been largely excluded from other arenas of political participation. Work on political parties links to another major area of study. Although wide-ranging, it can be separated into research on electing versus being elected. Furthermore, women’s voting behavior and the election of female candidates are often treated as important questions in themselves. Another line of work, however, seeks to go beyond political priorities and presence to examine concrete policy outcomes. This research can be divided into three sets of questions: the behavior of female policy actors, the gendered nature of public policies, and the creation and evolution of gender equality policies. A fifth major literature points to the relationship between women, gender, and the state. The state is a central actor and topic in political science. Focusing on state-society interactions, feminists have been interested in understanding how states influence gender relations and, conversely, how gendered norms and practices shape state policies.

Article

The Development Paradigm and Its Critics  

James H. Mittelman

Development cannot be separated from global political economy, but it is an inherent component of the latter. The concept of development was popularized through expansion of colonization, and underwent various transformations as the socio-political structure of the world changed over time. Thus, the central task of development theory is to determine and explain why some countries are underdeveloped and how these countries can develop. Such theories draw on a variety of social science disciplines and approaches. Accordingly, different development paradigms have emerged upon which different scholars have shown profound interests and to which they gave extensive criticisms—modernization, dependency, Marxism, postcolonialism, and globalization. With the recent emergence of the post-modern critique of development, power has become an important subject in the discourse of development. Nevertheless, a full theoretical understanding of the relations between power and development is still in its fledgling stage. Though highly apparent in human societies, social power per se is a polylithic discourse with no unified definition and implication, which has led different proponents of development paradigms to understand power differently. Although there is a dialectic contradiction between the different dialogic paradigms, the reality of development theory is that there is a large choice of theories and models from which field practicioners will draw pragmatically the most appropriate elements, or they will create their own model adapted to the situation.

Article

Environment and Security  

Elizabeth L. Chalecki

The term environment is often used as a short form for the biophysical environment, which refers to the biotic and abiotic surrounding of an organism or population, and consequently includes the factors that have an influence in their survival, development, and evolution. All life that has survived must have adapted to conditions of its environment. On one hand, part of the study of environmental science is the investigation of the effect of human activity on the environment. On the other hand, scholars also examine threats posed by environmental events and trends to individuals, communities, or nations, otherwise known as environmental security. It studies the impact of human conflict and international relations on the environment, or on how environmental problems cross state borders. Environmental security is a significant concept in two fields: international relations and international development. Within international development, projects may aim to improve aspects of environmental security such as food security or water security, along with connected aspects such as energy security. The importance of environmental security lies in the fact that it affects humankind and its institutions anywhere and at anytime. To the extent that humankind neglects to maintain the planet’s life-supporting eco-systems generating water, food, medicine, and clean air, current and future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe instances of environmentally induced changes.

Article

Teaching Post-Communist Politics  

Leah Seppanen Anderson

A review of undergraduate course offerings at top-ranked colleges and universities in the United States and analysis of course syllabi from undergraduate programs in political science have revealed certain trends in the teaching post-communist politics. For instance, majority of schools now offer post-communist politics courses, although a student at a national university is more likely than one at a liberal arts institution to have the opportunity to learn about the region. Regardless of the type of school, students will most commonly study post-communism from a comparative, rather than international relations, perspective. Comparative courses usually focus on Russia and East Central Europe. Undergraduates curious about why a course on Russian politics matters will most often find syllabi that present the course as an examination of one of the most “dramatic political events of the twentieth century.” The examination of political change and continuing instability or chaos in Russian politics is another common theme. A few syllabi structure the course around theoretical concerns of the discipline and practical policy questions, framing the semester as a study of the quality and scope of democracy in Russia since the end of communism. East Central European (ECE) politics courses encompass multiple states, which creates opportunities and challenges not present in teaching Russian politics. Undergraduates are most likely introduced to East Central Europe through a thematic study of the entire region rather than extensive, individual country case studies.

Article

World System History  

Robert A. Denemark

World system history is a perspective on the global sociopolitical and economic system with a structural, long-term and transdisciplinary nature. The intellectual origins of the study of world system history can be characterized by three general trajectories, beginning with the work of global historians who have worked to write a “history of the world.” Attempts were also made by scholars such as Arnold Toynbee to write global history in terms of “civilizations”. A second pillar of world system history emerged from anthropology, when many historians of the ancient world, anthropologists, and archaeologists denied the importance of long-distance relations, especially those of trade. A third pillar emerged from the social sciences, including political science and sociology. One of the central ideas put forward was that sociopolitical and economic phenomena exhibited wave-like behavior. These various intellectual strands became self-consciously intertwined in the later 1980s and 1990s, when scholars from all of these traditions began to cross disciplinary boundaries and organize their own efforts under the rubric of world system history. This period saw Gunder Frank and Barry K. Gills questioning the value of identifying a uniquely modern system based on a transition to capitalism that was said to have occurred in the West. Frank and Gills introduced the “continuity hypothesis,” which suggests that too much scholarly emphasis has been placed on the search for and elucidation of discontinuities and transitions. World system history faces two important challenges from determinism and indeterminacy, and future research should especially address the implications of the latter.

Article

Ethnoreligious Data Collection  

Jonathan Fox

Collecting and examining datasets on ethnicity and religion involves translating and codifying real-world phenomena such as actions taken by governments and other groups into data which can be analyzed by social science statistical techniques. This methodology is intended to be applied to phenomena which in their original form are in a format not readily accessible to statistical analyses, i.e. “softer” phenomena and events such as government policies and conflict behavior. Thus, this methodology is not necessary for phenomena like GDP or government military spending, but is based on behavior by organizations or groups of individuals which are assessed by a coder who translates this behavior into data. Aggregate data collected by this methodology should have three qualities. First, they must be reproducible. Second, the data must be transparent in that all aspects of the data collection process and its products be clear and understandable to other researchers, to the extent that they could, in theory, be replicated. Third, it must measure what it intends to measure in a clear, accurate, and precise manner. A project which accomplishes all of this must be conceptualized properly from the beginning, including the decision on which unit of analysis to use and which cases to include and exclude. It must have appropriate sources and a tight variable design. Finally, the data must be collected in a systematic, transparent, and reproducible manner based upon appropriate sources.

Article

Crime: The Illicit Global Political Economy  

John T. Picarelli

Transnational crimes are crimes that have actual or potential effect across national borders and crimes that are intrastate but offend fundamental values of the international community. The word “transnational” describes crimes that are not only international, but crimes that by their nature involve cross-border transference as an essential part of the criminal activity. Transnational crimes also include crimes that take place in one country, but their consequences significantly affect another country and transit countries may also be involved. Examples of transnational crimes include: human trafficking, people smuggling, smuggling/trafficking of goods, sex slavery, terrorism offences, torture and apartheid. Contemporary transnational crimes take advantage of globalization, trade liberalization and new technologies to perpetrate diverse crimes and to move money, goods, services, and people instantaneously for purposes of perpetrating violence for political ends. While these global costs of criminal activity are huge, the role of this criminal market in the broader international economic system, and its effects on domestic state institutions and economies, has not received widespread attention from an international political economy (IPE) or political science perspective. Given the limits on the exercise of extraterritorial enforcement jurisdiction, states have developed mechanisms to cooperate in transnational criminal matters. The primary mechanisms used in this regard are extradition, lawful removal, and mutual legal assistance.

Article

Twenty-First Century Developments in the Field of Science, Technology, and International Relations  

Stefan H. Fritsch

Traditionally, international relations (IR) conceptualized technology primarily as a static, neutral, and passive tool, which emanates from impenetrable black boxes outside the international system. According to this predominant instrumental understanding of technology, IR “added” technology as a residual variable to existing explanatory frameworks. Consequently, qualitative systemic change—as well as continuity—could only be addressed within existing models and their respective core variables. Subsequently, traditional approaches increasingly experienced difficulties to adequately capture and explain empirically observable systemic changes in the form of growing interdependence, globalization, or trans-nationalization, as well as a plethora of technology-induced new policy challenges. Contrary to traditional conceptualizations, a growing number of scholars have instead embarked on a project to open the “black box” by redefining technology as a highly political and integral core component of global affairs that shapes and itself is shaped by global economics, politics, and culture. A rapidly growing body of theoretically diverse interdisciplinary literature systematically incorporates insights from science and technology studies (STS) to provide a more nuanced understanding of how technology, the global system, and its myriad actors mutually constitute and impact one another.

Article

International Relations and Outer Space  

Dimitrios Stroikos

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.