Theoretical debates for a better definition of nationalism have played a key role in understanding the core issues of history, sociology, and political sciences. Classical modernist theories of nationalism mainly synthesized former sociological and historical approaches with a political science perspective. Within the classical modernist perspective, the necessity and importance of transformation from traditional culture and society to a horizontal one in the agenda of modernization was characterized as a universal consequence of industrialization. Some of the foremost complexities and problems involved in the classical and contemporary studies of nation and nationalism include the logic of dualization; the definition of nationalism with reference to its substantive and paradigmatic nature; and whether it is possible to concretely construct a universal theory of nationalism. Both classical and contemporary theories of nations and nationalism can be postulated with reference to two major theoretical sides. Universalist theories of nations and nationalism focus on the categorical structure of nationalism in conceptual grounds while being associated with (neo)positivistic methodological points of departure. On the other hand, particularist theories of nationalism underline the immanent characteristics of nations and nationalism by going through nominalism and relativism in methodological grounds. Considering the conceptual, epistemological, and theoretical contributions of “postclassical approach to nationalism” in the 1990s, three major contributions in contemporary nationalism studies can be marked: the increasing research on gender, sexuality, and feminist social theory; the framework of “new social theory” or “critical social theory”; and the discussions derived from political philosophy and normative political theory.
Political Philosophy and Nationalism
Historical Theories of International Relations
Joseph MacKay and Christopher David LaRoche
History has provided a site of theoretical inquiry for scholars of International Relations since the discipline’s inception. However, serious and sustained historical inquiry has only returned to the foreground of international studies in the last two decades or so, after a prolonged period of postwar uninterest. How can scholars identify moments or processes of systematic change? Does history have a long run structure or trajectory? Moreover, scholars have begun to take seriously the epistemological problem of historicism. International relations scholarship on history during this period addresses the intersection of theory and history in four broad ways. The first encompasses substantive historical studies that take history as a site of theory building about world politics. Here, accounts of early modern Europe, ancient China, precolonial South Asia, European colonial expansion, and other settings have challenged previous historical narratives that assert or assume linear progress or realist cyclicality alike. A second category follows on the first, comprising a plurality of methodological turns. Here, scholars have developed ways of inquiring into history, ranging across macrohistorical or structural analysis, rationalist accounts of international-system building, relational accounts of international hierarchies, discursive accounts of colonialism and resistance, and others. A third focuses directly on theoretical questions drawn from philosophy of history. These works aim to provide not methods of historical inquiry so much as theoretical tools for thinking philosophically about the historical long run itself. Fourth and finally, scholars of the history of international thought have developed contextualist accounts of the intellectual history of international theory. These approaches rethink how theory interfaces with history by interrogating international thought itself.
Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Colonialism
Mehmet Sinan Birdal
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.
“Feminist” Theoretical Inquiries and “IR”
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).
Explaining Why People Move: Intra and Interdisciplinary Debates about the Causes of International Migration
International migration is widening, deepening, and speeding up as described within a set of theories that have been developed by different disciplines of science. The sociological theories of migration go back to the concept of intervening opportunities, which suggests that the number of migratory movements to a destination is directly proportional to the number of opportunities at that distance and inversely proportional to the number of intervening opportunities. Economic theories of migration, meanwhile, generally focus on international labor migration, while the geographical theories of migration concentrate on the role of distance in explaining spatial movements. Finally, socioeconomic theories of international migration are derived from a Marxist political economy emphasizing the unequal distribution of economic and political power in the global economy in a world where the rich are getting richer by exploiting the poor. Taken together, these theories explain the causes of proactive migration. However, the literature on the opposite scenario—reactive or forced migration—is also quite extensive, linking the issue to international security and human vulnerability, humanitarian intervention, and to the so-called “root causes” that underline the social and international forces that generated refugees. But these theories only tell part of the story, as migration is a dynamic phenomenon. Once it begins, international movement of people perpetuates across time and space, and the causes of these perpetual movements can be rather different from those that initiate them. As it evolves, it creates new conditions that become both the means and the ends of new migrations.
Critical Theory: International Relations’ Engagement With the Frankfurt School and Marxism
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 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. The post-positivist period in IR consists of a plurality of theoretical and epistemological positions that opened up wide-ranging critique of the neorealist “orthodoxy” that has dominated the discipline since the beginning of the 1980s. Critical theory has challenged the mainstream understanding of IR, spurred the development of alternative forms of analysis and approaches, and emergedas the main alternative to mainstream IR. Two traditions of critical thought in IRtrace back to or are based on the views of Karl Marx. The first is the normative Critical Theory (CT) of the Frankfurt School. The second one is a structural critical tradition based on a critique and analysis of the political economy of capitalism. It is argued in the paper that the normative aspects of the critique of International Relations has to be integrated with the structural and historically specific critique of capitalism to make them politically relevant and adequate for a social critique of international relations.
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.
Rationalism and Security
R. Harrison Wagner
In 1969, the game theorist John Harsanyi wrote an article criticizing the two main postulates of the general theory of social behavior prevalent at the time: the functionalist approach to the explanation of social institutions and the conformist approach to the explanation of individual behavior. According to Harsanyi, functionalist and conformist theories overstated the degree of consensus in societies, could not account for change, and described observed behavior without explaining it. Harsanyi proposed an alternative approach provided by theories based on the concept of rational choice (rational behavior, or rational decision-making). His goal was to develop a hypothetico-deductive theory explaining (and possibly predicting) a large number of empirical facts from a few relatively simple theoretical assumptions or axioms. Among students of international politics, Harsanyi’s approach sparked a controversy about rationalism. However, some critics of rationalism do not distinguish clearly between the interest-based theories Harsanyi criticized and the rational choice methods he advocated, and some even confuse both with neoclassical economics. In order to understand the issues raised in the controversy about rationalism, it is helpful to look at interest-based theories of politics and their relation to neoclassical economics. Game theory has provided a useful framework for the intellectual agenda outlined by Harsanyi, especially in the area of international security.
Mackubin Thomas Owens
Civil–military relations is an interdisciplinary area of research, reflecting the work of political scientists, military, sociologists, and historians. History and culture, the constitution of the state and the statutes and practices arising therefrom, changes in the international security environment, technology, the character of conflict, and the changing concept of “soldier-hood” all influence the civil–military relations of a state. There are many possible patterns of civil–military relations that provide different answers to the questions of who controls the military and how, the degree of military influence appropriate for a given society, the appropriate role of the military in a given polity, who serves, and the effectiveness of the military instrument that a given civil–military relations produces. Moreover, there is no “general” or “unified field” theory that successfully explains all of these patterns. For a variety of reasons, Samuel Huntington's institutional theory remains the dominant paradigm for examining civil–military relations. When it comes to the question of civilian control of the military, Peter Feaver’s agency theory corrects some of the flaws in Huntington’s theory. Morris Janowitz and the military sociologists also provide useful insights, especially regarding the question of who serves and related issues. In the case of concordance theory, critics argue that the definition of military intervention sets the bar too low to be meaningful. Ultimately, the patterns of civil–military relations affect national security because of their impact on strategic assessment.
Sports Diplomacy: History, Theory, and Practice
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.
Women as Objects and Commodities
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.
200 Years of International Relations in Brazil: Issues, Theories, and Methods
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.
Biopower and International Relations
Michel Foucault’s critical approach to understanding power has become very influential in the study of global politics, especially in the work of (critical) IR scholars. The Foucauldian kind of power conception has influenced some IR scholars who adopt key insights from post-structuralist theory to world politics, thus producing an analytical orientation in the sense that all reality is structured first by language with discourses, then creating a coherent system of knowledge, objects, and subjects. Of particular importance is Foucault’s notion of biopower, biopolitics, and technology of power. Such a toolbox allows (critical) IR scholars to recur and distinguish disciplinary power, governmentality, its types (liberalism, neoliberalism), and biopolitics itself. However, few IR studies differentiate between biopower and biopolitics; yet an extensive variety of international studies issues are analyzed. Additionally, applying Foucault’s notions to global politics has been roundly criticized.
The Problem of Harm in International Relations
Harm as a concept lies at the core of the discipline of International Relations (IR), providing a touchstone for scholars that both motivates and frames scholarly practice. However, its pervasive and varied nature means that it is rarely discussed in explicit terms. Attempts to understand the significance of harm for IR, as a pluralist discipline, can be divided into three key perspectives. First, the problem of harm describes a distinct research program centered on the way that social actors have understood, negotiated, and responded to changing forms of harm. Second, different understandings of harm provide a driver of, and a key point of contestation between, IR’s research programs and subdisciplines in ways that reflect the changing dynamics of scholarly interest and normative concern. Third, harm serves to define IR’s objects of inquiry, pointing toward the need for new theoretical tools and innovation in response to global challenges. Taken together, these perspectives suggest that harm serves as an important normative common ground in a discipline that is often understood as pluralist or divided. This common ground serves as a starting point for understanding how harm may change in response to developments or transformations in the international system.
Human Dignity in International Relations
Salvador Santino F. Regilme Jr.
The literature on dignity in international politics can be analytically evaluated based on three key themes: (a) historical, conceptual, and political underpinnings; (b) international law and global governance; and (c) the global political economy. Although discussions of human dignity within these three themes draw on varied disciplines (philosophy, political theory, political science, law, and history), they demonstrate a shared purpose in investigating the nature of human dignity and its implications to understanding individuals and political orders amid increasing global interdependence. Human rights scholarship has been a firmly established research agenda in international relations (IR) since the end of the Cold War, but the notion of human dignity has yet to gain traction as a key research topic on its own beyond its peripheral association with the human rights literature. Dignity may be a highly contested concept, but its mere invocation in policy and scholarly debates attracts so much moral appeal and intellectual curiosity. If the core normative task of IR research pertains to the improvement of the human condition (and its relationship to global humanity and the ecosystem), then human dignity should feature as a core object of analytic inquiry in the future.
The Interaction of Theory and Data
James D. Morrow
Theory shapes how data is collected and analyzed in at least three ways. Theoretical concepts inform how we collect data because data attempt to capture and reflect those concepts. Theory provides testable hypotheses that direct our research. Theory also helps us draw conclusions from the results of empirical research. Meanwhile, research using quantitative methods seeks to be rigorous and reproducible. Mathematical models develop the logic of a theory carefully, while statistical methods help us judge whether the evidence matches the expectations of our theories. Quantitative scholars tend to specialize in one approach or the other. The interaction of theory and data for them thus concerns how models and statistical analysis draw on and respond to one another. In the abstract, they work together seamlessly to advance scientific understanding. In practice, however, there are many places and ways this abstract process can stumble. These difficulties are not unique to rigorous methods; they confront any attempt to reconcile causal arguments with reality. Rigorous methods help by making the issues clear and forcing us to confront them. Furthermore, these methods do not ensure arguments or empirical judgments are correct; they only make it easier for us to agree among ourselves when they do.
Game Theory and Other Modeling Approaches
Frank C. Zagare and Branislav L. Slantchev
Game theory is the science of interactive decision making. It has been used in the field of international relations (IR) for over 50 years. Almost all of the early applications of game theory in international relations drew upon the theory of zero-sum games, but the first generation of applications was also developed during the most intense period of the Cold War. The theoretical foundations for the second wave of the game theory literature in international relations were laid by a mathematician, John Nash, a co-recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize in economics. His major achievement was to generalize the minimax solution which emerged from the first wave. The result is the now famous Nash equilibrium—the accepted measure of rational behavior in strategic form games. During the third wave, from roughly the early to mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, there was a distinct move away from static strategic form games toward dynamic games depicted in extensive form. The assumption of complete information also fell by the wayside; games of incomplete information became the norm. Technical refinements of Nash’s equilibrium concept both encouraged and facilitated these important developments. In the fourth and final wave, which can be dated, roughly, from around the middle of the 1990s, extensive form games of incomplete information appeared regularly in the strategic literature. The fourth wave is a period in which game theory was no longer considered a niche methodology, having finally emerged as a mainstream theoretical tool.
International Studies in China
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the rise of China has been one of the most frequently discussed topics in international relations (IR) circles. Because of this rise, Anglophone IR scholars have developed an increasing interest in Chinese perspectives on international relations. At the same time, IR scholars in China are dissatisfied with being consumers of knowledge rather than knowledge producers; many Chinese scholars have suggested there should be a Chinese school (CS) of IR, and attempts have been made over the past few decades to establish it. The call for a CS can be understood as an effort by Chinese scholars to establish their own subjectivity in international studies, a pursuit of an indigenous Chinese site of agency with regards to developing IR and IR theory. To demonstrate this, the historical development of international studies in China after the founding of the People’s Republic and how it led to Chinese IR scholars calling for the establishment of a CS in the 21st century is first introduced. Subsequently, the main branches and viewpoints of the CS will be illustrated—including Yan Xuetong’s moral realism, Zhao Tingyang’s conception of the Tianxia system, the Shanghai school’s symbiosis theory, and Qin Yaqing’s relational theory of world politics—before elucidating the main criticisms they have received from the Anglophone world of IR. Critics argue that the overall development of international studies in China is very much one of Chinese scholars replicating mainstream IR and its problems. This claim suggests that the CS movement is an imitation of modern Western discourse for political service rather than a genuine development of an indigenous discourse from Chinese tradition. This article, however, refutes these critics by suggesting that the development of international studies in China does have the potential to make an important contribution to non-Western, post-Western, and global quests in IR; attempts at creating CS contain an indigenous Chinese site of agency with regards to developing IR.
The Third Debate and Postpositivism
Thierry Balzacq and Stéphane J. Baele
International Relations (IR) theory has undergone a series of debates which have left profound changes on the discipline as a whole. These debates, though highly influential, have still caused some controversy among those in the field. Indeed, IR scholars have yet to reach a consensus as to the number of debates in IR, let alone whether or not the third debate should be recognized as part of that esteemed history, or, further still, whether or not the debates should remain part of IR discourse at all. The eclectic nature of the third debate, after all, makes it difficult to classify, as there are multiple definitions and accounts of what the third debate truly entails. The third debate originated in the 1980s, as a certain set of scholars attempted to open up the theoretical field of international relations to previously neglected viewpoints. These so-called “dissidents,” more specifically, had aimed to liberate the field from the neo-utilitarian tradition of thought. The epistemological-ontological common ground of traditional IR theories stands at the very center of dissidents’ attack, because of their commitment to undermine “foundationalist discourses.” Furthermore, the third debate is credited with the emergence of constructivism as a mainstream theory of IR, the opening up of IR to new objects and subfields, and the growth of critical approaches to IR.
Constitutive Theory in International Relations
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.