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Article

Andreas Papamichail and Anthony F. Lang Jr.

The concept of security is central to the study of international relations (IR), yet it remains heavily contested, both in theory and in practice. In part, this is because the concept contains intractable tensions and contradictions. Nevertheless, or perhaps as a result of this, security—if understood as a state of being that is a function of war and peace—has been the subject of ethical reflection for millennia. Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, and Islamic traditions, among others, all have their own conceptions of how war and violence ought to be addressed. One of the more prominent ideas drawn from these debates is the concept of the just war, which emerged from the Christian tradition. It became an influential source of critical reflection upon both legal and practical dilemmas in international security, informing a wide range of debates around the world, and it has persisted at the heart of the field of Security Studies that emerged post-World War II. However, in the last couple of decades of the 20th century, changing notions of legitimate authority and broadened conceptions of conditions that cause harm and insecurity led to challenges to state-centrism and war-centrism in Security Studies. Issues such as global health security, counterterrorism, and humanitarian intervention have demonstrated the inherent tensions within security practices and demand novel ethical engagement. Approaching the issue of security from the perspective of international political theory (IPT) allows us to probe the ethical dimensions of security and ask how justice, authority, and security are linked and with what consequences.

Article

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

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

Violence against women represents the most popular gender related issue for global women’s activists, international development agencies, and human rights advocates. Although state responsiveness to violence against women was previously seen by feminist political scientists as only a domestic issue, international studies scholars have begun to theorize how states’ responsiveness is shaped by foreign interventions by global actors. As countries around the world began to adopt new policies opposing violence against women, social scientists adept in both feminist theory and social science methods began the comparative study of these reforms. These studies pointed to the importance of the ideological and institutional context as structural impediments or opportunities as well as suggested the more effective strategic alliances between activists, politicians, and civil servants. Those studies that attempt a deeper analysis rely upon indirect measures of effectiveness of policies and interventions, such as judging policy on how feminist it is and judging reforms based on the recognition of the relationship between violence against women and gender based hierarchies. Through these measures, feminist social scientists can estimate the response’s impact on the sex–gender system, and indirectly on violence against women, which is seen to be a result of the sex–gender system. The next challenge is differentiating between the various types of intervention and their different impacts. These various types of intervention include the “blame and shame,” in which activists hold countries up against standards; bilateral or transnational networking among activists; the widespread availability of international funding; and traditional diplomacy or warfare.

Article

Gender shapes how both men and women understand their experiences and actions regarding armed conflicts. A gender perspective in the context of conflict situations means to pay close attention to the special needs of women and girls during peace-building processes, including disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration to the social fabric in post-conflict reconstruction, as well as to take measures to support local women’s peace initiatives. In this light, the overall culture, both within the UN and its member states, needs to be addressed. This culture is still patriarchal and supportive of state militaries, and peacekeeping operations that are comprised of them, which are based on a hegemonic masculinity that depends on the trivialization of women and the exploitation and commodification of women’s bodies. The values, qualities, and qualifications for peace-keeping personnel, on the ground and in senior positions, have been framed and adopted through a patriarchal understanding of peace-keeping, peace-building, and peace-making which has defined security narrowly, has relied on state militaries and military experts to be peace enforcers and makers, has been disinterested in the relationship between conflict and social inequalities, has imposed new social inequalities and new violences in the name of peacekeeping, and has systematically excluded or marginalized women in peace-keeping, peace-building, and peacemaking processes. Although the recent advances, reflected in Security Council, other UN, and member state resolutions and mandates, of integrating gender concerns into these processes have made a positive difference in some operations, implementation of these is still marginal.

Article

Extreme political violence, i.e., genocide, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes, can be examined within three explanatory frameworks important to geographical thought: nature and society; spatial identities; and geopolitics. Extreme violence is often closely associated with humanity’s failure to overcome human nature. These are fundamentally geographical concerns in the sense that they relate to geography’s central interest in humans and their environment. Scholarly works abound with Hobbesian images, often presenting primitive violence as a pervasive social condition in the absence of an effective ruler. The literature on state failure presumes the same contradiction between nature and the social-political order, but in reverse: without a conventional sovereign, social conflict emerges over basic resources. These theories suggest that the causes of extreme political violence can be identified at the intersection of nature and society, where human behavior cannot be extricated from its biological and environmental condition. Identity is understood primarily as cultural difference. Identities are an important element in any explanation of extreme political violence given that it stems from conflict between sociopolitical groups that are defined by some degree of cultural difference. Classical geopolitical analysis of extreme political violence has retained environmental and biological factors as ultimate causes. They assume that scarcity of resources and population growth drive culture, territorialism, and conflict. In contrast, contemporary and critical approaches focus on the language and action of politics, such as statecraft, diplomacy, and popular mobilization.

Article

Stathis N. Kalyvas and Paul D. Kenny

A civil war, also known as intrastate war, is a war between organized groups within the same state or country. It is a high-intensity conflict that often involves regular armed forces. One of the reasons for the lack of consensus in the study of civil war is disagreement over what exactly civil war means. Theoretically, civil war overlaps with other categories of armed conflict, particularly revolution, political violence, ethnic conflict, and terrorism. Civil wars since the end of World War II have lasted for over four years on average, a considerable rise from the one-and-a-half-year average of the 1900–1944 period. While the rate of emergence of new civil wars has been relatively steady since the mid-19th century, the increasing length of those wars has resulted in increasing numbers of wars ongoing at any one time. Since 1945, civil wars have resulted in the deaths of over 25 million people, as well as the forced displacement of millions more, along with economic collapse. According to scholars of civil war research, the causes of civil war include economic motivations or greed, and political or social grievances. Greed-based explanations focus on individuals’ desire to maximize their profits, while grievance-based explanations center on conflict as a response to socioeconomic or political injustice. A third concept, opportunity-based explanations, talks about factors that make it easier to engage in violent mobilization.

Article

There are two primary reasons why empires are central to our understanding of International Relations (IR). First, the empire has been replaced by juridically equal sovereign territorial states over the past century. Formal empires no longer exist, and only one head of state retains the title of Emperor—Akihito of Japan. The second reason why the study of empire matters to IR is that much of the conventional distinction between hierarchy and anarchy has been subject to various criticisms from a wide array of methodological and political perspectives. In particular, International Political Sociology (IPS) has offered a framework for critical analyses of phenomena such as systemic transformation, international unevenness, and global inequality, or war, violence, and racism in international politics. Since the end of the Cold War, new theorizations of empire have placed empire and imperialism at the center of debates in IR. Contemporary investigations of empire in IR, and IPS in particular, have dwelled on a number of political debates and methodological issues, including the nature of American imperialism, the link between IR and global history, and the relationship between empire and globalization. The category “empire” continues to both illuminate the pertinence of IR to social theory more generally and at the same time highlights the shortcomings of the discipline in addressing the causes and dynamics of global inequality, violence, and uneven development.

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

Yehonatan Abramson

Religion and culture have historically been neglected in international relations (IR) theories and in political science more generally. It was only recently that IR began to consider the role of culture and religion in war and peace. Several main scholarly trends in the study of culture, religion, conflict, and peace can be identified, starting with the definitional problems that IR scholars had to deal with as they tried to incorporate culture and religion. The first major attempt in the IR field to understand war almost exclusively through the religious prism was that of Samuel Huntington, who in his Clash of Civilization (1993, 1996) identifies two main reasons why religion can cause war: first, religion can be considered as a primordial and immutable identity; and second, religion is a form of ideology rather than identity. The scholarly literature has also addressed themes such as religious fundamentalism and violence, the role of religious actors in international conflict, the practical use of religion and culture to promote peace via diplomacy, and engagement of religion and culture in existing peace theories such as democratic peace theory. Avenues for future research may include the relational and constantly changing aspects of religion; what, when, and how various religious interpretations receive political prominence in promoting conflict or peace; how religion can be used as an independent variable across cases; and the hidden set of assumptions that are embedded in the cultural and religion labels.

Article

Many women across the world have addressed issues of peace and war since antiquity, from Christine de Pizan and Jane Addams to Betty Reardon and Elise Boulding. Although a few feminist scholars in the social sciences consider themselves “peace studies” (PS) scholars, other feminists contribute to PS by tackling peace and violence issues. PS comprises peace research, peace education, and peace activism. Feminists improve on and challenge these fields by insisting on expanded definitions of peace that suggest continuity between different forms of violence; highlighting the diverse roles played by women and other marginalized groups in violent conflicts and in peace processes; complicating our understanding of peace and violence while foregrounding gender as a social and symbolic construct involving relations of power; and proposing transformative ways of conceptualizing peace, war, and postconflict transitions. By seeing all forms of violence along a continuum, feminists transform PS’ understandings of peace. Furthermore, feminism brings women to the center of PS by making them visible as actors in both peace and conflict. Finally, feminism envisions a peaceful future that take into consideration women, other marginalized people, and gender. A number of themes continue to emerge from feminist engagement with PS, such as forgiveness, reconciliation, and transitional justice—themes situated at the intersection of peace/violence and religion.

Article

Caron E. Gentry

The public/private divide assumes that men are the (public sphere) actors gendered toward the possibility of violent action, specifically as soldiers, combatants, guerrillas, or revolutionaries, whereas “proper” women within the private sphere are gendered to be non-violent or peaceful actors. Women who engage in the political sphere are condemned for deviating from the private, and more so when they are involved in violence. Indeed, women who operate as agents of political violence are accused of transgressing both gender norms and the normative conceptualization of a state’s monopoly on violence. Feminists have challenged the veracity of this public/private circumscription through their evaluation of women as agents of political violence. Earlier feminist work dehumanizes politically violent women, making their violence more damaging and mental health more damaged than men who commit the same violence. Feminists later moved away from this dehumanization and instead portrayed women as helpmates to the politically violent organization and its male members. Some or most mainstream approaches refer to women involved in sub-state political violence as “terrorists,” and women terrorists are socially constructed as doubly illegitimate actors. Instead of focusing on what must be wrong with the women who engage in political violence, research should identify the reasons behind their actions, such as perceived injustices against them, their community, and/or political and civil rights.

Article

Terrorism has been described variously as a tactic and strategy, a crime and a holy duty, as well as a justified reaction to oppression and an inexcusable abomination. Nationalist terrorism is a form of terrorism motivated by nationalism. Nationalist terrorists seek to form self-determination in some form, which may range from gaining greater autonomy to establishing a completely independent, sovereign state. Nationalist terrorism is linked to a national, ethnic, religious, or other identifying group, and the feeling among members of that group that they are oppressed or denied rights, especially rights accorded to others. But while terrorism has more often been based on revolutionary politics, there has also been an increase in terrorist activity motivated by religion. Terrorist acts done in the name of religion typically aim to enforce a system of belief, viewpoint or opinion. The validity and scope of religious terrorism is limited to an individual’s view or a group’s view or interpretation of that belief system’s teachings. There are some researchers, however, who argue that religion should be considered only one incidental factor and that such terrorism is primarily geopolitical. Meanwhile, ethnic violence refers to violence expressly motivated by ethnic hatred and ethnic conflict. The minimum requirement for ethnic tensions to result in ethnic violence on a systemic level is a heterogeneous society and the lack of a power to prevent them from fighting.

Article

Caroline A. Hartzell and Amy Yuen

With wars—not just global, but civil wars and other domestic infightings—still being rampant in the modern world, scholars have begun to develop interest in identifying the conditions that can help establish a durable peace. Peace is a lack of conflict and freedom from fear of violence between social groups. Commonly understood as the absence of war or violent hostility, peace often involves compromise, and therefore is initiated with thoughtful active listening and communication to enhance and create genuine mutual understanding. The study of the durability of peace has greatly evolved through the years, and one of its implications is that recent empirical work on this topic has focused on civil war. Most of this study has been tailored in response to the model of war, a theory of armed conflict which presents war and peace as stages of a single process. Furthermore, this analysis on peace duration revolves around for main themes: the characteristics of conflict and conflict actors, belligerent-centered dynamics, the role of third parties, and the developments in the measurement, estimation, and the study of peace duration. Under the conceptions of peace, sustainable peace must be regarded as an important factor for the future of prosperity. Throughout the world, nurturing, empowerment, and communications are considered to be the crucial factors in creating and sustaining a durable peace.

Article

Laura J. Shepherd

In challenging conventional conceptualizations of the human subject, the state, and the international system, early feminist security studies (FSS) offered new ways to think about security from inside and outside the disciplinary boundaries of international relations (IR). Indeed, FSS scholars illustrate that security not only means different things in different contexts but also functions in different ways to constitute particular social/political realities. Politicizing the everyday, or rather, demanding that the everyday be recognized as political, is a core assumption of FSS. Further contributions of early FSS to the replacement of the human subject in matters of security include a form of engagement with the very language used in speaking of security matters. Moreover, FSS scholars argue that insecurities permeate the very condition of human existence, bringing FSS insights to bear on economic processes, technological development, state building, and reconstruction. Ranging from analysis of violent conflict and political violence using a gendered framework to critiques of the policies and practices governing post-conflict reconstruction, and encompassing strong and vital interjections on debates over securitizing development, migration, health, human rights, and peace, FSS scholarship is accessible, innovative, and by no means limited to “women and war.” Relocating FSS scholarship from the margins to the center and listening to the voices of those human subjects erased from the academic study of security brings new challenges but also new opportunities for collaboration, with the sighting and citing of FSS by other critical scholars.

Article

The political economy of violent conflict is a body of literature that investigates how economic issues and interests shape the dynamics associated to violent conflict after the Cold War. The literature covers an area of research focusing on civil wars—the predominant type of conflict in the 1990s and early 2000s—and an area of research focusing on other types of violent conflict within states, such as permanent emergencies, criminal violence, and political violence associated to turbulent transitions. The first area involves four themes that have come to characterize discussions on the political economy of civil wars, including research on the role of greed and grievance in conflict onset, on economic interests in civil wars, on the nature of conflict economies, and on conflict financing. The second area responds to the evolution of violent conflict beyond the categories of “interstate” or “civil” war and shows how political economy research adapted to new types of violent conflict within states as it moved beyond the “post-Cold War” era. Overall, the literature on the political economy of violence conflict emphasizes the role of informal systems behind power, profits and violence, and the economic interests and functions of violence underlying to violent conflict. It has also become a conceptual laboratory for scholars who after years of field research tried to make sense of the realities of authoritarian, violent or war-affected countries. By extending the boundaries of the literature beyond the study of civil wars after the Cold War, political economy research can serve as an important analytical lens to better understand the constantly evolving nature of violent conflict and to inform sober judgment on the possible policy responses to them.

Article

According to the democratic peace theory, democracies are hesitant to engage in armed conflict with other identified democracies. Contrary to theories explaining war engagement, it is a “theory of peace” outlining motives that dissuade state-sponsored violence. The proposition that democracies are more peaceful than autocracies has spawned a huge literature. Much of the relevant quantitative research has shown that democracies indeed rarely, if ever, fight each other, although they are not necessarily less aggressive than autocracies in general. Although, statistically, the probability of war between any two states is considerably low, the absence of war among liberal democracies across a wide range of different historical, economic, and political factors suggests that there is a strong predisposition against the use of military violence between democratic states. According to scholars, the democratic peace theory can elaborate on the empirical phenomena previously explained by the earlier dominant research program, realism in international relations; in addition, the initial statement that democracies do not, or rarely, wage war on one another, has been followed by a rapidly growing literature on novel empirical regularities. This democratic peace proposition not only challenges the validity of other political systems, but also the prevailing realist account of international relations, which emphasizes balance-of-power calculations and common strategic interests.

Article

Bronwyn Leebaw

Truth commissions are temporary institutions that are tasked with investigating patterns of political violence under a prior regime as part of a process of political change. In the past, truth commissions were generally seen as a “second best” alternative in contexts where prosecuting past abuses was deemed unrealistic. Today, they are regarded as important tools for pursuing a wide array of goals, from democratization and reconciliation to human rights protection and individual healing. Early scholarship on the development of truth commissions focused on comparative democratization and on typologies that could be used to predict various transitional justice outcomes. More recently, scholars in the field of international relations have undertaken qualitative and quantitative studies in hopes of understanding what is driving the development of truth commissions. However, opinions differ as to the causes, consequences, and moral implications of truth commissions. Some attribute the proliferation of truth commissions to the growing strength of human rights norms and advocacy, whereas others argue that they merely function to manage the balance of power in transitional contexts, or serve as a basis for advancing values such as justice, democracy, and peace. These debates seem to have only intensified as truth commission scholarship continues to grow. One interesting pattern is that a number of scholars, have questioned the effectiveness of truth commissions in satisfying their own claims to investigate the “truth” about past abuses.

Article

The theoretical and empirical literature on the reciprocal topics of economy and war have developed a fertile debate. Most contributions examine the liberal hope that growing economic bonds between or within nations reduce the risk of violent conflict, while an increasing number of studies also examine the destructive and redistributive effect of war, terrorism, and genocides. The article argues that most studies in the field do not provide clear microfoundations for the opportunity-cost arguments that are typically made to justify the deterring effects of increased economic interactions. To move the field forward, contributions need to focus more on how the relationship between business leaders and the government shapes decision making in periods of crisis. Recent advances have been made to understand the economic impact of massive political violence that can only be fully understood through the use of temporally disaggregated data.

Article

Influenced by similar historical forces and intellectual trends, the fields of anthropology and international relations have begun collaborating in areas such as migration, human security, and non-state activism. One area of potential interest to international relations scholars is archaeologists’ study of the emergence, development, and decline of states. Another area is cultural anthropologists’ study of war, peace, and violence. Both international relations scholars and cultural anthropologists have begun studying non-state actors and globalization, as well as transdisciplinary topics such as gender, human rights, and nationalism. Moreover, international relations research on ethnic conflicts is growing, with many scholars drawing from anthropological works on the link between internal political processes and ethnic violence. Another area in which some international relations scholars and anthropologists have collaborated is human security; increasing numbers of anthropologists are studying cultures undergoing armed conflict. One controversial arena was applied anthropology’s recent involvement in U.S. military efforts in the Middle East. Most anthropologists agree that the use of anthropology for national defense purposes violates anthropology’s code of research ethics. Overall, the field of international relations has shown increasing interest in the question of “culture” and in the qualitative research methods that characterize anthropological research.