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International Relations and the 19th Century Concert System  

Tobias Lemke

International relations (IR) scholars have long been fascinated by the politics of the European Concert of Great Powers—the diplomatic institution said to have provided relative peace, calm, and stability across Europe in the wake of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Interest in the Concert is boosted by arguments that the institutional and normative framework of the post-1815 European international order can serve as a useful template for managing great power relations in the increasingly multipolar and multicultural world of the 21st century. From this perspective, the ability of statesmen such as Metternich and Castlereagh to keep the European peace for almost 4 decades and provide pragmatic solutions to the most vexing international problems of revolution, dynastic rivalry, and national competition is meant to inspire contemporary world leaders to provide security and accommodation in the context of declining American hegemony and rising powers. The persistent centrality of the European Concert as a distinct subject area in IR scholarship raises a number of important questions: What exactly was the Concert and how long did it last? How did the Concert as an institution of great power management change over time? How do different theoretical approaches explain the ability of the Concert to structure interstate dynamics in meaningful ways? Most importantly, is it analytically feasible and normatively desirable to use the 19th century European Concert system as a blueprint for reorganizing international relations today? These questions identify key debates across the existing literature and demonstrate the conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and political diversity of the field. They also reveal that the formation of a disciplinary consensus on the Concert remains an elusive goal. As a result, scholars should remain attuned to ongoing historiographical developments and critically reflect on their own theoretical and political priors regarding the history and future of concert diplomacy.


International Order in Theory and Practice  

Kyle M. Lascurettes and Michael Poznansky

International relations scholars of all stripes have long been interested in the idea of “international order.” At the most general level, international order entails some level of regularity, predictability, and stability in the ways that actors interact with one another. At a level of higher specificity, however, international orders can vary along a number of dimensions (or fault lines). This includes whether order is thin or thick, premised on position or principles, regional or global in scope, and issue specific or multi-issue in nature. When it comes to how orders emerge, the majority of existing explanations can be categorized according to two criteria and corresponding set of questions. First, are orders produced by a single actor or a select subset of actors that are privileged and powerful, or are they created by many actors that are roughly equal and undifferentiated in capabilities and status? Second, do orders come about from the purposive behavior of particular actors, or are they the aggregated result of many behaviors and interactions that produce an outcome that no single actor anticipated? The resulting typology yields four ideal types of order explanations: hegemonic (order is intentional, and power is concentrated), centralized (order is spontaneous, but power is concentrated), negotiated (order is intentional, but power is dispersed), and decentralized (order is spontaneous, and power is dispersed). Finally, it is useful to think about the process by which order can transform or break down as a phenomenon that is at least sometimes distinct from how orders emerge in the first place. The main criterion in this respect is the rapidity with which orders transform or break down. More specifically, they can change or fall apart quickly through revolutionary processes or more gradually through evolutionary ones.