The end of the Cold War, the emergence of nonWestern states as influential actors in global politics, and waves of Western nativism in the United States and Europe have placed questions of cultural diversity centrally in global politics. Although the mainstream paradigms of international relations (IR), namely, realism and liberalism, have remained focused on material power and mutual gains via institutions as the cruxes of global politics, starting with the mid-1990s, an increasing number of IR scholars have attended to the question of cultural diversity and world politics. This scholarship has approached culture, alternatively, as a set of shared meanings stable over time, meanings that are institutionally stabilized, or a field of multiple and competing representations. Accordingly, some (the English school, conventional constructivism) posit culture as internally coherent and externally diverse, associating shared culture with accord and cultural diversity with discord. Others (critical constructivism, postcolonial IR) focus on the power-laden processes through which cultural diversity comes to be associated with Otherness and discord. Most of the relevant scholarship, however, defies paradigmatic categorization. These works are better grouped as interventions into IR theory and as scholarship that focuses on the impact of cultural diversity on the conduct of world politics. The first set of interventions have identified the state of cultural diversity in IR theorizing as an absence, a deep suspicion and an active suppression, or an outdated conceptualization. The IR theoretical path forward has, accordingly, been identified as the inclusion of culture, as dispensing with key theoretical heuristics of the field, or as a new focus on how cultural diversity has been globally governed. The analyses of cultural diversity and the conduct of world politics, taken together, show the intricate connections between existing institutions and norms, and assertions of cultural diversity. While diversity challenges universalizing forms of governance, the demands for the equal recognition of diversity are shaped by existing institutions. Despite key theoretical and analytical insights, the scholarship on cultural diversity can pay further attention to (a) the relation between theoretical notions of cultural diversity and cultural diversity as employed in global politics and (b) the relation between cultural diversity and other global political domains, such as geopolitics. On this, the literature can benefit from engagement with the IR scholarship on civilizations. At the same time, the latter scholarship is highly relevant to the question at hand because civilizations are key conduits of the global politics of cultural diversity.
Daniel M. Green
The English School of international relations theory has its own particular account of the history of international relations, a key aspect of which is the expansion of a set of norms, practices and institutions—diplomacy, embassies, international law, sovereignty, the modern state—out of their formative cultural heartland of Europe and to the rest of the world over the past few centuries. This is the story of “European international society” spreading out to become a “global international society,” accelerating especially during the 19th century via cultural imperialism and colonial conquest. The writings of the English School on this Expansion Narrative have evolved since the 1960s, going through phases of development that have concretized the details of the Narrative’s history, elaborated on the processes behind the spread, and attempted to inject more scientific rigor into analysis. Over time a more profound challenge has also emerged, in a revisionist shift from a monocentric story of Europe training the rest of the world in the proper ways of domestic and international life, toward a polycentric, globalization model, in which different civilizations have learned from each other to create a synthetic, multicultural international society by the 21st century. These analytic tensions are a source of creativity and innovation for the English School and set it apart from other approaches to international relations.
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.