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The Rise of Linear Borders  

Kerry Goettlich

Since roughly the late 19th century, international borders have generally been characterized by linearity, or the appearance as a series of one-dimensional points, connected by straight lines. Prior to this, various kinds of frontiers existed globally, some of them being more linear than others, but most included some kind of formal ambiguity. International relations (IR) often takes for granted the historical process which brought about the global linearization of borders, culminating in the late 19th century and still ongoing in ocean spaces and in outer space. But because cross-border relations are the main substance of inquiry in IR, many theories and areas of study in IR contain some perspective on that process, at least implicitly.

Article

Spatiality and World Politics  

Duncan Weaver

Space has always animated world politics, but three spatial orientations are striking. First, the Westphalian orientation deems space a sovereign power container. Second, the scalar takes recourse to the local, regional, national, and global spaces in which world politics is played out. Third, the relational deems space a (re)produced, sociohistorically contingent phenomenon that changes according to the humans occupying it and the thought, power, and resources flowing through it. Under this latter orientation, space is lived, lived in and lived through. Whilst relationality, to a degree, calls into question the received wisdoms of International Relations (IR), the fixity of sovereignty and territory remain. The orientations coexist concomitantly, reflecting the “many worlds” humankind occupies.

Article

Explaining Why People Move: Intra and Interdisciplinary Debates about the Causes of International Migration  

Deniz Sert

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.