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Article

Ethical considerations in International Relations (IR) usually follow from the sovereignty and anarchy distinction. The ethical implications arising from these classic twin IR banners shift the focus toward relations of inside and outside, while morality remains restricted to the national level, where reciprocal moral obligation is legally secured through citizenship, while the international continues to be branded by a constant struggle for power and the elusiveness of any moral rules. In contrast, the poststructuralist notion of difference engenders a democratic ethos of immanent critique, which regards itself as a necessary corrective in contexts where liberal discourses are prevalent, but exposes a tendency of discounting the inherently political nature of the social. A poststructuralist ethics accentuates the radical political institution of society, the aporia of justice, and the contingency of a particular morality.

Article

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

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

Matthew Weinert

Literature concentrated on sovereignty’s location laid the groundwork for the distinctive sort of ethical detachment that has characterized sovereignty in international relations (IR). While it is customary to refer to sovereign absolutism as linking a logic of prerogative with sovereignty, mainstream IR theory has reproduced its own variation on the theme and done little until recently to decouple the two. Yet beginning in the late 1970s, the literature began to entertain the idea that interdependence and globalization impede, constrain, corrode, or diminish the core assumptions of sovereignty: the centralization of power and authority, the supremacy of the state, the state’s capabilities to achieve its objectives, and the degree of permissiveness afforded by an anarchical system. Put differently, the space within which sovereignty could operate unencumbered rapidly diminished in size and scope, and the sovereign state, by losing control over various functions, was becoming incoherent at minimum, and irrelevant at maximum. If these arguments focused on a narrow question, then a new literature emerged in the mid to late 1990s that focused on, and questioned, sovereignty as authority. Moreover, the debates about globalization underscored sovereignty’s disjunctive nature. Yet by linking it so closely with material structures and factors, the literature generally elided consideration of the constitutive effect of international norms on sovereignty and the ways the institution of sovereignty has changed over time.

Article

Benjamin R. Banta

The earliest scholarly writing on “cyberpolitics” focused mainly on the domestic sphere, but it became clear by the mid-2000s that the Internet-generated “cyberspace” was also having massive effects on the broader dynamics and patterns of international politics. A great deal of the early research on this phenomenon focused on the way cyberspace might empower nonstate actors of all varieties. In many respects that has been the case, but states have increasingly asserted their “cyberpower” in a variety of ways. Some scholars even predict a coming territorialization of what was initially viewed as a technology that fundamentally resisted the dictates of sovereign borders. Such disparate possibilities speak to the ambiguity surrounding the intersection of the international system and the political affordances generated by the Internet and related technologies. Does cyberpolitics challenge the international system as we know it—perhaps altering the very nature of war, sovereignty, and the state itself—or will it merely be subsumed within some structurally mandated logic of state-centric self-help? As might be expected, research that speaks to such foundational questions is quite sprawling. It is also still somewhat inchoate because the object of study is complex and highly malleable. The cyber-“domain” involves a physical substrate ostensibly subject to a territorially demarcated international system, but Internet-enabled activities have expanded rapidly and unpredictably over the past few decades because it also involves a virtual superstructure designed to be a network of networks, and so fundamentally at odds with centralized control. As such, some argue that because cyberspace has so enmeshed itself into all aspects of society, international politics and cyberspace should be seen as coevolving systems, and concomitantly that fields such as International Relations (IR) must update their theoretical and methodological tools. Such contentions indicate that an understanding of extra-domestic cyberpolitics has not so much involved progressively developing insights as differing perspectives compete to explain reality, but rather the growing recognition that we are only now catching up to a rapidly changing reality. As part of that recognition, much of the cutting-edge International Studies (IS) work on cyberpolitics is aimed at researching how the central actor in global politics, the state, is increasingly a cyberpolitical actor. This has meant the abandonment of strong assertions about the way cyberspace would exist separate from the “real world” of state interaction, or that it would force the alteration of especially hierarchical forms of state power. Instead, burgeoning literatures examine the myriad ways states seek to resist and control cyberpolitical activity by others, deploy their own cyberpolitical power, and even shape the very cyberspace in which all of this can occur. This focus on “international cyberpolitics” thus involves tracking a complex and growing milieu of practices, all while reflecting on the possibly fundamental changes being forced upon the international system. All of this points to the likelihood that the study of international politics will increasingly also be the study of international cyberpolitics.

Article

For some time, scholars have noticed that ethnic groups that are geographically concentrated or possess a “regional base” tend to become embroiled in anti-state rebellion at a much higher rate than other ethnic groups. Countries with higher numbers of geographically concentrated ethnic minorities and self-determination movements tend to see more internal violence. Furthermore, if popular demands for independence exist, they may or may not reach serious political expression, and that expression may take various forms, from electoral action to protest or outright rebellion. The form of expression depends on institutional constraints and various factors that generate reasons for conflict; however, not all attempts at secession are done with violence. Many secessionist organizations have in fact refrained from violence, and some governments permit secessionists to organize, to contest elections, and even to pursue independence through the political process. Recently, scholarship has begun to move away from the determinants of popular demands for sovereignty to the dynamics of secessionist mobilization, including collective protest and rebellion. This research sees the struggle between nationalists and the state in the context of game theory, particularly deterrence models, and generally stresses concepts such as capability, information, and credibility. Secessionism overall remains a research frontier in both comparative politics and international relations.

Article

Agnieszka Paczynska

Globalization has opened up new avenues of investigation in many disciplines. Among these are political science and political sociology, where scholars have engaged in heated debates over issues such as the ways in which state sovereignty is changing, the role of new nonstate actors in shaping international social and political dynamics, and how globalization processes affecting patterns of social and political conflict. Scholars have extensively explored the impact of globalization on the nation-state. While some view the nation-state as increasingly constrained and weakening, others see it as the main actor in the international arena. Since the 1990s, the number of non-governmental organizations has grown significantly and increasing numbers are engaged in and form alliances with other civil society organizations across state borders. Some are engaged in long-term development work, others in humanitarian assistance, yet others focus primarily on advocacy. The extent of their influence and its consequences remain topics of often contentious debate within the literature. The debate on how globalization shapes conflict processes has also been contentious and deeply divisive. Some analysts view globalization processes as contributing to the emergence of new cultural and religious conflicts by challenging local cultural, religious, or moral codes, and imposing Western, secular, and materialistic values alien to indigenous ways of organizing social life. For others, the link between globalization processes and ethnic and cultural conflicts is at best indirect or simply nonexistent.

Article

Humanitarian intervention is the use of military intervention in a state to achieve socioeconomic objectives, such as keeping people alive and communities functioning by providing basic necessities, without the approval of its authorities. There are three eras of humanitarian intervention: the entire time up to the end of World War II, the Cold War, and the post-Cold War period. These three eras are distinguished by differences in the structure of the international system. Ultimately, the Western intellectual tradition of just war is the foundation for contemporary international law governing armed conflict. It is grounded in natural law, which recognizes the right of sovereigns to use force to uphold the good of the human community, particularly in cases where unjust injury is inflicted on innocents. Eventually, a diverse body of literature on humanitarian intervention has developed. The contemporary debate focuses on the long-standing disagreement between positive law and natural law about coercive intervention. Political scientists use realist and constructivist paradigms to analyze the motives of intervening states and to argue for or against the practice. Proponents favor humanitarian intervention on the basis of legitimacy and the consequences of nonintervention. Opponents argue against intervention on the basis of illegitimacy, practical constraints, and negative consequences. Meanwhile, skeptics sympathize with the humanitarian impulse to help civilians but are troubled about methods and consequences.

Article

The concept of sovereignty has been the subject of vigorous debate among scholars. Sovereignty presents the discipline of international law with a host of theoretical and material problems regarding what it, as a concept, signifies; how it relates to the power of the state; questions about its origins; and whether sovereignty is declining, being strengthened, or being reconfigured. The troublesome aspects of sovereignty can be analyzed in relation to constructivist, feminist, critical theory, and postmodern approaches to the concept. The most problematic aspects of sovereignty have to do with its relationship to the rise and power of the modern state, and how to link the state’s material reality to philosophical discussions about the concept of sovereignty. The paradoxical quandary located at the heart of sovereignty arises from the question of what establishes law as constitutive of sovereign authority absent the presumption or exercise of sovereign power. Philosophical debates over sovereignty have attempted to account for the evolving structures of the state while also attempting to legitimate these emergent forms of rule as represented in the writings of Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. These writers document attempts to grapple with the problem of legitimacy and the so-called “structural and ideological contradictions of the modern state.” International law finds itself grappling with ever more nuanced and contradictory views of sovereignty’s continued conceptual relevance, which are partially reflective and partially constitutive of an ever more complex and paradoxical world.

Article

Natalie Florea Hudson

One of the main arguments advanced by feminists is that we must move beyond adding women to existing structures and institutions, and focus more on the theoretical, cognitive, and even moral commitments that emphasize the very creation and ongoing reproduction of such political bodies. Central to this concern are the feminist debates about the state and the gendered reproduction of the state in discourses ranging from security and violence to development and globalization. Feminist theorists have raised various approaches and critiques against the state. Some have shown how the state is deeply and fundamentally embedded to patriarchy, while others have described the state as a terrain that can be deconstructed and reconstructed in a manner that moves away from systems of domination, gendered hierarchy, and power over towards arenas that foster inclusion and emancipation. In response to mainstream international relations (IR) theory, feminists have argued that the state and its related notions of citizenship and sovereignty are gendered social constructs. They continue to challenge the primacy of the state in mainstream IR, while also engaging the state as an important political actor in the feminist quest for emancipation, equality, and justice. One strategy employed by some feminist organizations and women’s movements in an attempt to go beyond gender balancing and the rather basic goals of liberal feminism, but to still find ways to engage the state and state actors in meaningful ways, is gender mainstreaming.

Article

Sonia Cardenas

The modern state’s role vis-à-vis human rights has always been ambiguous. States are the basic guarantors of human rights protections, just as they can be brutal violators of human rights. This basic tension is rooted in the very notion of statehood, and it pervades much of the literature on human rights. As the central organizing principle in international relations, state sovereignty would seem to be antithetical to human rights. Sovereignty, after all, is ultimately about having the last word; it is virtually synonymous with the principle of territorial non-interference. Meanwhile, humanitarian intervention would at first glance seem to be a contravention of state sovereignty. Yet not all observers interpret human rights pressures as a challenge to state sovereignty. Modern states can be highly adaptive, no less so when confronted with human rights demands. One of the principal, if overlooked, ways in which states have adapted to rising global human rights pressures is by creating new institutions. This is reflected in the formation of national human rights institutions (NHRIs): permanent state bodies created to promote and protect human rights domestically. These state institutions are remarkable due to their rapid and widespread proliferation around the world, the extent to which they sometimes represent a strategy of appeasement but nonetheless can be consequential, and their potential for domesticating international human rights standards.

Article

Yale H. Ferguson and Richard W. Mansbach

The “state” is the theoretical and empirical bedrock of the international relations field, yet it is a hotly debated concept and is routinely defined to suit the normative and/or empirical ends of scholars and practitioners. It is thus a conceptual variable. The state has so many “meanings” and connotations that the term must be carefully defined every time it is used. Perhaps the most that can be said, with any degree of certainty, is that today the sovereign state has a recognized status in international law, continues to be an important identity symbol for many citizens, and is the focus of citizen demands for the provision of collective goods. Beyond such a statement, the going gets far more difficult. Different “schools” of social science theory view the state with different lenses. Whether the concept of state has any applicability to polities that predated early modern Europe is dubious. In any event, the state and all its variants were contingent products of particular times and European space, and states have continued to adapt and evolve over the centuries to such an extent that the “modern” state bears little resemblance to its Westphalian predecessor. Indeed, modern states themselves evince such a remarkable diversity that they have little in common with one another except sovereign legal independence. That status, in turn, is not to be confused with “real” independence, which has become increasingly evident in our present-day substantially globalized world. The traditional “inside/outside” distinction offers little consolation to state decision makers who find the “outside” severely constraining their capacity to offer their citizens security and welfare. The state’s “crisis of authority” has only worsened with the spread of illiberal populist nationalism and the “return of geopolitics.”

Article

The concept of sovereignty developed along with the modern state system. Its institutionalization greatly influenced interactions among political-territorial entities and largely coopted the modern geographical imagination. An international system based on sovereign principles has never been realized, of course, and accelerating globalization, increased mobility, and a revolution in the technology of communication are challenging sovereignty’s functional and perceptual significance in unprecedented ways. Nonetheless, sovereignty’s de jure and conceptual impact remain strong, as evident in everything from nationalism’s continuing hold on the human imagination to the way that projects ostensibly set up to transcend the norms of the modern state system (e.g., European unification) remain closely bound to sovereign territorial ideas and understandings.

Article

In contrast with humanitarian access or the provision of humanitarian assistance, humanitarian intervention is commonly defined as the threat or use of force by a state to prevent or end widespread and grave violations of the fundamental human rights of individuals other than its own citizens, without the permission of the state within whose territory force is applied. In support of their cause, advocates of humanitarian intervention often draw upon and reference the authority of the notional “just war.” The four main ways by which humanitarian intervention has been connected to the idea of the just war relate to the ideals of self-determination, punishment, responsibility, and conditional sovereignty. For a humanitarian intervention to be considered legitimate, there must be a just cause for intervention; the use of force must be a last resort; it must meet the standard of proportionality; and there must be a good likelihood that the use of force will contribute to a positive humanitarian outcome. The historical practice of humanitarian intervention can be traced from the nineteenth century to the recognition of the Responsibility to Protect by the World Summit in 2005 and its application in Darfur. Major conceptual debates surrounding humanitarian intervention include the problematic relation between sovereignty and human rights, the legal status of intervention, the issue of multilateralism versus unilateralism, and the quest for criteria for intervention.

Article

Roxanne Lynn Doty

The connections between the local and the global raise a range of issues that have been addressed in social and political theory in the past but continue to provoke important discussion. Many of the constructs that have traditionally been foundational to the academic discipline of international relations, including territory and sovereignty, are inherently intertwined with how we think of the local and the global. The local–global connections revolve around three broad and overlapping themes: the critical scrutiny of older concepts and the emergence of new ones as well as alternative vocabularies; an appreciation of the necessity of an interdisciplinary perspective; and attention to the significance of the relationship between theory and practice. Many of the more recent scholarly work on the local–global continue to tackle the effects of global capitalism in locations constructed as local as well as the role of these locations in facilitating global capitalist relations. Critical geographers and cultural studies scholars have made important contributions to our understandings of the global–local nexus by focusing on the formation of social movements and localized practices of resistance as well as transversal struggles that call into question conventional spatial logics. Another important area of research that has made both conceptual and empirical contributions has produced the “global cities” literature. Students of international studies need to continue to focus on what have been referred to as “everyday” or “local” practices that have often been considered unimportant when it comes to the “big” issues of international studies.

Article

A proper understanding of the development of nationalism should incorporate the direct and indirect influences of religion. To focus on the current international order is to note that various aspects of international conflict have significantly changed in recent years, with frequent involvement of religious, ethnic, and cultural non-state actors. The type of religious nationalism affects what type of nation state develops. The stronger the religious influence on the national movement, the greater the likelihood that discrimination and human rights violations will occur. In addition, there are scholars who argue that the activities of transnational religious actors—such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and al Qaeda—can undermine state sovereignty. The premise here is that globalization facilitates the growth of transnational networks of religious actors. Feeding off each other’s ideas and perhaps aiding each other with funds, these actors and institutions are bodies whose main priority is the well-being and advance of their transnational religious community. But opinions about the current involvement of religion in international relations and its impact on international order tend to be polarized. On the one hand, the re-emergence of religion in international relations is often seen to present increased challenges to international order, especially from extremist Islamist organizations. On the other hand, some religious actors may help advance international order—for example the Roman Catholic Church and its widespread encouragement to authoritarian regimes to democratize—by significantly affecting international governments.

Article

James D. Sidaway and Carl Grundy-Warr

The state can be viewed as a form of community. Forms of human community and their attendant territorialities have been characterized by extreme variation, both historically and geographically. A profound territorial link exists between the state and the nation, with the former claiming to be a sovereign expression of the nation. A common feature of states is that they all have territorial boundaries. Moreover, the state can be interpreted as a territorial–bureaucratic expression of nationalism, found in many public rituals such as coronations and remembrance days, military parades, national holidays, swearing in of governments, and state funerals. One of the most contentious issues among states, potential states, and nations revolves around sovereignty. Challenges to sovereignty and the historical and geographical complexity of nations may be seen in terms of political landscapes as “sovereigntyscapes.” Related to the question of sovereignty are the so-called “shadow powers and networks” that transcend territorial boundaries. In the field of political geography, in tandem with significant strands of International Relations and Political Science, state power is recognized as a key, albeit not the only form, of territorial politics. The state’s relationship with the ideas of nation and citizen give rise to a host of particularisms, similarities, and contradictions that require theoretically informed yet thoroughly grounded research in divergent contexts.

Article

Muslim views on the polity represent the paradigmatic understandings of how Muslims relate citizenry, authority, territoriality, and sovereignty to the overarching influence of the Western nation-state system. For instance, the meaning of citizenry in the modern state system was adopted by several Muslim societies during the decolonization period. Faith or submission to the will of God was the main criterion to become part of the group (usually referred to as the ummah). However, orientalists regarded ummah as a synonym for tribe, while Arab linguists insisted on a religious connotation. Authority, on the other hand, is ultimately enshrined in the personhood of the Prophet who is the spiritual leader, executor, legislator, and judicial interpreter of God’s message. Since in reality the Prophet is no longer existing, leadership is bestowed on the subsequent followers, and sometimes the ummah may possess leadership status through a social contract between the ruler and the ruled. The manifestation of operationalized authority needs a political space, domain, or place, which is attainable via the notion of territoriality. This is loosely conceptualized as an ummah that has geographical aspects, cultural traits, and a lingua franca. In the 8th century, jurists divided Muslim territoriality into two analytical terms, the abode of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the abode of war/the enemy (dar al-Harb), while the Shia version of abodes rests in the Qur’anic dichotomy of “oppressed–oppressor.” The last concept pertains to sovereignty (hakimiyyah), commonly understood as “the will of God” and advanced by Islamists in the 20th century. In medieval times, it was understood as the promotion of public welfare envisaged in Shari’ah, while in modern times, Islamic modernists argued that Islamists wrongfully understood sovereignty and that the root word used in the Qur’an meant “to govern.” Nowadays, the assertion that symbolizes God’s sovereignty can be found in some modern Muslim states.

Article

B. Welling Hall and Nadira Khudayberdieva

The notion of responsibility to protect (R2P) emerged as a legal challenge to what F. R. Teson called “the moral and legal enclosure of states.” The development of the R2P doctrine coincided with the surge in popularity of the democratic peace thesis, according to which the creation of a security community rests not on the existence of a common enemy, but on the “positive shared foundation of democracy and cooperation.” The R2P doctrine was developed by international lawyers in response to the failure of the international community to prevent or react effectively enough to the commission of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing in Rwanda, Bosnia, Haiti, and elsewhere during the last decade of the 20th century and the first of the 21st century. Some scholars of international law argue that R2P reconceptualizes sovereignty as a legal construct and expands the international toolkit for the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict. The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) report, The Responsibility to Protect, lays emphasis on military intervention as a key component of R2P. Others, however, claim that R2P simply provides new, legal justifications for the use of force. International law scholarship on R2P is overwhelmingly dedicated to the question of when and how R2P might be invoked to support military intervention (jus ad bellum) and the relationship between R2P and international criminal tribunals (jus post bellum). One area that deserves attention from scholars is a “law instead of war,” or jus non bello.