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date: 20 January 2022

Cultural Diversity and World Politicslocked

Cultural Diversity and World Politicslocked

  • Elif KalayciogluElif KalayciogluPolitical Science, University of Alabama


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the state of cultural diversity in IR theorizing as an absence, a deep suspicion and an active suppression, or an outdated conceptualization.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.


  • Identity
  • International Relations Theory

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