Reputation as it applies to the arena of international relations is information adhering to a state or its leaders about behavioral or intentional characteristics relating to cooperation or conflict. The study of reputation in world politics has waxed and waned in recent decades, but is enjoying a renaissance both in terms of theoretical and empirical analysis. We review the origins of the study of reputation in world politics, as well as the post-Cold War context that contributed to reputation’s apparent demise. We then focus on the recent rediscovery of reputation through the development of new theoretical and empirical analyses. These works have overcome earlier challenges to the conceptualization and measurement of reputation to improve our understanding of how this phenomenon affects coordination, cooperation, and conflict among and between states in the international arena.
Mark J. C. Crescenzi and Bailee Donahue
Jon Patrick Rhamey, Jr. and Thomas J. Volgy
Comparative regionalism constitutes a new frontier of international relations analysis that provides a more focused theoretical lens for understanding the localized phenomena dominant in international politics. However, as is often the case with a relatively new area of academic inquiry, the subfield currently suffers from a number of challenges in conceptual agreement and operationalization conventions that have slowed progress. Having perhaps finally caught up with area specialists and researchers in the field of comparative politics in recognizing the relative importance of regional spaces, the question remains as to how to most effectively understand the extent regions—as either levels of analysis or units unto themselves—are substantively integral in generating the outcomes studied by international relations scholars. Following almost four decades of theorizing, future steps lie in clearer conceptual definitions followed by generating novel empirical findings that may complement, or contradict, existing international relations theories. While some early attempts at engaging comparative regionalism exist prior to the Cold War’s conclusion, most theorizing begins at the point at which the region as a concept is able to emerge from the shadow of international relations research’s emphasis on the bipolar order of the American–Soviet rivalry. These early explorations, however, were frequently limited to either qualitative discussion of emerging trading behaviors and political institutions or, alternatively, the exploration of “non-Western” types of political engagement that challenged the traditional Anglo-European understanding of both international relations and the conduct of political science. Building on the backdrop of this conceptual theorizing, empirical work highlighting regional distinctions began to emerge as well. This renewed emphasis on comparing regional spaces is often undertaken from a small-N comparative methodological approach to identify similarities and differences between regions, with a very specific interest in developing an understanding for the causal variation behind how regional spaces’ trajectories develop and diverge. Finally, one of the greatest theoretical challenges of comparative regionalism is the applicability of theories designed to understand the interactions of the entire international system (with primary focus on the major powers) to more localized spaces and conflicts. This is not to claim that politics necessarily follows different rules within different regions, but instead that because regional-local contexts are sufficiently unique, the combination of causal variables present may lead to very different outcomes for many phenomena of interest that scholars seek to understand. As regional importance has risen over the past 20 years, a clear set of criteria upon which theoretical development and empirical analysis can proceed is required in order to delineate the effects of regions on states and international politics.
The literature on international hierarchy is emerging as a progressive research program. This new theory of international relations is generating novel propositions that are being empirically confirmed. Some propositions, like the hierarchical peace, provide new explanations for previously identified phenomena. Other propositions on defense spending, crisis joining,e trade, and civil wars and repression establish new empirical relationships that—if they are not actually inconsistent with existing theories—were not previously identified. If the measure of progress is the uncovering of new facts, the new hierarchy studies are clearly moving in the right direction. Further progress requires more and better measures of hierarchy and continued testing of propositions derived from the theory.
Jonathan M. DiCicco
Power transition theory and Graham Allison’s Thucydides Trap Project are discussed in tandem with two complementary aims: to highlight theoretical and empirical contributions of the power transition research program, and to provide critical perspective on the Thucydides Trap Project. Conventional-wisdom approaches of this sort are distinguished from power transition theory, the empirical international relations theory proposed by A. F. K. Organski and further articulated and tested by generations of scholars. The theory’s central elements—national power, stages of power transition, shifts in the distribution of power, international order and the status quo—are identified and discussed, with a focus on key variables used to explain war and peace among contending states. A comparative, critical examination of the Thucydides Trap Project is used as a lens for spotlighting key empirical contributions of the power transition theory research tradition and the value of adhering to norms of scientific rigor. Opportunities for further growth and development are noted, with special attention afforded to essential features of the power transition theory research program, including the study of (1) the timing and initiation of war; (2) rising powers’ dissatisfaction with the status quo, and a possible distinction between dissatisfaction and revisionism; and (3) reducing the risk of violent, revisionist challenges.
Deborah Welch Larson
Social identity theory (SIT) from social psychology provides a means to explore the influence of identity and status concerns on foreign policy. The theory argues that groups are motivated to achieve a positively distinctive identity. Groups compare themselves to a similar but slightly higher reference group. Inferiority on important dimensions may lead to the adoption of an identity management strategy: social mobility (emulating the higher-status group to gain admission), social competition (striving to equal or surpass the dominant group), or social creativity (revaluing an ostensibly negative characteristic as positive or identifying an alternative dimension on which the group is superior). Applied to international relations, states may pursue social mobility by emulating the values and practices of higher-status states in order to be admitted to a higher standing, much as Eastern Europe did in seeking admission into the European Union after the end of the Cold War. If elite groups are impermeable to new members, and the status hierarchy is perceived to be unstable or illegitimate, aspiring powers may engage in social competition, which usually entails territorial conquest and military displays. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union sought to catch up with and surpass the capitalist states. If elite clubs are not permeable, but the status hierarchy is stable, states may seek status through social creativity—either reframing a negative trait as positive or seeking preeminence in a domain apart from geopolitical competition. Social creativity may entail creating new international institutions, promoting new norms, or engaging in major diplomatic initiatives in order to increase the state’s prestige. Research applying SIT to international relations has addressed the question of whether anarchy necessarily leads to conflict between states, the diffusion of values, the selection of an identity discourse on the domestic level, and state efforts at moral leadership. Critics have charged that SIT does not clearly predict which identity management strategy will be chosen in a given situation. From a realist perspective, the selection of a strategy for enhancing a state’s status is constrained by geographic position, size, and natural endowments. But this argument does not take into consideration the availability of social mobility and social creativity as ways to achieve status that do not depend on relative military power.
The European Union’s involvement with and in Kosovo is of three main types. First, it participated in war diplomacy in the late 1990s in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to the Kosovo conflict between Kosovar Albanians and the Serb forces of the former Yugoslavia. This demonstrated of the Union’s limited ability to influence less powerful actors in its backyard through its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). This resulted from the difficulty the EU found in attempting to forge a consensus among its member states on a significant matter of regional security with humanitarian implications, the limitations in effectiveness of the EU’s civilian instruments of foreign policy, and the low credibility and influence stemming from the lack of an EU military capability. Second, the EU took a leading role in economic reconstruction and state-building in Kosovo following the end of the conflict. Initially, this was in tandem with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Subsequently, the EU became the lead organization, focusing its efforts not only on the physical and economic reconstruction of the territory but also on building human and administrative capacity and democratic institutions and establishing good governance and the rule of law, especially through its EULEX mission. Third, the EU attempted to help transform Kosovo beyond democratization toward EU integration through instruments such as the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP). A significant part of this process has also been linked with EU-led mediation attempts at resolving outstanding issues between Kosovo and Serbia through a process of normalization of relations without which EU accession cannot be envisaged. Throughout the post-war phases of the EU’s involvement in Kosovo, its efforts have been undermined by the most important outstanding issue, the disputed status of Kosovo. Kosovo was set on the path to increasing self-government and autonomy at the end of the conflict in 1999, but it was still legally part of sovereign Yugoslavia. In 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence. While over 100 states recognized Kosovo, it never acquired enough recognitions to be eligible for UN membership: Serbia does not recognize it and, most importantly, neither do five EU member states. This status issue has seriously complicated the EU–Kosovo relationship in all its aspects and slowed down the prospect of “Euro-Atlantic integration” for Kosovo.
Grace Adeniyi Ogunyankin
Postcolonial theory has been embraced and critiqued by various scholars since the 1980s. Central to the field of postcolonial studies is the examination of colonial episteme and discourse, European racism, and imperial dominance. Broadly, postcolonialism analyzes the effects, and enduring legacies, of colonialism and disavows Eurocentric master-narratives. Postcolonial ideas have been significant to several academic disciplines, largely those in the humanities and social sciences, such as cultural and literary studies, anthropology, political science, history, development studies, geography, urban studies, and gender and sexuality studies. The key scholars that are connected to postcolonial theory, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and Gayatri Spivak, have been critiqued for grounding their work in the Western theories of postmodernism and poststructuralism. Given the predominant association of these three scholars to postcolonial theory, Africanists have argued that postcolonial theory is dismissive of African theorizing. Moreover, some scholars have noted that Africanists have hesitated to use postcolonial theory because it is too discursive and has limited applicability to material reality. As such, the relevancy of postcolonial theory to Africa has been a repetitive question for decades. Despite this line of questioning, some scholars have posited that there are African thinkers and activists who are intellectual antecedents to the postcolonial thought that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s. Additionally, other Africanist scholars have engaged with the colonial discursive construction of African subjectivities and societies as inferior. These engagements have been particularly salient in women and gender studies, urban studies and studies of identity and global belonging.