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Article

International Relations theory has tended to overlook the role of Africa and Africans in the international system. Traditionally, the discipline’s most influential theorists have focused instead on relationships between and perspectives of “major powers.” A growing body of work, however, has challenged these more limited efforts to conceptualize African agency in international politics. This scholarship has emphasized the significant space available to, and carved-out by, African states in molding the agendas of international institutions, and the role of African governments and advocacy networks in influencing the trajectory of major international debates around issues such as aid, development, trade, climate change, and migration. The study of African agency in international politics continues to wrestle with two key debates: the meanings of “agency” and “African.” Much of the literature focuses primarily on the role and influence of African states rather than that of African citizens and communities. This focus provides, at best, only a partial and qualified view of the ways in which African agency is secured and exercised at the global level, particularly given the significant structural constraints imposed on Africa by global economic and political inequalities. The extent to which contemporary analysis captures the breadth of African engagement with the international system is also compromised by current state-centric approaches. It is thus necessary to examine a range of approaches adopted by scholars to deepen and nuance the study of African agency in international politics, including work on agenda-setting, mesolevel dynamics and microlevel dynamics.

Article

State responsibility can be examined from the moral, legal, and political perspectives. Historically, state responsibility was the subject of extensive work by the International Law Commission, which was carried out over 40 years (1956–2001). While the Commission’s work was terminated in 2001 with no binding conventions or treaties resulting from it, many of its final articles have become references in international and domestic tribunals. However, the Commission was unable to establish obligatory arbitration between states, to agree on penalties for international crimes, or to establish any formal legal structure with which to oversee legal state responsibility. Differences between domestic jurisdiction and international jurisdiction limit definitive, formal legal state responsibility. The United Nations, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and the International Criminal Court (ICC) all deal with state responsibility, but all reflect, to different extents the role of international politics in state responsibility. The permanent members of the UN Security Council have veto power. All United Nations member states are members of the ICJ. However, only 74 of them recognize the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ and the ICC tries individuals, not states. The use of “illegal but legitimate” to justify military intervention in the Balkans was an example of how states creatively avoid following the legal limits of their responsibility. The decision of the ICJ in the Nicaragua v. United States case also showed the importance of the role of politics in a judicial process and the difficulties of defining the limits of a state’s responsibilities. The very question of state responsibility in international politics reflects the importance of states and interstate international politics. States are the primary subjects of international law. However, issues such as climate change and the environment go beyond mere state responsibility and push the boundaries of the statist paradigm to larger global responsibilities erga omnes as well as actors above and below the state levels.

Article

The reality of war has always been connected with political, economic, and social dynamics, as opposed to the notion that it is held within the confines of the battlefield. International political sociologists argue that practices of war and peace are positioned at the crux of institutional continuities and societal change, and that it is wrong to presuppose a dichotomy between the domestic and the international. As a result, scholars have become interested in the study of warfare, which, apart from military history, encompasses various themes such as the nature of human conflict and issues of defense policy, logistics, operations, and strategic planning. One particular study is International Political Sociology (IPS), a field of research that is concerned with how wars draw boundaries, how they influence political authority and trajectories of power, and how these are integrated in the global sphere. Meanwhile, International Relations (IR) is a formal subject that addresses the origin of war, how it impacts the dealings of the international system, and the institutional arrangements that might restrict or enhance war as a determinant of state relations. The study of International Relations is rife with various analytical perspectives, from realism to neo-realism and liberal internationalism, all of which exhibit how war continues to have a central place in scholarly disciplines.

Article

Ronen Palan and Angus Cameron

Like many other social scientific terms, the exact meaning of globalization has always been unclear. It does not have a single point of origin, but emerged in the mid to late 1980s in several disciplines. In the general sense, globalization is the increasing interaction of people through the growth of the international flow of money, ideas, and culture. It first manifested in media and cultural studies as early as the 1970s—the spread of TV, telephones, information and communication technology (ICT), and other media provided an enduring image of the technological “shrinking” of space, a defining trait of globalization. Advances in the means of transport (such as the steam locomotive, steamship, jet engine, and container ships) and in telecommunications infrastructure (including the rise of the telegraph and its modern offspring, the Internet and mobile phones) have been major factors in globalization, generating further interdependence of economic and cultural activities. In connection to the study of globalization, global political economy (GPE), or international political economy (IPE), is an academic discipline that analyzes economics and international relations. As an interdisciplinary field, it draws on a few distinct academic schools, most notably economics, political economy, political science, sociology, history, and cultural studies. Other topics that command substantial attention among IPE scholars are international trade, international finance, financial crises, macroeconomics, development economics, and the balance of power between and among states and institutions.

Article

There are two primary reasons why empires are central to our understanding of International Relations (IR). First, the empire has been replaced by juridically equal sovereign territorial states over the past century. Formal empires no longer exist, and only one head of state retains the title of Emperor—Akihito of Japan. The second reason why the study of empire matters to IR is that much of the conventional distinction between hierarchy and anarchy has been subject to various criticisms from a wide array of methodological and political perspectives. In particular, International Political Sociology (IPS) has offered a framework for critical analyses of phenomena such as systemic transformation, international unevenness, and global inequality, or war, violence, and racism in international politics. Since the end of the Cold War, new theorizations of empire have placed empire and imperialism at the center of debates in IR. Contemporary investigations of empire in IR, and IPS in particular, have dwelled on a number of political debates and methodological issues, including the nature of American imperialism, the link between IR and global history, and the relationship between empire and globalization. The category “empire” continues to both illuminate the pertinence of IR to social theory more generally and at the same time highlights the shortcomings of the discipline in addressing the causes and dynamics of global inequality, violence, and uneven development.

Article

Jessica L. P. Weeks and Cody Crunkilton

The question of how domestic institutions influence foreign policy decisions has a long history in the study of international relations. However, until recently most of this research has compared the foreign policies of democracies and autocracies, with little attention to the differences within autocracies. In recent years, a small but growing body of literature has examined constraints within autocracies, taking issue with the widespread image of authoritarian leaders as unconstrained and unaccountable. Although existing research on this topic is limited, it focuses on two general sources of constraint on authoritarian leaders: constraints imposed by regime insiders and constraints at the hands of the public. In regimes with a powerful domestic audience, insiders often have both the will and the means to punish their leader for foreign policy failures. Consequently, such regimes sometimes behave quite similarly to democracies. In general, regimes with powerful selectorates or domestic audiences appear more likely to pursue peaceful security policies, to win the military conflicts they do enter, to lose office in the aftermath of defeat in war, to sign trade agreements, to adopt floating exchange rates, and to cooperate internationally, compared to regimes lacking such elite constraints. Scholars remain divided, however, about the extent to which the backgrounds of members of the domestic audience (e.g., whether they stem from a military or civilian ranks) matter. Less research studies whether the public can constrain authoritarian leaders. However, research indicates that the public can sometimes exert constraints through elections or the threat of revolt, if to a lesser extent than regime insiders. For example, the threat of revolution can make leaders who fear violent removal less likely to make concessions to end a conflict. Furthermore, antiforeign protest can tie a regime’s hands, with both peaceful and violent consequences. In the economic realm, some research suggests that the threat of inequality-driven revolutions spurs autocrats to pursue free-trade agreements. Overall, the study of domestic constraints on foreign policy in authoritarian regimes is an emerging area of research, with numerous areas for future study.

Article

The central feature of the English School is now usually considered to be its commitment to the proposition that international relations (IR) take place within an international society of shared norms and some shared values. However, an exclusive focus on norms has the effect of denuding the school of the more pluralistic dimensions that were advocated by some of the founding members of the British Committee on the Theory of International Politics. Hedley Bull, in particular, stressed that to account for international order it is necessary to view IR from three divergent perspectives: the international system, the international society, and world society. The early British Committee discussions, directed toward delineating the “fundamentals” of international theory, used the terms international society, international system, and states system interchangeably. But the idea of a states system was distinctive to the emerging English School. A distinguishing marker of the English School is the claim that not only is there a need to accommodate societal norms in theoretical accounts of world politics, but that there is also a systemic logic, and that these analytics together have explanatory power in considering how the world hangs together. The essential elements of the school’s thinking were most fully and effectively realized in The Expansion of the International Society, the central work where the international system–international society distinction is employed. This grand narrative represents a crucial contribution to the field of IR but one that has been very generally underappreciated across the discipline. To generate a deeper understanding of the two concepts, it is clear that much more research needs to be carried out on international societies and systems around the world.

Article

The English School conceived “international theory” as a way to approach the political philosophy and political speculation by examining historical traditions of international relations. The starting point for this line of inquiry was to organize the wide range of material contained in the history of ideas about international politics into a much simpler, and thus more intelligible, scheme, in the event comprising three traditions. Martin Wight called them realism, rationalism, and revolutionism, but they are also known as Hobbesianism (or Machiavellianism), Grotianism, and Kantianism. The fundamental difference between the three traditions is that each represents an idea of what international society is, from which they derive various propositions about more specific topics such as how to deal with peoples from different cultures, how to conduct diplomacy and wage war, or what obligations under international law are. For realists, international society is the state of nature, and since they see the state of nature as a state of war, the answer to the question “What is international society?” is “nothing.” Rationalists agree that international society is the state of nature, but for them it is a state of “goodwill, mutual assistance and preservation,” and so “international society is a true society, but institutionally deficient; lacking a common superior or judiciary.” Revolutionists, by contrast, reject the analogy with the state of nature. Instead, they have an immanent conception of international society, in the sense that they look beyond the apparent or present reality of a society of sovereign states and see behind it a true international society in the form of a community of mankind. Ultimately, these three traditions has exercised a profound influence on the ways in which international relations scholars think about the history of ideas.

Article

Finance  

Tony Porter

The literature on the global organization of finance has grown along with the global financial system, but also in response to theoretical innovations that suggested new lines of inquiry. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the emerging field of international political economy began to make valuable contributions to our understanding of global finance, but these focused on monetary politics or the formal intergovernmental organizations such as the IMF. By the 1990s, the literature focused on the greater complexity evident in global finance as traditional bank lending was increasingly displaced by other types of financial instruments, such as bonds, equities, and derivatives, which were also spreading geographically to influence “emerging markets” in the developing world and in countries in transition from communism. Since the mid-1990s, three interconnected changes in theory and practice are evident in international political economy (IPE) literature on the global organization of finance. First, the theoretical changes that characterized the broader fields of international relations and IPE were evident in the study of the global organization of finance as well, including the emergence of a new divide separating rational choice approaches from constructivism and other approaches. Second, the growing prominence of the concepts of globalization and global governance in the study and practice of international affairs inspired new literatures that overlapped and interacted with the IPE literature. Third, criticisms of globalized financial markets and questions of accountability and democracy directed at these markets grew and their role in structural adjustment.

Article

First-wave international political economy (IPE) was preoccupied with the “complex interdependencies” within a world system that (it believed) was rapidly devolving following the 1971 collapse of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates. The original IPE scholars were more dedicated to theorizing about the emergence and evolution of global systems than any strict methodology. As IPE developed, it began to emphasize the possibility that institutions could promote cooperation in an anarchic environment, so IPE scholarship increasingly studied the conditions under which these institutions might emerge. Second-wave IPE scholars began to focus on the domestic “level of analysis” for explanatory power, and in particular analyzed the role of domestic political institutions in promoting global economic cooperation (or conflict). They also employed a “second-image reversed” paradigm in which the international system was treated as an explanatory variable that influenced the domestic policymaking process. In opening up the “black box” of domestic politics, in particular as it pertained to foreign economic policy, the “American school” of IPE thoroughly explored the terrain with regression-based statistical models that assume observational independence. As a result, complex interdependencies in the global system were increasingly ignored. Over time the analytical focus progressively shifted to micro-level units—firms and individuals, whenever possible—using neoclassical economic theory as its logical underpinning (with complications for political factors). This third wave of IPE, “open economy politics,” has been criticized in the post-crisis period for its narrow focus, rigid methodology, and lack of systemic theory. Leading scholars have called modern IPE “boring,” “deplorable,” “myopic,” and “reductionist,” among other epithets. A “fourth-wave” of IPE must retain its strong commitment to empiricism while re-integrating systemic processes into its analysis. A new class of complex statistical models is capable of incorporating interdependencies as well as domestic- and individual-level processes into a common framework. This will allow scholars to model the global political economy as an interdependent system consisting of multiple strata.

Article

International trade and state efforts to liberalize or restrict trade generate very contentious politics. Trade creates winners and losers at the individual level, firm level, industry level, national level, and even regional level. It also generates conflict among transnational social groups, such as environmental advocacy organizations, human rights organizations, and transnational business alliances. Because of this complexity of the politics of international trade, scholars of international political economy (IPE) can focus on different levels of analysis and a variety of stages of the political decision-making process. Scholars agree that not only societal preferences but collective action problems, domestic institutions, and international factors all affect trade politics and policy outcomes. These aspects of trade politics together form the key influences on trade policy and whether it is liberal or protectionist in nature. Societal preferences constitute the initial inputs into the trade policy-making process. Understanding how different groups of economic actors within society win or lose from trade liberalization or protection is the first step toward understanding trade politics and trade policy outcomes. Once societal trade preferences are formed, they must be aggregated into cohesive pressure groups or grass-roots movements whose purpose is to influence trade policy. This is easier for some groups of actors to achieve than others. In lobbying government actors on policy, interest groups find that domestic institutions play an important role translating societal inputs into policy outputs. Policy-making institutions vary in the degree to which they are susceptible to special-interest lobbying versus the preferences of broader societal coalitions, and electoral rules and party structures also affect policy outcomes, with certain configurations creating a bias toward more protectionism or liberalization. In addition to these domestic-level influences on trade policy, IPE scholars have extensively studied the ways that international factors also affect trade policy outcomes such as the extent of liberalization and the content of what is liberalized (e.g., manufactures versus agricultural goods versus services). International factors such as the distribution of power, the character of international institutions and trade agreements (e.g., multilateral versus bilateral), transnational civil society and diffusion processes may be thought of as inputs into the policy-making process as well. Systemic conditions may constrain the types of policies that governments can adopt, or they may open the door to a range of possible policy outcomes that are nevertheless limited by the preferences of domestic societal actors.

Article

Amentahru Wahlrab

A review of introductory international relations, international studies, and global studies textbooks reveals that each field defines itself differently: one in terms of its central focus on the diplomatic and strategic relations of states, the second more broadly by including transnational transactions of all kinds, and the third focusing on globalization as both an object of analysis and a lens through which to view nearly all phenomena. However, in reading past the definitional chapters there are clear overlaps—most notably with regard to each introductory textbook’s treatment of globalization. Close examination of recently published introductory textbooks and those well into multiple editions reveals that globalization is treated as a fundamental aspect of each of the three fields. While both International Relations (IR) and International Studies (IS) scholars have contributed significantly to further broadening of both IR and IS in order to become increasingly “global,” other scholars have moved to create a new field of study called Global Studies (GS). This new field of GS developed in the 1990s as scholars from multiple disciplines began to study the many dimensions of globalization. While globalization remains an essentially contested concept, most scholars accept as uncontroversial that it refers to the many strings that connect the world such that pulling on one string in one place will make a change somewhere else. Globalization’s central dynamics include interconnectivity, reconfiguration of space and time, and enhanced mobility. GS is the only field that places the contested concept of globalization at the center of its intellectual initiative.

Article

Like the contested remembrance of historical events, collective memory shapes interstate relations, foreign and security policy, and global politics. International relations (IR) scholars studying the relationship between collective memory and international politics link the memory concept to the notions of security, power, language, emotions, gender, identity, trauma, justice, law, and the like. The study of the international politics of memory relies on a plurality of theoretical approaches gained from interdisciplinary works on collective memory. Although collective memory is viewed as a variable influencing foreign policymaking in structural terms within a positivist paradigm in IR scholarship, from an interpretive perspective, collective memory is a practice of remembrance that constitutes a state’s foreign and security policy. Following the advances of the interpretive paradigm in the social sciences, it is expected that more interpretive studies on the international politics of memory will appear. .

Article

Tanya B. Schwarz and Cecelia Lynch

Though religion was never absent from international relations, since the Iranian Revolution, the end of the Cold War, and the events of 9/11, the international community has taken a renewed interest in it. Questions center on the role of religion in peace and conflict, the compatibility of religious law and norms with different systems of government, and the influence of religious actors on a wide range of issues. A reliance on Enlightenment assumptions, which link “the religious” to the irrational, magical, or emotive, led many to deem religion inappropriate for the public sphere and a key factor leading to conflict. On the other hand, the same assumptions led to an association of “the secular” with reason, proper forms of government, and peace. Multiple scholars challenged such a dichotomous framework, arguing that “the religious” and “the secular” cannot be meaningfully separated, or that, at the very least, the origins of the category of “religion” must be examined in order to study acts and practices deemed religious in the 21st century. Scholarship that wishes to avoid broad generalizations and problematic assumptions about religion should move beyond Enlightenment assumptions and approaches that treat diverse religious communities, acts, and ideas as inherently “good” or “problematic.” To do so, scholars should reflexively engage with religion, paying attention to their own ontological assumptions and the consequences of those assumptions for analyses of religion and politics. In addition, scholars must situate the practices, principles, and identities of religious individuals and communities within broader historical and geographical contexts in order to understand the critical factors informing their ethical frameworks. There are several approaches that are attentive to interpretation, practice, and ethics, including neo-Weberianism, positive ethics, securitization theory, and a relational dialogical approach. These approaches provide alternatives to essentialized notions of religion and shed light on why and how religious actors choose some possible courses of action over others.

Article

Vidya Nadkarni and J. Michael Williams

Both the political science fields of International Relations (IR) and Comparative Politics (CP) developed around a scholarly concern with the nature of the state. IR focused on the nature, sources, and dynamics of inter-state interaction, while CP delved into the structure, functioning, and development of the state itself. The natural synergies between these two lines of scholarly inquiry found expression in the works of classical and neo-classical realists, liberals, and Marxists, all of whom, to varying degrees and in varied ways, recognized that the line dividing domestic and international politics was not hermetically sealed. As processes of economic globalization, on the one hand, and the globalization of the state system, on the other, have expanded the realm of political and economic interaction, the need for greater cross-fertilization between IR and CP has become even more evident. The global expansion of the interstate system has incorporated non-European societies into world politics and increased the salience of cultural and religious variables. These dynamics suggest that a study of cultures, religions, and histories, which shape the world views of states and peoples, is therefore necessary before assessments can be made about how individual states may respond to varied global pressures in their domestic and foreign policy choices.

Article

Liberal international political economy (IPE) is the offspring of a marriage between mainstream international economics with its focus on markets and mainstream international relations with its emphasis on the state. While clearly involving the traditional disciplines of economics and political science, liberal scholarship in IPE tends to be housed almost exclusively in the latter. Liberal IPE has always maintained a special relationship with its absentee father economics, looking to it particularly as a source of theoretical and especially methodological inspiration. In its earlier phase, the “American school” of IPE, also known by its practitioners as Open Economy Politics (OEP), was strongly oriented toward studying the societal determinants of state trade policy and indeed continues to expand upon this terrain. OEP has moved into many diverse areas since then. Having roots in both neoclassical economics and realist international relations theory, OEP has a strong tendency to limit its empirical interest to observable behavior, define interest in strictly material terms, and assume the psychology of decision-making to be rational and therefore unproblematic. Unsurprisingly, OEP has little room for ideas as interesting and important objects of study, and in turn some of the early pioneers of the liberal approach in IPE have lamented its becoming “too materialistic.”

Article

Xinyuan Dai, Duncan Snidal, and Michael Sampson

The study of international cooperation has emerged and evolved over the past few decades as a cornerstone of international relations research. The strategy here for reviewing such a large literature is to focus primarily on the rational choice and game theoretic approaches that instigated it and have subsequently guided its advance. Without these theoretical efforts, the study of international cooperation could not have made nearly as much progress—and it certainly would not have taken the form it does in the 21st century. Through this lens, we can identify major themes in this literature and highlight key challenges for future research

Article

Meredith Reid Sarkees and Marie T. Henehan

As a distinct discipline, international studies is relatively young, emerging in the United States only after World War II. The study of the status of women in international studies is also a fairly new field, appearing more recently than that in other fields in academia, including political science. In the United States, political science evolved through at least six distinct phases. The first two phases occurred during the American Revolution and the post-Civil War era, while the next four took place in the twentieth century, described by David Easton as the formal (legal), the traditional (informal or pre-behavioral), the behavioral, and the post-behavioral stages. It was during this period that the study of women in politics began. As political science began to solidify itself as a separate academic discipline at the beginning of the twentieth century, there was also an attempt to include international relations within its domain. Despite the increase in the number of women in international studies and the advances that women have made in publications and positions, the field remains dominated by men. In other words, it is still not an equitable place for women to work. In order to overcome many of these enduring barriers, there should be a greater willingness to investigate and publish more studies about the status of women and to take more proactive steps to resolve the issues that have stalled women’s progress.

Article

Benjamin J. Muller

Governmentality and biopolitics has emerged as a chief source of scholarship and debate within contemporary international relations (IR), particularly among those involved in the sub-disciplines, Critical Security Studies and International Political Sociology. Governmentality, first and foremost, is a term coined by philosopher Michel Foucault, and refers to the way in which the state exercises control over, or governs, the body of its populace. Meanwhile, biopolitics, which was coined by Rudolf Kjellén, is an intersectional field between biology and politics. In contemporary US political science studies, usage of the term biopolitics is mostly divided between a poststructuralist group using the meaning assigned by Michel Foucault (denoting social and political power over life), and another group who uses it to denote studies relating biology and political science. The foci of literatures on governmentality and biopolitics are particularly agreeable to many scholars critical of traditional IR scholarship and its distinct articulation of “world politics.” The shifty nature of both concepts, as defined by Michel Foucault and the subsequent use by various scholars, presents challenges to setting any specific account of these terms; yet the blurriness of these concepts is what makes them productive, contrary to the zero-sum, rationalist accounts of power and behavior so central to much of conventional IR.

Article

One-quarter of the world’s states are African and can contribute to international relations theory and practice as the North enters a period of ambivalence and begins to retreat from positive global engagement. Each actor based in or concerned about the African continent, state and non-state alike, advances a foreign policy to reflect its interests, often in coalition with others. East-South relations and a non-Western world, as well as Brazil, Russia, China, India, and South Africa, are important in international development and emerging powers in Africa. The diversion away from international order and peace of the United States under President Donald Trump, the United Kingdom under Prime Minister Theresa May, and the European Union, the latter characterized by unanticipated immigration and endless Eurozone crises, can be positive for African agency and development if the continent can seize the unprecedented space to advance its own developmental states and regionalisms. Such possibilities of Africa’s enhanced prospects are situated in terms of a changing global political economy in which new economies, companies, and technologies are emerging along with contrary, nontraditional security threats. In response, novel forms of transnational “network” governance are being conceived and charted to advance sustainable developmental states and regionalisms through innovative foreign policy stances outside established, but increasingly dysfunctional and ossified, interstate institutions.