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Article

Postcolonial feminism in international relations (PFIR) is a disciplinary field devoted to the study of world politics as a site of power relations shaped by colonization. PFIR combines postcolonial and feminist insights to explore questions such as how the stratum of elite power intersects with subterranean layers of colonization to produce our contemporary world politics; how these interrelationships between race, gender, sex, and class inform matrices of power in world politics; and how we account for elite and subaltern agency and resistance to the hegemonic sphere of world politics. PFIR is similar to Marxism, constructivism, and postmodernism in that they all posit that the masses underwrite hegemonic rule and, in so doing, ultimately have the means to do away with it. One difference is that PFIR emanates from the position of the subaltern; more specifically, the colonized’s colonized such as women, children, the illiterate, the poor, the landless, and the voiceless. Three major components are involved in PFIR in its analysis of world politics: culture, politics, and material structures. Also, eight common foci emerge in PFIR: intersectionality, representation, and power; materiality; relationality; multiplicity; intersubjectivity; contrapuntality; complicity; and resistance and accountability. PFIR gives rise to two interrelated projects: an empirical inquiry into the construction and exercise of power in daily life, and theory building that reflects this empirical base. A future challenge for PFIR is to elucidate how we can transform, not just alleviate, the hegemonies that persist around the world.

Article

Major powers appear to behave differently from other states in the international system. They are more active and less constrained by distance than other actors. The common approach of testing conflict (and other) hypotheses across relevant dyads builds this fact into the architecture of quantitative IR. However, we argue that the dominant operationalization of major power status actually conflates two different kinds of states—global powers and regional powers. Global powers are those with both a strong interest and a capacity for long-distance engagement in IR: they build strong navies and air forces and seek to control access to the global commons. In contrast, other states have predominantly local interests and lack much capacity to project force over distance (e.g., 19th-century Austria-Hungary). Here, we develop a new, historically robust measure of power projection capability by examining the naval and air power of states from 1816–2013. We illustrate the face validity of our model by illustrating the important ways in which global powers differ from other states. Not only are global powers more active internationally, they also have fundamentally different concerns than other states. One of the strongest findings in quantitative research in conflict is the idea that states often fight wars with neighbors (either because of the importance of territorial conflicts, proximity, or both). Yet even this powerful result is nullified in dyads where one or both participants have high levels of power projection capability. Global powers are behaviorally different from other states—even many of those considered “major powers” by the Correlates of War (COW) project. We need to consider these distinctions carefully when modeling conflict behavior—particularly when declaring particular dyads to be “relevant dyads.”

Article

Poststructural/postmodern international relations (IR) is a mode of critical thinking and analysis that joined disciplinary conversations during the 1980s and, despite the dismissive reception it has initially faced, it is a vibrant and expanding area of research within the field today. Providing a radical critique of politics in modernity, it is less a new paradigm or theory. Instead, it is better described as “a critical attitude” that focuses on the question of representation and explores the ways in which dominant framings of world politics produce and reproduce relations of power: how they legitimate certain forms of action while marginalizing other ways of being, thinking, and acting. To elaborate the insights of poststructuralism/postmodernism, the article starts off by situating the emergence of these critical perspectives within the disciplinary context and visits the debates and controversies it has elicited. This discussion is followed by an elaboration of the major themes and concepts of poststructural/postmodern thought such as subjectivity, language, text, and power. The convergences and divergences between poststructuralism and its precursor—structuralism—is an underlying theme that is noted in this article. The third and fourth sections make central the epistemological and ontological challenges that poststructuralism/postmodernism poses to disciplinary knowledge production on world politics. While the former focuses on how central categories of IR such as state and sovereignty, violence, and war were problematized and reconceptualized, the latter attends to the poststructuralist/postmodern attempts to articulate a different political imaginary and develop an alternative conceptual language to think the international beyond the confines of the paradigm of sovereignty and the modern subject. The article concludes with a brief look at the future directions for poststructural/postmodern investigations.

Article

Nancy Lesko, Jacqueline Simmons, and Jamie Uva

Adolescence has been defined as a unique stage of development, and youth are marked and understood by their differences from adults and children. This perceived border between youth and adults also influences curriculum development, since knowledge for youth is often determined by their current developmental stage and/or what they need to know and be able to do when they are adults. Thus, curricular knowledge often participates in keeping youth “less than” adults. When we start with a conception of youth that emphasizes their competence or power, curricular options open. If we recognize that youth can take on political organizing or use social media in more sophisticated ways than adults, schools’ tight management of youth appears overzealous and miseducative. To rethink conceptions of youth, educators must confront the power differentials built into and maintained by school curricular knowledge.

Article

Anna Leander

The terms habitus and field are useful heuristic devices for thinking about power relations in international studies. Habitus refers to a person’s taken-for-granted, unreflected—hence largely habitual—way of thinking and acting. The habitus is a “structuring structure” shaping understandings, attitudes, behavior, and the body. It is formed through the accumulated experience of people in different fields. Using fields to study the social world is to acknowledge that social life is highly differentiated. A field can be exceedingly varied in scope and scale. A family, a village, a market, an organization, or a profession may be conceptualized as a field provided it develops its own organizing logic around a stake at stake. Each field is marked by its own taken-for-granted understanding of the world, implicit and explicit rules of behavior, and valuation of what confers power onto someone: that is, what counts as “capital.” The analysis of power through the habitus/field makes it possible to transcend the distinctions between the material and the “ideational” as well as between the individual and the structural. Moreover, working with habitus/field in international studies problematizes the role played by central organizing divides, such as the inside/outside and the public/private; and can uncover politics not primarily structured by these divides. Developing research drawing on habitus/field in international studies will be worthwhile for international studies scholars wishing to raise and answer questions about symbolic power/violence.

Article

The idea of power transition, or power shift, has recently been much in vogue in scholarly, policy, and even popular discourse. It has, for example, motivated a resurgent interest in the power-transition theory and the danger of the so-called Thucydides trap. China’s recent rise has especially motivated an interest in these topics, engendering concerns about whether this development means that China is on a collision course with the United States. These concerns stem from the proposition that the danger of a system-destabilizing war increases when a rising power catches up to a declining hegemon and challenges the latter’s preeminent position in the international system. Thucydides’s famous remark about the origin of the Peloponnesian War, claiming that “it was the rise of Athens and the fear that this inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable” in ancient Greece, has frequently been invoked to support this view. Whereas power shift is a generic term referring to any change in the balance of capabilities between two or more states, power transition is a more specific concept pointing to a reversal of positions whereby a rising latecomer overtakes a previous dominant power in the international system (or at least when this latecomer approaches power parity with the dominant power). Power-transition theory presents a contemporary version of Thucydides’s explanation of the Peloponnesian War. It calls attention to the changing power relationships among the world’s major states and provides a seemingly cogent framework to understand the dynamics that can produce war between these states and their respective allies. A careful reader will immediately find the preceding paragraph unsatisfactory as it contains several important ambiguities. For instance, what do we mean by “major states” or “great powers,” and what do we have in mind when we refer to changes in their relative “power”? Also, does the power-transition theory claim that war is likely to break out when there is a change in the identity of the world’s most powerful country? Or does it also say that war is likely to occur even in the absence of a late-rising state overtaking, and therefore displacing, an incumbent hegemon? If so, how closely does the late-rising state have to match the incumbent’s power capabilities before the power-transition theory predicts a war between them? Would the latecomer have to reach at least 80%, 90%, or even 95% of the incumbent’s power before an approximate parity between the two is achieved? Does the power-transition theory pertain only to the relationship between the world’s two most powerful states, or does it apply to other states? And if power transition is a necessary but insufficient condition for war, what are the other pertinent variables and their interaction effects with power shifts? Finally, what do we mean by war or systemic war? The answers to these questions are not self-evident. How they are dealt with—or not—is in itself suggestive of the power relations in the world being studied by scholars and these scholars’ positions in this world and their relations to it.

Article

At first sight, relations between politics and the military in Macedonia, one of the ex-Yugoslav republics that gained independence in 1991, seem to resemble the typical evolution of civil–military relations in other countries in transition. Yet, history in Macedonia is far from straightforward and simple. First, the country’s appearance on the world scene was unique: it was practically a demilitarized state with no army! Apart from that, amid the Yugoslav imbroglio it was known as an “oasis of peace.” Only 10 years later, in 2001, Macedonia found itself on the verge of an ethnic conflict, with a powerless (Macedonian-dominated) military that confronted apparently well-organized Albanian paramilitary forces. In March 2020, Macedonia became NATO’s 30th member state. Yet, the dilemma that affects civil–military relations at both the political-military and societal-military levels has not gone away. Theoretically and practically, any meaningful analysis requires detection of the troublesome aspects of each side of the triangle: state/politics/military/society/ethnicity. Though the society–state dimension is far from inconsiderable, on methodological grounds the analysis that follows is restricted to the other two dimensions. NATO membership for a transitional country usually presupposes a successful democratic transition, internal stability, and societal consensus over key national values and interests. Macedonia’s case belies that assumption. The Macedonian military has been practically invisible in internal politics, while it has been widely cited as a key asset for bringing the country closer to NATO by direct involvement in military interventions launched by the United States or NATO, starting with Afghanistan and Iraq and extending to the plans for involvement in Mali’s affairs. Behind the façade, there is silent internal strife within the ranks along political and ethnic lines (i.e., the same lines that sharply divide the state and society, challenging the country’s internal cohesion and democratic prospects). In addition, the military has to make do with scant essential resources, while the military officers’ self-respect is severely diminished by the low societal rewards for their profession. Macedonia’s democratic transition is far from complete, since the country is going through a deep internal crisis related to its societal/security dilemma, and the military is just one of the institutions that suffer because of ethnic competition and unprincipled power-sharing bargaining.

Article

Ronald L. Tammen, Jacek Kugler, and Douglas Lemke

Power Transition theory is a dynamic and structural model for analyzing fundamental shifts in global power. The theory itself, while maintaining its core concepts, has metamorphosed over time by adding new dimensions and addressing new topics. It is both data based and qualitatively intuitive. As a probabilistic theory, it has proven useful in predicting the conditions that forecast both conflict and cooperation at the global, national, and subnational levels of analysis. As a foreign policy tool, it creates historical signposts pointing toward tectonic shifts in nation state and alliance power profiles.

Article

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.

Article

Mark Souva

A large body of theoretical work posits that power shifts or expected power shifts cause war. Power transition theory, cyclic theories of war, preventive war arguments, and the bargaining model of war are discussed in this article. Indeed, shifting power is one of the most popular and venerable explanations for war. Its origins go at least as far back as Thucydides, who famously wrote, “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear this caused in Sparta.” Two major points must be discussed. First, there is an impressive correlation between major power war and shifting power, a correlation consistent with the arguments of several systemic theories of war. Second, much of the empirical research examining power shifts and war suffers from endogeneity and model specification concerns. Regarding endogeneity, more effort should be placed on identifying valid instruments and conducting experiments. Regarding model specification, more attention needs to be paid to scope conditions. Shifting power is not expected to cause war in all contexts. Precisely defining the relevant contexts and modeling them empirically is necessary to evaluate the shifting power and war hypothesis.

Article

Angela B. McCracken

Feminist scholarship has contributed to the conceptual development of globalization by including more than merely the expansion and integration of global markets. Feminist perspectives on globalization are necessarily interdisciplinary; their definitions and what they bring to discussions of globalization are naturally shaped by differing disciplinary commitments. In the fields of International Relations (IR) and International Political Economy (IPE), feminists offer four major contributions to globalization scholarship: they bring into relief the experiences and agency of women and other marginalized subjects within processes of globalization; they highlight the gendered aspects of the processes of globalization; they offer critical insights into non-gender-sensitive globalization discourses and scholarship; they propose new ways of conceiving of globalization and its effects that make visible women, women’s agency, and gendered power relations. The feminist literature on globalization, however, is extensively interdisciplinary in nature rather than monolithic or unified. The very definition of key concepts such as globalization, gender, and feminism are not static within the literature. On the contrary, the understanding of these terms and the evolution of their conceptual meanings are central to the development of the literature on globalization through feminist perspectives. There are at least four areas of feminist scholarship on globalization that are in the early stages of development and deserve further attention: the intersection between men/masculinities and globalization; the effects of globalization on women privileged by race, class, and/or nation; the gendered aspects of the globalization of media and signs; and the need for feminists to continue undertaking empirical research.

Article

Carmela Lutmar and Lesley Terris

War termination is not a monocausal event but rather the product of a multitude of strategic, political, and psychological factors. Variables at different levels of analysis, such as power distributions, regime types, leadership and leadership changes, and psychological factors are all found to influence war termination processes. Recent studies have also explored how variables at different levels of analysis interact with one another to impact the onset and outcome of war termination, across different types of conflict (interstate and intrastate). Dynamic Bargaining models contribute to our understanding by perceiving war termination in terms of the parties’ ability to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, against a background of accumulating costs and under conditions of incomplete information.

Article

Baldur Thorhallsson and Sverrir Steinsson

Size matters in international relations. Owing to their unique vulnerabilities, small states have different needs, adopt different foreign policies, and have a harder time achieving favorable foreign policy outcomes than large states. Small states show a preference for multilateral organizations because they reduce the power asymmetry between states, decrease the transaction costs of diplomacy, and impose constraints on large states. Small state security policies vary widely depending on domestic and international conditions. Despite the inherent disadvantages to being small, small states can compensate for the limitations of their size and exert influence on world politics, provided that they use the appropriate strategies.

Article

First-generation research in International Political Economy focused considerable attention on the relationship between hegemony and global economic stability. This focus was the result of a confluence of scholarly and policy concerns about the impact that the apparent decline of U.S. hegemony would have on international trade and investment regimes. Interest in this hegemonic stability hypothesis waned, however, as deeper explorations of the theoretical logic indicated that hegemony was not a necessary condition for international economic openness, and as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent “unipolar moment” suggested that American hegemony was hardly in decline. Interest in hegemony resurfaced in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The crisis triggered many scholars to proclaim the end of the era of American global hegemony. Scholars argued that the U.S. government’s attachment to a large budget and trade deficits and the resulting growth of foreign debt were likely to weaken foreign confidence in the dollar and encourage the shift to an alternative reserve currency such as the Euro. At the same time, China’s rapid industrialization and emergence as a large creditor nation was creating a new pole in the international economy that constituted a meaningful alternative to a global economy organized around the United States’ economy. Thus, a shift toward a Beijing hegemony was all but inevitable. The predicted decline of American hegemony has yet to materialize. The U.S. economy remains the world’s largest, and the U.S. government continues to play the leading role in system making—creating new rules to govern international economic cooperation—and in privilege taking—manipulating these rules in ways that advantage U.S. public and private sector actors. Moreover, the U.S. government plays this role in all three economic subsystems: finance, knowledge, and production. Empirical scholarship conducted over the last decade encourages one to conclude by paraphrasing Mark Twain: Recent reports of the death of American hegemony are premature.

Article

Technology has been given relatively scant attention in empirical international relations scholarship, despite its obvious importance to issues of military power and global security. Much progress is yet to be made into developing a fuller and more precise understanding of the interaction between technology and international relations. Synthesizing existing research will provide a clearer picture of the state of the field with regards to conceptualizing technology, the proliferation of technology, the technological component of national power, the impact of technology on international relations, the information and communication technology revolution and cyber security, and technology in international digital politics. This synthesis highlights key questions regarding what empirical research has to engage with and provides the first step toward addressing these issues.

Article

Since the inception of air power as a technological innovation, both scholars and military practitioners have given much thought to the use of aircraft during conflict settings and how it might influence both outcomes and the way states fight. Air power can greatly expand the targets that are available to an attacker, making it so that it is not necessary to get through the opponent’s military defenses in order to target their population centers or other centers of gravity. At the same time, air power can reduce the costs of the attacker, allowing them to potentially achieve their coercive aims without necessarily incurring the costs, both financial and in terms of casualties, that a ground invasion can entail. Though the writing on air power from the theoretical and military strategic perspectives is vast and informative, there is also a relatively new research agenda focused on empirical work on air power within the field of international relations. This work has expanded in the last 20 years but still has much room for growth. Traditionally, air power has been thought of as a tool used by major powers, the states with the largest militaries and also the most economic resources. Work on air power has found that particularly major powers that are sensitive to incurring costs through military interventions, such as democratic powers, are prone to using air power. The reason for this is that these states perceive air power as a low-cost and low-commitment way to engage in international coercion. More recent work on air power supports some of these expectations, but challenges others. As scholars collect new data on coercive episodes of aerial bombing, evidence shows that air power is also used by powerful autocracies, and that as technologies develop, minor powers may also become involved in the use of coercive air power, particularly when it comes to the use of remotely piloted aircraft (drones). New research has also engaged the question of how different aerial strategies can affect the duration and outcomes of aerial campaigns. Recent work moves beyond traditional distinctions between punishment and denial strategies and considers cases in which mixed strategies are used, as well as distinguishing between how discriminate the cases of bombing either civilian or military targets are. In addition, new research shows that the use of air power during intrastate conflict and against non-state actors such as insurgent groups or terrorist organizations is prevalent and a topic that should be studied by political scientists.

Article

The academic study of conflict resolution was born as as a critique of mainstream International Relations (IR), which explains why feminist theory and conflict resolution share many things in common. For example, both feminists and conflict resolution scholars challenge traditional power politics grounded in realist or neorealists analyses of conflict. They also share the core belief that war is not inevitable and that human beings have the capacity to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means. In the past two decades, with the expansion of feminist scholarship in IR, feminist interventions in conflict resolution have gained more currency. This essay reviews feminist scholarship in conflict resolution, with particular emphasis on five elements: critiques of the absence and/or marginalization of women in the field and an effort to include women and to make women visible and heard; articulation of a unique feminist standpoint for approaching peacemaking and conflict resolution, which is essentially different to, and qualitatively better than, mainstream (or male-stream) perspectives; feminist theorization of difference in conflict resolution theory and practice (challenges to essentialism, intersections, power and privilege, culture); feminist redefinition of central concepts in the field, especially violence, power, peace, and security; and original feminist research and theorizing, including field research in conflict areas, designed to transform rather than just reform the field. This essay argues that in order to further expand and institutionalize conflict resolution studies, mainstream scholars must be willing to engage seriously the contributions and critiques of feminists.

Article

Sai Felicia Krishna-Hensel

Throughout history, technology has played a significant role in international relations (IR). Technological development is an important factor underlying much of humanity’s social, economic, and political development, as well as in interstate and interregional relationships. Beginning with the earliest tool industries of the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods to the present time, technology has been an integral component of the transformative processes that resulted in the organization, expansion, and establishment of distinctive societies. The presence or absence of equal access to technology has often determined the nature of relationships between societies and civilizations. Technology increases the options available to policymakers in their pursuit of the goals of the state, but also complicates their decision making. The question of whether, and how much, technological change has influenced IR has been the subject of considerable debate. Scholars are divided on the emphasis that should be placed on technological progress as an independent variable in the study of relations between states and as a factor in analyzing power configurations in the international system. Among the scientific and technological revolutions that are believed to have contributed to the changing nature of power and relations between states are transportation and communication, the industrial revolution, the nuclear revolution, and the contemporary information revolution. Future research should focus on how these technological changes are going to influence the debates on power, deterrence, diplomacy, and other instruments of IR.

Article

Huiyun Feng and Kai He

Soft balancing is a conceptual product of one of the academic debates triggered by unipolarity in world politics. Examination of the soft balancing debate from 2005 to 2016 and critical evaluation of the progress and problems of the soft balancing research program suggest that the significance of the soft balancing debate does not lie in the answers offered by soft balancing scholars. Rather, its significance rests in the question that scholars pose for analysis under unipolarity—the underbalancing phenomenon—and the later endeavor to expand the soft balancing program beyond unipolarity. The future of the soft balancing program depends on continuous scholarly efforts to further clarify the concept of soft balancing, theorize a generalizable model of soft balancing across different cases, as well as demarcate the boundary of soft balancing theory from other research traditions.

Article

The “two-good theory” is a theory of foreign policy that is meant to apply to all states in all situations; that is, it is general. The theory is simple and assumes that states pursue two things in theory with respect to foreign policies: change (altering aspects of the status quo that they do not like) and maintenance (protecting aspects of the status quo that they do like). It also assumes that states have finite resources. In making these assumptions, the theory focuses on the trade-offs that states face in constructing their most desired foreign policy portfolios. Further, the theory assumes that protecting realized outcomes is easier than bringing about desired changes in the status quo. The theory assumes that states pursue two goods instead of the more traditional one good; for realism, that good is “power,” and for neorealism, it is “security.” This small step in theoretical development is very fruitful and leads to more interesting hypotheses, many of which enjoy empirical support. The theory captures more of the dynamics of international relations and of foreign policy choices than more traditional approaches do. A number of empirical tests of the implications of the two-good theory have been conducted and support the theory. As the theory can speak to a variety of foreign policy behaviors, these tests appropriately cover a wide range of activities, including conflict initiation and foreign aid allocation. The theory enjoys support from the results of these tests. If the research relaxes some of the parameters of the theory, the investigator can derive a series of corollaries to it. For example, the initial variant of the theory keeps a number of parameters constant to determine the effect of changes in capability. If, however, the investigator allows preferences to vary in a systematic and justifiable manner (consistent with the theory but not established by the theory), she can see how leaders in a range of situations can be expected to behave. The research strategy proposed, in other words, is to utilize the general nature of the two-good theory to investigate a number of interesting and surprising implications. For example, what may one expect to see if the United States supplies a recipient state with military aid to counter a rebellion? Under reasonable circumstances, the two-good theory can predict that the recipient would increase its change-seeking behavior by, for instance, engaging in negotiations to lower trade barriers.