Joachim K. Rennstich
The global world system is essentially comprised of a variety of complex intraorganizational and interorganizational networks (or “webs”) intersecting with geographical networks structured around interconnected clusters of socioeconomic activity. These networks undergo major transformations as a result of technological innovations, especially in transportation and communication technologies. The advent of the information age raises a host of questions regarding the current and possible future development of the world system; for example, whether the evolution of the world system has come to a halt; how new, and especially digital, technologies (including information and communication technology) affect the system’s future development and structure; or whether systemic leadership continues to exert itself in a similar fashion as in the past. To put these questions in a proper perspective, it is necessary to understand the structural formation and development of the world system, with a special focus on the type of linkages (or networks) that mark the development of the world system as a global “web of webs,” along with the role of information in this development. Another debate revolves around the meaning of what constitutes power that would enable a state to exert influence over others. In this context, two themes are of interest: the effects of complex interdependencies on the rules of engagement in a new, transforming and globalizing new world system, and the rise of regional powers rather than the question of a possible challenge to the old hegemonic power status of the United States.
Robert A. Denemark
World system history is a perspective on the global sociopolitical and economic system with a structural, long-term and transdisciplinary nature. The intellectual origins of the study of world system history can be characterized by three general trajectories, beginning with the work of global historians who have worked to write a “history of the world.” Attempts were also made by scholars such as Arnold Toynbee to write global history in terms of “civilizations”. A second pillar of world system history emerged from anthropology, when many historians of the ancient world, anthropologists, and archaeologists denied the importance of long-distance relations, especially those of trade. A third pillar emerged from the social sciences, including political science and sociology. One of the central ideas put forward was that sociopolitical and economic phenomena exhibited wave-like behavior. These various intellectual strands became self-consciously intertwined in the later 1980s and 1990s, when scholars from all of these traditions began to cross disciplinary boundaries and organize their own efforts under the rubric of world system history. This period saw Gunder Frank and Barry K. Gills questioning the value of identifying a uniquely modern system based on a transition to capitalism that was said to have occurred in the West. Frank and Gills introduced the “continuity hypothesis,” which suggests that too much scholarly emphasis has been placed on the search for and elucidation of discontinuities and transitions. World system history faces two important challenges from determinism and indeterminacy, and future research should especially address the implications of the latter.
John Boli, Selina Gallo-Cruz, and Matt Mathias
World-polity theory is a widely used sociological perspective for the analysis of world culture, organization, and change. Also known as world-society theory, global neo-institutionalism, and the “Stanford school” of global analysis, world-polity theory is largely compatible with the globalization perspective associated with Roland Robertson and the cultural analysis approach of anthropologists Ulf Hannerz and Arjun Appadurai. Proponents of world-polity theory argue that rationality, purposes, and interests are profoundly cultural constructs bound up in an over-arching canopy (or underlying foundation) that endows actors with properties, identity, meaning, interests, and guides to action. The theory also recognizes the key role played by international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) in the formation, codification, and propagation of world culture. The intellectual foundations of world-polity theory can be traced to the work of its founder, John W. Meyer, as well as Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Erving Goffman. Two institutional domains of world society that have generated the most attention in world-polity theory are the responsible and responsive state, and the sacred and empowered individual. A variety of criticisms have emerged regarding world-polity theory, such as the alleged failure of world-polity research to address issues of inequality and stratification more directly. Among other issues, future research should focus on elucidating the ontological structure and normative order of global culture, as well as the historical origins, growth, and development of world culture, transnational organization, and global actor models over the longue durée (the past millennium or so).
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson
The concept of theory takes part in a conceptual network occupied by some of the most common subjects of European Enlightenment, such as “science” and “reason.” Generally speaking, a theory is a rational type of abstract or generalizing thinking, or the results of such thinking. Theories drive the exercise of finding facts rather than of reaching goals. To formulate a theory, or to “theorize,” is to assert something of a privileged epistemic status, manifested in the traditional scholarly hierarchy between theorists and those who merely labor among the empirical weeds. In so doing, a theory provides a fixed point upon which analysis can be founded and action can be performed. Scholar and author Kenneth W. Thompson describes a nexus of relations between and among three different senses of the word “theory:” normative theory, a “general theory of politics,” and the set of assumptions on the basis of which a given actor is acting. These three types of theory are somehow paralleled by Marysia Zalewski’s triad of theory as “tool,” theory as “critique,” and theory as “everyday practice.” While Thompson’s and Zalewski’s interpretations of theory are each inherently consistent, both signal a different philosophical ontology. Thompson’s viewpoint is dualist, presuming the existence of a mind-independent world to which knowledge refers; while Zalewski’s is more of a monist, rejecting the mind/world dichotomy in favor of a more complex interrelationship between observers and their objects of study.
Anupam Pandey and Fiona Robinson
One of the most vigorous debates within the discipline of international relations (IR) revolves around the “universal/particular” dichotomy: the tensions between worldviews that emphasize the “whole” as a unified entity or set of ideas—in the case of IR, the “whole” typically refers to the “whole world”—and those that emphasize constituent “parts”, and the differences among them. Discussions regarding universalism and particularism have involved the traditions of realism, liberalism, and the English School, as well as critical theory, poststructuralism, and postcolonialism. Furthermore, the opposition between universalism and particularism has often taken the form of the analysis of conflict between the sovereign state, on one hand, and universal human rights, on the other. Feminists have been particularly influential in challenging the universal/particular debate in the context of human rights. Their perspectives on human rights are exemplary of feminist scholarship in the field of international ethics more generally. Indeed, feminists are constantly striving to mitigate and overcome the tensions between the universal and the particular through their commitment to relationality. The crucial question that remains is: What should be the relationship between the universal and the particular and how should we conceive of this relationship in a non-antagonistic and constructive manner? The answer lies in conceiving the relationship between the two as a dialectical one. In order to understand the universal, it is important to accept the fact that it is derived from particular local contexts and can only be realized through the culturally specific norms and rules in each context.
Andrei P. Tsygankov and Pavel A. Tsygankov
Unique features of Russia’s perspectives on international politics as practice can be obtained quite clearly through the investigation of the debates on Russian foreign policy orientations. Russian foreign policy has been framed out of identity politics among different political factions under highly politicized conditions. Structural changes in international politics in the 1990s complicated internal reforms in Russia and the aggravation of socio-economic conditions due to the rapid reforms which intensified conflicts between conservatives and progressives in Russian domestic politics. Unfortunately, the aspirations of Russian reformist elites to make Russia strong could not reconcile with the conservative tendency the nation showed during the worsened economy in that period. This led to conflicting evaluations of Russian identity, which caused a fundamental shift in domestic sources for foreign policies. This transformed Russia’s perspectives on international politics, which brought about changes in its foreign policy orientation. Pro-Western Liberalism played a major role in defining Russian foreign policy under the A. Kozyrev doctrine, which defines Russia’s identity as one of the agents in the West-/US-centered system of liberal democracy and the market economy. Significant challenges to this pro-Western foreign policy came not only from outside, but also from internal changes that brought more fundamental changes to Russian foreign policy. This change should be understood within the cultural and institutional context of Russian society, since this framework determines the conceptualization of “national interest” and/or the formulation of diplomatic and security policies.
Georg von Kalckreuth and Daniel Warner
The term “refugee crisis” is used throughout the literature to refer to situations where large numbers of refugees or displaced persons more generally are present, whereas “humanitarian crisis” refers to situations where the lives, health, safety or well-being of a large number of people are at substantial risk. The term “complex emergency” is defined as “a humanitarian crisis typically characterized by extensive violence and loss of life, massive displacements of people, widespread damage to societies and economies, and hindrance of humanitarian assistance by security risks and political and military constraints.” A typical complex emergency consists of one or more humanitarian and refugee crises, regardless of their actual causes, and necessitates an international and United Nations system-wide response because of its complexity. Humanitarian and refugee crises have often generated international response efforts that were intended to help affected individuals, alleviate their suffering, and restore their situation from the plight of crisis to some level of normality. In addition to the UN and its specialized agencies, international responses bring together a large and diverse set of actors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and its national societies, national and international nongovernmental organizations, and the governments of third states. Their responses have drawn scholarly interest, especially after World War II. However, the literature on international responses to humanitarian and refugee crises does not offer a comprehensive and exhaustive scholarly treatment of the issue. This is an obvious gap that needs to be addressed in future research.
Raymond Hopkins and Benjamin Meiches
The term “international regime” was originally used to describe formal agreements between states, but the concept has since evolved after going through considerable critique and reformulation. A universal agreement on the precise nature or elements of a regime has remained elusive, despite a general consensus on the definition. Nevertheless, the concept of regime offers a unique opportunity to better understand international relationships by underscoring the importance of specific attributes of international, multinational, and nongovernmental groups, sets of behavioral or epistemic practices, and processes of learning. As a heuristic device, regime theory helps to explain the rise of complex interaction between states, organizations, corporations, and other institutions as well as the potential for ideas or behavior to shape the international system. Regime theory has supplemented traditional explanations of international order, including hegemonic stability theory or neorealism, by explaining the emergence of cooperation and organization within what would traditionally be considered anarchical or highly unpredictable conditions. Common approaches to regime theory include realism, neoliberalism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Part of the strength of regime theory is that it has remained an elastic concept and has been used to analyze a huge diversity of issues, with many promising results. Regime theory should continue highlighting both the ideational and material dimensions of organization and bringing together positivist, inductive, and critical approaches to understanding power, interest, and identity so as to generate a series of new conversations or trajectories for exploring the creation of international order.
John James Kennedy and Mariya Y. Omelicheva
After years of communism and central planning, Russia and China embarked on broad transformations from planned to market economy and limited political liberalization reforms. Chinese reforms commenced in 1978, while those in the Soviet Union started in 1991. The two countries took contrasting paths to economic reform, and their experiences during economic transition have been viewed as polar opposites. The reform experiences of Russia and China sparked intense academic debates over a variety of issues surrounding transition from communism to market economy. The primary source of scholarly disagreement is whether the pace, the sequence, or country-specific initial conditions determines the success of economic and political reforms. The debates revolved around questions such as whether there is a relationship between economic processes and political reforms in the transitional states, or whether economic liberalization should pave the way for political liberalization. Two dominant approaches to transition from socialism to capitalism advanced in the literature are “shock therapy” and gradualism; the former was adopted by the Russians and the latter by the Chinese. Several lessons can be learned from the Russian and Chinese transition, such as the impact of structural forces on the leadership’s policy preferences and the importance of tenable development policies to ensure the success of economic reforms. Notwithstanding these lessons, there remain a number of questions that deserve further investigation, mainly in terms of the role of China and Russia in world politics.
Mark J. C. Crescenzi, Rebecca H. Best, and Bo Ram Kwon
Reciprocity refers to the character of the actions and reactions between two or more actors. This character is commonly one of responding in kind to the actions of another. As such, reciprocity is considered one of the fundamental processes observed by scholars in the study of international relations (IR). In the realm of international politics, the study of reciprocity typically encompasses formal/experimental and empirical research. Some scholars look at ethical dimensions and the propagation of norms such as the Golden Rule, while others undertake empirical analysis of patterns of reciprocity in search of answers to questions about the existence, predictability, and diffusion of reciprocity. As a concept, reciprocity has applications in a range of IR topics such as the basic ingredients of cooperation, the escalation and return of conflict, and the adherence to international law. Within the realm of conflict processes, the iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma (PD) and formal frameworks are often used to represent arms races and similar security concerns. Related to the iterated PD is the work of Robert Axelrod, who demonstrated the robustness of the reciprocal strategy known as tit-for-tat (TFT). One puzzle on reciprocity that deserves consideration in future research is that the expectation of a long time horizon for interaction should stimulate the incentive to cooperate, but long time horizons may also be associated with long pasts. One way to find the answer to this puzzle is to incorporate reciprocity into more general models of international interaction.