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Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

1. International Relations and Social Science  

Milja Kurki and Colin Wight

This chapter focuses on the major debates within International Relations (IR) theory with regard to the philosophy of social science. The philosophy of social science has played a key role in the formation, development, and practice of IR as an academic discipline. Issues concerning the philosophy of social science are frequently described as meta-theoretical debates. Meta-theory primarily deals with the underlying assumptions of all theory and attempts to understand the consequences of such assumptions on the act of theorizing and the practice of empirical research. The chapter first provides an historical overview of the philosophy of social science in IR before discussing both the implicit and explicit roles played by meta-theoretical assumptions in IR. It then considers the contemporary disciplinary debates surrounding the philosophy of social science and concludes by analysing how theoretical approaches to the study of world politics have been shaped by meta-theoretical ideas.

Chapter

Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Social Network Analysis  

The Significance of Relations

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan

This chapter studies Social Network Analysis (SNA), which is a methods toolbox for analysing the patterning of social ties and explaining how and why those patterns emerge and what consequences they have for social actors. Social networks are ubiquitous in the social world, either unfolding in face-to-face interactions or digitally. In recent decades, SNA has grown in popularity, appealing broadly to students interested in complex social structures. The recent availability of data based on digital traces of social relations (e.g. emails or social media profiles) has further prompted students to study these network structures. Analysing how actors are connected through other actors via paths may indicate how e.g. information or resources flow through the network via these ties.

Chapter

Cover Human Rights

The Social Life of Human Rights  

Damien Short

This chapter looks into the development of sociological approaches to the study of human rights. It explains how sociology covered the ride of human rights through shared human vulnerability and collective sympathy, institutional threats, and assertion of powerful class interests, while anthropology deepened the understanding of socially constructed rights. Sociologists tend to view rights as inventions or products of human social interaction and power relations. The chapter then expounds on the concept of social constructionism in relation to power and social structure. It also explains that an ethnographic approach to human rights showcases how human rights function and their meaning to different social actors in varying social contexts.

Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

9. Constructivism  

K. M. Fierke

This chapter examines the key debates that have shaped the development of constructivism in International Relations (IR). It first considers the idea that international relations is a social construction, as it emerged from the critique of more traditional theories of IR. It then explores the distinctions among various constructivisms, with particular emphasis on the contrast between those who seek a ‘better’ social science, and hence better theory, versus those who argue that constructivism is an approach that rests on assumptions at odds with those of positivist method. The chapter proceeds by discussing constructivists’ critique of rationalism, along with constructivism as a ‘middle ground’ between rationalist and poststructuralist approaches to IR. It also analyses the role of language and causality in the debate between rationalists and constructivists. Finally, it links all these insights to the War on Terror and the war on Covid-19.

Chapter

Cover Issues in Political Theory

6. Equality and social justice  

Jonathan Wolff

This chapter addresses equality and social justice. In the 1980s and 1990s, the goal of social justice was challenged both on political and philosophical grounds and was largely supplanted by an emphasis on economic growth and individual responsibility. Although still given little emphasis in the United States, considerations of social justice came back onto the political agenda in the United Kingdom following the election of the new Labour government in 1997. To rehabilitate social justice, it was necessary to decouple it from traditional socialist ideas of common ownership of the means of production. Key debates on social justice concern theories of equality, priority, and sufficiency, and how inequality should be defined and measured. Of particular concern has been the place of personal responsibility for disadvantages causing inequalities. The chapter then considers equality of opportunity and social relations.

Chapter

Cover Global Politics

10. The State  

This chapter explores why the state is treated in International Relations (IR) as the most significant actor in global politics. It looks into interrelated myths that the state was founded by some divinely inspired social compact, and that today’s versions of sovereignty and anarchy are the only way to truly grasp the mechanics of global politics. These IR building blocks suggest that the locus of all power in global politics lies naturally and exclusively with the state. However, the chapter demonstrates that states are more often shaped and maintained by a myriad of power relations which operate beyond the remit of state authority. It also discusses the social contract theory variations of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches

1. Why Study IR?  

Introduction to International Relations provides a concise introduction to the principal international relations theories and approaches, and explores how theory can be used to analyse contemporary issues. Throughout the text, the chapters encourage readers to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the theories presented, and the major points of contention between them. In so doing, the text helps you to build a clear understanding of how major theoretical debates link up with each other, and how the structure of the discipline of international relations is established. The book places a strong emphasis throughout on the relationship between theory and practice, carefully explaining how theories organise and shape our view of the world. It also shows how a historical perspective can often refine theories and provide a frame of reference for contemporary problems of international relations. Topics include realism, liberalism, International Society, International Political Economy, social constructivism, post-positivism in international relations, major issues in IPE and IR, and foreign policy. Each chapter ends by discussing how different theories have attempted to integrate or combine international and domestic factors in their explanatory frameworks. The final chapter is dedicated to discussing the state of the world: are we seeing world chaos or world order? The text is accompanied by an Online Resource Centre, which includes: short case studies, review questions, annotated web links, and a flashcard glossary.

Chapter

Cover Strategy in the Contemporary World

23. Does Strategic Studies Have a Future?  

Lawrence Freedman

This chapter considers whether the field of strategic studies has a future, beginning by tracing its development in universities and think tanks as traditional military patterns of thought appeared inadequate in the thermonuclear age, and how it evolved into a broad field of enquiry by the end of the cold war. The chapter then describes the ‘golden age’ of strategic studies that created a market for professionally trained civilian strategists, and examines how strategic studies had become more diffuse as the political context of international relations changed. It also explains how the study of strategy posed a particular challenge to the social sciences, and how ethical and practical difficulties created tensions between academics and policymakers. The chapter goes on to discuss elements of realism that are useful in the study of strategy, strategic studies’ focus on the role of armed force both in peacetime and in war, and future prospects for strategic studies.

Chapter

Cover The Globalization of World Politics

12. Poststructuralism  

Lene Hansen

This chapter examines the core assumptions of poststructuralism, one of the international relations (IR) perspectives furthest away from the realist and liberal mainstream. It explores whether language matters for international relations, whether all states have the same identity, and whether the state is the most important actor in world politics today. The chapter also considers poststructuralist views about the social world, state sovereignty, and identity and foreign policy. Finally, it discusses poststructuralism as a political philosophy. Two case studies follow. The first one looking at discourses, images, and the victory of the Taliban regime. The second case studies examines Covid-19, state sovereignty, and vaccines.

Chapter

Cover The Globalization of World Politics

13. Social constructivism  

Michael Barnett

This chapter examines constructivist approaches to international relations theory. It explores whether there is a possibility of moral progress in world politics, whether some cultures and countries are more (or less) inherently violent, and whether states are motivated by power or by ideas. The chapter also discusses the rise of constructivism and some key concepts of constructivism, including the agent–structure problem, holism, idealism, individualism, materialism, and rational choice. It concludes with an analysis of constructivist assumptions about global change. Two case studies are presented, one relating to social construction of refugees and the 2015 European migration crisis, and the other considers what it means to be a ‘victim’.

Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

11. Poststructuralism  

David Campbell and Roland Bleiker

This chapter examines how and why poststructuralism engaged International Relations (IR) from the 1980s to today. It begins by analysing the interdisciplinary context of social and political theory from which poststructuralism emerged, along with the misconceptions evident in the reception of the poststructuralist approach among mainstream theorists. It then considers what the critical attitude of poststructuralism means for social and political inquiry and draws on the work of Michel Foucault to highlight the importance of discourse, identity, subjectivity, and power to the poststructuralist approach. It also discusses the methodological features employed by poststructuralists in their readings of, and interventions in, international politics. The chapter concludes with a case study of images of famines and other kinds of humanitarian crises that illustrates the poststructural approach.

Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

17. Still a Discipline After All These Debates?  

Ole Wæver

This chapter considers how the arguments associated with the different theories of International Relations discussed in the book sum up. More specifically, it asks whether IR is (still?) a discipline, and whether it is likely to remain one. The chapter examines the intellectual and social patterns of IR and the discipline as a social system, along with its relations of power, privilege, and careers. It also reflects on where, what, and how IR is today by drawing on theories from the sociology of science, whether IR can be regarded as a subdiscipline within political science, and the social structure of IR. It argues that the discipline of international relations is likely to continue whether or not ‘international relations’ remains a distinct or delineable object. It also contends that the core of the intellectual structure in the discipline of IR has been recurring ‘great debates’.

Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

6. The English School  

Tim Dunne

This chapter examines the main assumptions of the English school, the principal alternative to mainstream North American theorizations of International Relations. It first provides an overview of what the English school is and how it emerged before discussing its methodology as well as its master-concept of international society. It then considers three concepts that are the primary theoretical contribution of the English school: the social order established by states and embodied in the activities of practitioners must be understood alongside the dynamics of the international system and world society. The chapter proceeds by exploring the English school’s position on the issue of human rights and its implications for justice in international relations.

Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

7. Marxism  

Mark Rupert

This chapter examines Marxist theory’s understanding of capitalism as an historically particular way of organizing social life and how Marxism can shed light on complex social relationships through which human beings produce and reproduce their social relations, the natural world, and themselves. It argues that the kind of social organization envisioned by Marxists has political, cultural, and economic dimensions that must be viewed as a dynamic ensemble of social relations not necessarily contained within the territorial boundaries of nation-states. The chapter first provides an overview of historical materialism and the meaning of dialectical theory, with particular emphasis on Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism and the Marxist tradition’s theorizing of imperialism, before discussing Western Marxism and Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony. It then considers Marxist concepts of global power and hegemony and concludes with a case study that highlights the social relations underlying US global militarism.

Chapter

Cover The Globalization of World Politics

Introduction  

From international politics to world politics

Patricia Owens, John Baylis, and Steve Smith

This text offers a comprehensive analysis of world politics in a global era. It examines the main theories of world politics—realism, liberalism, Marxism, social constructivism, poststructuralism, post-colonialism, and feminism. It reviews the main structures and processes that shape contemporary world politics, such as global political economy, international security, war, gender, and race. Furthermore, it addresses some of the main policy issues in the globalized world, including poverty, human rights, and the environment. This introduction offers some arguments both for and against seeing globalization as an important new development in world politics. It also explains the various terms used to describe world politics and the academic field, particularly the use of ‘world politics’ rather than ‘international politics’ or ‘international relations’. Finally, it summarizes the main assumptions underlying realism, liberalism, Marxism, social constructivism, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, and feminism.

Chapter

Cover The Globalization of World Politics

11. Poststructuralism  

Lene Hansen

This chapter examines the core assumptions of poststructuralism, one of the International Relations (IR) perspectives furthest away from the realist and liberal mainstream. It explores whether language matters for international relations, whether all states have the same identity, and whether the state is the most important actor in world politics today. The chapter also considers poststructuralist views about the social world, state sovereignty, and identity and foreign policy. Finally, it discusses poststructuralism as a political philosophy. Two case studies are presented, one dealing with discourses on the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the other relating to Russian discourse on Crimea. There is also an Opposing Opinions box that asks whether poststructuralism provides a good account of the role that materiality and power play in world politics.

Chapter

Cover The Globalization of World Politics

1. Introduction: from international politics to world politics  

John Baylis, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens

This chapter introduces the text which offers a comprehensive analysis of world politics in a global era. The text examines the main theories of world politics— realism, liberalism, Marxism, social constructivism, poststructuralism, post-colonialism, and feminism. It reviews the main structures and processes that shape contemporary world politics, such as global political economy, international security, war, gender, and race. Furthermore, it addresses some of the main policy issues in the globalized world, including poverty, human rights, health (with particular emphasis on the recent global pandemic), and the environment. This introduction offers some arguments both for and against seeing globalization as an important new development in world politics. It also explains the various terms used to describe world politics and the academic field, particularly the use of ‘world politics’ rather than ‘international politics’ or ‘international relations’. Finally, it summarizes the main assumptions underlying realism, liberalism, Marxism, social constructivism, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, and feminism.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches

7. Social Constructivism  

This chapter examines the social constructivist theory of IR. It first discusses the rise of social constructivism and why it has established itself as an important approach in IR. It then considers constructivism as social theory, and more specifically as both a meta-theory about the nature of the social world and as a set of substantial theories of IR. Several examples of constructivist IR theory are presented, followed by reflections on the strengths and weaknesses of the constructivist approach. The chapter proceeds by exploring constructivist theories of international relations, focusing on cultures of anarchy, norms of International Society, the power of international organizations, a constructivist approach to European cooperation, and domestic formation of identity and norms. The chapter concludes with an analysis of some of the major criticisms of constructivism and by emphasizing internal debates within constructivism.

Chapter

Cover I-PEEL: The International Political Economy of Everyday Life

1. Introduction  

This chapter introduces the rationale for everyday international political economy (IPE). IPE is primarily concerned with the interrelationship of wealth and power across state borders. Whether through the sites of routine behaviour, the role of popular culture, or the stuff of mass consumption, everyday IPE has sought to show that the economy is continually remade in, and through, our daily lives. The chapter then identifies the lineages of everyday IPE which draw from the influences of theoretical traditions such as liberal, economic nationalist, Marxist, feminist, black, and post-structural theories. It also describes the I-PEEL approach and its implications for learning about and doing IPE. The I-PEEL approach looks at interrelated daily life experiences and explores how social relations of class, gender, race, nationality, and others sustain and subvert global inequalities.

Chapter

Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Qualitative Comparative Analysis  

Kevin Kalomeni and Claudius Wagemann

This chapter examines qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), which strives to bridge the methodological rift between case study-based research and quantitative studies. QCA belongs to the broader family of configurational comparative methods (CCMs). From an analytical perspective, QCA can be distinguished from quantitative approaches. The emphasis shifts from covariance to the analysis of set relations. Being strongly tied to a profound theoretical and conceptual reasoning which is typical for comparison in general, the analysis of set relations is based on three steps: first, a score is attributed to a social phenomenon (representing either a dichotomous or a graded set membership), usually in relation to other phenomena. Second, necessary conditions are defined. Third, through the help of a truth table analysis, (combinations of) sufficient conditions are analysed.