An alternative to behaviourism advocated by Hedley Bull. The classical approach eschews positivist commitments to a fact/value distinction, and their expectation that hypotheses should be testable. In its place, the English school puts an interpretive mode of inquiry that tries to understand historical and normative change by engaging with ‘texts’ such as legal treaties, speeches, and diplomatic discourses. Other characteristics of a classical approach include the inescapability of ethical considerations and a realization that the study of world politics must engage with (and interpret) the dilemmas faced by practitioners.
Sets of norms and rules designed by states to structure and constrain their behaviour and to facilitate cooperation. International institutions have traditionally been the focus of analysis of the neoliberal school of thought that has challenged realists’ scepticism of their significance.
Increasingly constructivism has also analysed the role of institutions in international politics.
According to the Brundtland Report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present generation without sacrificing the needs of future generations. However, the term remains deeply contested on ethical, political, and economic grounds.Much of this disagreement can be ultimately traced to different assumptions about what should be sustained, for whom, and by what means.
Just war tradition
Western body of thought going back to scholastics such as Thomas Aquinas and revived by modern-day intellectuals such as Michael Walzer. At the heart of Just War thinking are questions about what is morally right in terms of whether force can be justified (jus ad bellum) and how it can be used (jus in bello).
An ethical perspective from which all individuals have equal moral standing, and obligations and allegiances are defined with reference to the universal category of humankind. While cosmopolitans are united in their advancement of normative commitments that cross state boundaries, they disagree on the institutional arrangement which is best suited to promoting cosmopolitan values. Cosmopolitanism is usually placed in opposition to ‘communitarianism’ within normative IR theory.
A school of thought that, drawing on empiricist theory of knowledge and positivist philosophy of science, seeks to study human behaviour in reference to observable and measurable behavioural patterns. In IR the term ‘behaviouralism’ is more commonly used.
The process of bringing to existence objects or subjects through the process of social interaction and transmission of social meanings. Social constructions do not exist in nature but have come about through acts of human creation.
A disciplinary narrative that describes the historical development of IR scholarship. The first debate is said to have taken place between idealists and realists, the second debate between traditionalists and modernizers. The interparadigm debate in the 1970s and 1980s pitted realist, liberal, and Marxist theoretical viewpoints against each other. Finally, the debate between metatheoretical positions variously described as a contest between explaining and understanding, positivism and postpositivism, and rationalism and reflectivism, engaged theorists from the 1980s onwards. This debate has been referred to as the ‘third debate’ by some (Lapid 1989) and as the ‘fourth debate’ by others who see it as a debate beyond the interparadigm debate (W?ver 1996).
Closely associated with the English school, international society describes an institutional arrangement for promoting order. It can be said to exist when there are criteria for membership, and when those belonging to international society have shared values and believe themselves to be bound by the agreed rules. The values that are shared could be minimal (toleration) or maximal (highly interventionist to promote universal values).
Advocates of democratic peace explain war and peace in the international system with reference to domestic-level variables. Their basic claim is that regime types (defined by institutional features, e.g.
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elections, decision-making structures, and culture) shape foreign-policy inclinations of national decision-makers and their interactions on the international level. Democratic peace theorists, following Kant, argue that democratic domestic institutions are conducive to producing peace on the international level, especially among democracies.
Knowledge and power
Many positivist IR theorists believe in the possibility of objective and value-neutral knowledge. Many postpositivists have, however, emphasized the importance of reflection on the social context of knowledge generation, which is often embedded in power relations. The relations of power and knowledge is emphasized especially by poststructuralists and postcolonialists who, following the work of Michel Foucault, emphasize the inevitable and mutually constitutive nexus of knowledge and power. Indeed, the poststructuralists and postcolonialists go beyond many other postpositivists in emphasizing that all knowledge is embedded in discursive constructions and strategies of power. In so arguing, these theorists are following Foucault’s concept of power, which emphasizes the dispersal of power and its location in the techniques and practices of power rather than in a power centre.
A key characteristic or a norm in the international system/society denoting the independent, territorially self-standing and self-determining qualities of states. There are many conceptions of the nature and role of sovereignty in international political life. Realists tend to see sovereignty as an expression of the power and autonomy of states. Postpositivist theorists, such as constructivist and poststructuralist theorists, seek to demonstrate the socially constructed nature of the assumption of sovereign states.
Many theorists have also pointed to the erosion of the sovereignty of states in the context of globalization.
An ethical perspective that sees obligations and allegiances to be defined with reference to distinct and discrete political communities, rather than with reference to the universal category of humankind (as is the case with cosmopolitanism). Within normative IR theory, communitarianism is usually placed in opposition to ‘cosmopolitanism’. Many realists have adopted (often implicitly) a communitarian position, defending the ethical primacy of the state as the definer of valid moral and political rules.
Defined famously by Stephen Krasner (1983) as ‘sets of principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge’. The notion of regimes was useful in opening up the study of international institutions away from focus on formal international organizations towards recognition of more informal regimes.
As seen by the Marxists, imperialism involves the deployment of (primarily coercive) state power in the service of capital accumulation. Classical theories of imperialism, developed in the early twentieth century, tended to emphasize economic determinism as the motor of imperial expansion, but contemporary recastings of the concept have framed it in more dialectical terms, emphasizing the integral roles of agency, ideology, and politics in the construction of capitalist world orders.
A contested term in the philosophy of science and in International Relations theory. Generally understood to refer to a philosophy of science that is founded on (1) the empiricist theory of knowledge (which argues that sensory experience provides the only legitimate source of knowledge); (2) an assumption of ‘naturalism’ (the belief in unity of natural and social sciences); and (3) the belief in the possibility of making fact-value distinctions (separation of normative, political, and ethical beliefs from ‘factual’ statements).
Shared values and common interests among the society of human kind.
Depending on the degree to which values and interests converge, there will be an institutional dimension to world society: in the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries, these institutions are primarily international nongovernmental organizations that are prone to cajole and embarrass states into upholding their transnational commitments. It is important to note that world society is not the exclusive domain of actors with liberal values – the content of the transnational values (and action) may be extremely illiberal.
The language and representations through which we describe and understand the world, and through which meanings, identities, and social relations are produced. According to social theorists who believe that social reality is constituted by and through discourse, claims to pre-discursive reality are unwarranted. Borrowing from the French philosopher Michel Foucault, discourse theorists recognize that power is at work in defining the terms of debate (see also ‘knowledge and power’). Discourse is a term closely associated with poststructuralism and also postcolonialism.
A central but contested term in natural and social sciences and in IR. In IR explanatory theorists tend to see theory as sets of statements that explain particular events, either in reference to a series of prior events or in reference to one or more causal variable. Critical theorists point to the role of theory in, not only explaining, but also in simultaneously critiquing social systems. Constitutive theory examines the way in which social structures are internally constituted or how ideas or discourses constitute social objects.Normative theory examines the plausibility of ethical arguments about what ‘ought to be’. Theory can also be seen to refer,more generally, to the frameworks of thought or knowledge through which we engage and give meaning to the world.
Balance of power
A dominant idea within realist and English school traditions of thought. For most classical realists, the balance of power was something that was contrived (i.e. actors had to cooperate to maintain the balance) whereas for neorealists the balance of power is akin to a natural equilibrium. For neorealists, states within the international system will automatically balance against any dominant state power. In English school thought, the balance of power is an ‘institution’ which requires not only cooperation but a shared belief that a balance of power is crucial if international order is to be achieved.
A branch of philosophy that seeks to theorize how we gain knowledge about the world.One of the most influential theories of knowledge in modern philosophy has been empiricism, which has emphasized the centrality of empirical observation in obtaining and justifying knowledge (see ’empiricism’).
A concept which both realists and English school theorists consider pivotal. For realists, order is generally considered to consist in the absence of war. While they accept that order can be achieved, for example, through balance of power or deterrence politics, given the anarchical nature of the international system, order in the eyes of realists is always precarious. For the English school, given the specific context of international anarchy, the achievement of order is the only purpose that culturally diverse, sovereign ‘units’ can agree upon. The institutions of international society – diplomacy, the balance of power, peace conferences, great power management, international law – were primarily designed to achieve the goal of order upon which the liberty of the units depends.
Hegemony or hegemon
In realist thought used to refer to an international system dominated by a hegemon that dominates the system through its military and economic might.
In Gramscian and critical theory thought, hegemony refers to a situation in which socially dominant groups secure their power by getting subordinate social groups to subscribe to their ideological vision, thereby effectively consenting to their social power and making the widespread use of direct (and obviously oppressive) coercive power unnecessary.
A set of socially constructed characteristics describing what men and women ought to be. Feminists, who have pioneered the study of gender, contrast differences ascribed by society (gender variations) with differences that are biologically ‘given’ (sexual differences).While individual men and women may not embody all the socially ascribed characteristics, expectations about gender roles serve to empower men and disempower women.
An historically particular form of social life in which social means of production are privately owned, and labour is commodified.
Entailing a constellation of political, economic, and cultural aspects, capitalism involves a relation of class power in which the owning class controls the process of labour and appropriates its product. Marx respected the historic achievements of capitalist society, especially its enhancement of human productive powers, but was scathingly critical of the ways in which capitalism disempowered and dominated human beings, preventing them from realizing the potential for freedom which its historic achievements made possible.
The paradox that occurs when a state seeks to improve its own security resulting in the decreased security of other states. Providing assurances to the contrary is not effective, realists argue, given the lack of trust between actors in a self-help world.At the heart of the security dilemma is the idea that security is a relative concept: all actors cannot have more of it.
A term used to describe theories that believe that our knowledge can have foundations, either in reason and rationality (rationalism), systematic empirical observation (empiricism), or independent existence of reality (realism).
Foundationalist theories are criticized by the so-called anti-foundationalist theorists, typically associated with poststructuralist perspectives.
A term widely used to describe the totality of state actors in global politics. While realists believe that the anarchical character of the system leads to self-help behaviour, both liberals and English school theorists have pointed to the possibility of ‘societal’ characteristics among states (see ‘international society’). In classical English school thinking the term ‘international system’ refers to patterns of contact between the units (states in the modern period) which may be structured but are not rule-governed.
When a state conducts its actions and reaches its foreign-policy decisions without consulting or cooperating with other international actors.
Explaining and understanding
A distinction introduced into IR theory by Hollis and Smith (1990). ‘Explanatory’ theories seek to emulate natural sciences and explain general causes, while ‘understanding’ approaches aim to account for agents actions ‘from within’ through interpreting actors’ meanings, beliefs, and reasons for action.
Theories that take as their key ontological objects state actors.Mainstream IR theories such as realism, neorealism, and neoliberalism take the state-as-actor as their point of departure.
In addition, variants of constructivism can also be conceived of as state-centric, especially Wendt (1999).