European Journal of International Relations

Sage Publications, Inc.
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Latest documents

  • Roleplay, realpolitik and ‘great powerness’: the logical distinction between survival and social performance in grand strategy

    States exist in an anarchic international system in which survival is the necessary precursor to fulfilling all of their citizens’ other interests. Yet states’ inhabitants – and the policymakers they empower – also hold social ideas about other ends that the state should value and how it should pursue them: the ‘role’ they expect their state to ‘play’ in international politics. Furthermore, such role-performative impulses can motivate external behaviours inimical to security-maximization – and thus to the state survival necessary for future interest-fulfilment. This article therefore investigates the tensions between roleplay and realpolitik in grand strategy. It does so through interrogation of four mutual incompatibilities in role-performative and realpolitikal understandings of ‘Great Powerness’, a core – but conceptually contested – international-systemic ordering unit, thereby demonstrating their necessary logical distinctiveness. The argument is illustrated with brief case studies on the United States, China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. Identification of such security-imperilling role motives thus buttresses neoclassical realist theory; specifically, as an account of strategic deviation from the security-maximizing realist baseline. Such conclusions carry important implications for both scholarship and statecraft, meanwhile. For once we recognize that roleplay and realpolitik are necessarily distinct incentive structures, role motives’ advocates can no longer claim that discharging such performative social preferences necessarily bolsters survival prospects too.

  • December 2021 issue: ‘Congratulations, farewell, and welcome: From the editors’
  • Decolonizing Self-Determination: Haudenosaunee Passports and Negotiated Sovereignty

    The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) recognises both Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and simultaneously offers protections in regard to states’ right to sovereignty and territorial integrity vis-à-vis Indigenous peoples’ claims. Often, this is considered an internal inconsistency of the UNDRIP, and another common critique is that Indigenous peoples were only recognised as having a diminished right to self-determination, which is less than what everyone else enjoys. This article stands in contrast to these two lines of critique, arguing that the UNDRIP’s articulation of self-determination is potentially ushering in a broadening, and possible reshaping, of self-determination, which has been increasingly decoupled from singular Westphalian notions of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘territoriality’ in ways that require ongoing negotiation between peoples and states. This case study of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s issuance and use of their passports, based on original fieldwork including a set of qualitative interviews with key informants, demonstrates how the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is pushing the practice and understanding of self-determination in multiple, new directions to include plural sovereignties in deeply significant ways concerning International Relations in both theory and in practice.

  • Critical theory in crisis? a reconsideration

    The recent rise of populism has generated a resurgence of interest in critical theory, in the wider public debate and in academia—with critical theory being variously accused of paving the way for post-truth politics, hailed as explaining the rise of populism, or criticized for failing to achieve its emancipatory political goals. Failure of the latter kind, many International Relations scholars argue, calls for a fundamental reform of critical theory if it is to address current political developments. Investigating this claim, this article makes three contributions: First, an empirical account shows that, far from failing, critical theory has been politically highly successful. Second, a theoretical reconstruction of critical theory shows that it is precisely this success that leads to the alienation of critical theorists from their own approach. In light of this analysis, third, the article concludes that the task of critical theory in times of Brexit and Trump does not lie in abandoning its core principles but in systematically applying them to a new historical conjuncture.

  • Alliances, signals of support, and military effort

    Do alliances allow states to share defense burdens and reduce military spending? Despite expectations that alliances should lead to decreased military spending, the empirical record offers mixed findings. We argue that not all alliances are reliable; thus, only allies that receive signals of reassurance will rely on the external security of allies and subsequently reduce their military spending. Compared to states that do not receive additional signals, these reassured allies will have greater confidence that an ally will come to their aid. As a result, third-party aggressors are deterred and the demand for military spending will decrease. We test this argument with an analysis of US signals of support, alliance commitments, and military spending. We find that American alliances without additional signals of support have a negligible effect on military spending. Yet, we observe that alliances are negatively associated with military spending when signals of support are present. Additional tests indicate that alliance commitments, coupled with strong US signals, are also associated with lower military spending in the rivals of US allies. Our results potentially help explain the mixed evidence in the arms-versus-allies and burden-sharing literatures and further demonstrate that extra-alliance signals play an important role in the practice of International Relations.

  • Populism and foreign aid

    Pundits, development practitioners, and scholars worry that rising populism and international disengagement in developed countries have negative consequences on foreign aid. However, how populism and foreign aid go together is not well understood. This paper provides the first systematic examination of this relationship. We adopt the popular ideational definition of populism, unpack populism into its core “thin” elements, and examine them within a delegation model of aid policy—a prominent framework in the aid literature. In so doing, we identify specific domestic political processes through which the core components of populism may affect aid spending. We argue that increases in one component of populism—anti-elitism—and in nativist sentiments, an associated concept, in a donor country lead to a reduction in aid spending through a public opinion channel. We supply both micro- and macro-evidence for our arguments by fielding surveys in the United States and United Kingdom as well as by analyzing aid spending by a large number of OECD donors. Our findings show that nativism and anti-elitism, rather than populism per se, influence not only individual attitudes toward aid but also actual aid policy and generate important insights into how to address populist challenges to foreign aid. Beyond these, our study contributes to the broader International Relations literature by demonstrating one useful analytical approach to studying populism, nativism, and foreign policy.

  • The realist science of politics: the art of understanding political practice

    Classical Realism represents a science of politics that is distinct from the conventional understanding of science in International Relations. The object of Realist science is the art of politics, which is the development of a sensibility based on practical knowledge to balance values and interests and to make judgments. Realism’s science and its object led to its tagging as “wisdom literature.” This article illustrates that reading Hans Morgenthau’s and Raymond Aron’s work shows how their hermeneutic form of enquiry provides insights into the character of international politics, which conventional understandings do not. Following the example of Morgenthau, the article, first, illustrates how Realism, rather than providing a theory of practice, builds on a science with the purpose to judge knowledge. Realism’s science analyzes the objective conditions of politics, theorizes them, and takes into account the requirements of political practice under contingencies and considerations of morality. The article, second, examines Aron’s take on political practice in the context of the Cold War and politics that built on knowledge without experience to judge knowledge. Morgenthau and Aron’s science helps to capture Realism’s take on politics as an art, how to explicate Realism’s epistemological foundation and value in studying international politics. Doing so, the article, third, contributes to practice theory by clarifying several aspects of Realism’s science. In particular, it shows how Realism captures the art of politics by conceptualizing practice as a form of human conduct thereby offering a more coherent notion of practice than current practice theory.

  • Dispute inflation

    Much work has examined the phenomenon of dispute escalation, whereby the concrete measures state actors take edge them closer to war. Less attention has been devoted to the ways in which state actors’ perceptions of what is at stake in a dispute can also change, with important consequences for the likelihood of conflict. This paper examines the phenomenon of dispute inflation – wherein a contest over an object or issue assumes ever greater stakes and significance for its protagonists – and identifies three different mechanisms that can generate increasing non-material stakes. The upshot is that theoretically even a minor dispute can grow into a major conflict due to swelling stakes, especially when dispute inflation spirals. To illustrate these dynamics at work, this paper looks to recent developments in the dispute between the People’s Republic of China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

  • An international hierarchy of science: conquest, cooperation, and the 1959 Antarctic Treaty System

    The Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), created in 1959 to govern the southern continent, is often lauded as an illustration of science’s potential to inspire peaceful and rational International Relations. This article critically examines this optimistic view of science’s role in international politics by focusing on how science as a global hierarchical structure operated as a gatekeeper to an exclusive Antarctic club. I argue that in the early 20th century, the conduct of science in Antarctica was entwined with global and imperial hierarchies. As what Mattern and Zarakol call a broad hierarchy, science worked both as a civilized marker of international status as well as a social performance that legitimated actors’ imperial interests in Antarctica. The 1959 ATS relied on science as an existing broad hierarchy to enable competing states to achieve a functional bargain and ‘freeze’ sovereignty claims, whilst at the same time institutionalizing and reinforcing the legitimacy of science in maintaining international inequalities. In making this argument, I stress the role of formal international institutions in bridging our analysis of broad and functional hierarchies while also highlighting the importance of scientific hierarchies in constituting the current international order.

  • Arms imports in the wake of embargoes

    Do states circumvent embargoes by supplying weapons across borders to sanctioned countries? We report evidence that arms imports systematically increase in the neighborhood of conflict states under an embargo. Using several alternative research-design specifications, we contend that this pattern is consistent with arms exporters shifting the arms trade to neighbors of conflict states under sanctions, where it is easier to move arms clandestinely across the border. Despite the lack of direct evidence of clandestine cross-border trafficking, this research contributes to the development of more sophisticated screening tools to identify potential non-compliers with arms embargoes for direct follow-up investigations.

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