International Relations

Sage Publications, Inc.
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  • Illiberal and irrational? Trump and the challenge of liberal modernity in US foreign policy

    Building on a growing body of literature on the application of Morgenthau’s ethics to post-Cold War US foreign policy, this article applies Morgenthau’s concept of irrationality to Trump’s foreign policy. Based on this application, the article highlights the limit of rationality in Morgenthau’s theoretical analysis. Specifically, the article argues, pace neo-realist critiques of ‘liberal hegemony’, that Trump reveals an empirical puzzle: US foreign policy can be both irrational and illiberal simultaneously in the pursuit of nationalistic universalism. This is the case, the article argues, because nationalistic universalism in Morgenthau’s analysis is not rooted in liberalism per se but the dynamics of liberal modernity. The Trump puzzle thus reveals an on-going tension between rationality and liberal modernity in Morgenthau’s theoretical analysis: rationality offers an insufficient tool to take upon the challenge of liberal modernity from which Trump’s nationalistic universalism stems. This, the article concludes, leaves Morgenthau’s concept of interest ‘defined in terms of power’ open to misappropriation to ends contrary to their original aim: furthering nationalistic universalism, rather than limiting power.

  • Faith abroad: how religion shapes Trump administration’s foreign policy

    Religion has always been an important factor in American foreign policy. From the ‘holy wars’ against the Indians in the pre-independence period to the ‘crusade’ against Iraq in 2003, faith and religion have shaped the policies of American administrations in all periods. As Bonnell observed in 1971, ‘without a single exception. . .all presidents have publicly avowed their trust in God’. And even if the president was not a religious individual before moving to the White House, Billy Graham noted, they all ‘left the presidency with a very deep religious faith’. The same can be applied to Donald Trump whose presidency witnessed important domestic and foreign policy decisions that can be linked to religious motives. This is especially clear when one takes into consideration that around three-fourth of evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for him in the elections and Trump’s statement before the House elections that ‘nobody’s done more for Christians and evangelicals’ than him. This study will analyze the religious characteristics of Donald Trump and the members of his foreign policy team, such as Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, and how their religious identity affected the foreign policy decisions of the Trump administration.

  • The EU as a global negotiator? The advancement of the EU’s role in multilateral negotiations at the UN General Assembly

    This paper aims to account for the EU’s role in multilateral negotiations at the UNGA by looking at the negotiations on the enhanced observer status. During the negotiation process, the EU experienced significant opposition and had to accept an intermediate setback in form of a postponement of the vote. Despite this, the EU’s enhanced observer status was adopted by the UNGA in May 2011 as resolution 65/276. This research contributes to the understanding of the EU as an actor in multilateral negotiations and the interaction between state and non-state actors. I argue that the EU is in the process of establishing itself as an active and recognized actor at the UN and determining its role as a highly integrated regional organization and non-state entity in the state-centric environment of the UNGA. I analyse the negotiation process and the final agreement through the lenses of a bargaining approach and as an alternative, mutual recognition as global justice.

  • Status, imitation, and affective dissonance in international relations

    This article explores the interplay of status, imitation and affective dissonance in international relations. Some states and nations selectively imitate others to correct perceived status deficits. Over time imitation can diminish ideals of group distinctiveness and independence from models and norm-setters, stimulating a condition we term affective dissonance. This complex of processes underlies some tensions in contemporary world politics. We apply the propositions to case studies of Russia and China whose leaders assert themselves as the principal loci and prescribers of national authenticity.

  • Multiplicity, hybridity and normativity: disputes about the UN convention against corruption in Germany

    In 2014, Germany became the 173rd state to ratify the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) – after more than ten years of disputes in the German parliament. To make sense of the protracted debates about ratifying UNCAC, the article follows the recent introduction of Luc Boltanski’s pragmatic sociology to International Relations (IR). I argue that this approach opens new avenues for researching normativity in hybrid arrangements of multiple, overlapping orders of worth and through ongoing tests of the right evaluation of a situation. I show that the belayed ratification of UNCAC in Germany was the result of the hybridity inherent to norms against corruption. In the debates, members of the German parliament relied on competing normative inventories to translate the term ‘public official’ to the German context and to settle the meaning of corruption. This article contributes to IR norm research by unpacking normative multiplicity and contradictions that undergird international norms and disputes about them.

  • The state of concept: A new analytical tool for political research

    This paper proposes a typology of four possible states of concepts: unquestioned, contested, essentially contested, and destabilized. The typology serves as a frame of reference and as an analytical tool for IR researchers who wish to study concepts and conceptualizing processes as a way of understanding politics. It argues that, within a context, every concept is in one out of four possible states. The typology rests on the relationship between experiences, perceptions, and concepts, aiming to rectify the lacuna of minimal attention to the experiences of many IR works which mainly focus on the inter-subjective sphere and actor-structure tensions. Thus, using the example of sovereignty in Jerusalem during the Israeli-Palestinians negotiations (1993–2001), a new state of concept, the destabilized state, is introduced.

  • Cities, commons, and the unilateral provision of public goods

    The rise of climate-active municipalities – cities and towns voluntarily creating carbon reduction policy substantially more stringent than their host countries or the international system as a whole – presents a puzzle. Countries, with greater resources and the capacity to create binding agreements to overcome public goods problems, appear to view carbon reduction as an unappealing burden. So why are municipalities, with fewer resources and no way to guarantee a coordinated global effort, so eager to take on the potential disadvantages of stringent carbon reduction? Based on examination of municipal-level carbon reduction activity in Sweden and Portugal, I argue that in fact local-level climate activity represents not a burden but a tool. Municipal climate policy forms the basis for ‘paradiplomacy’ that captures goods for cities, creates international linkages for municipalities, and allows direct participation in setting the terms of global carbon commons policy. The evidence suggests that the nature of the climate commons – incompletely structured from a legal and political perspective, and open to access and intervention by actors at multiple levels – provides unique opportunities for actors to act as makers rather than takers of global governance structure and diplomatic effort in a critical area of emerging international policymaking.

  • Introduction: cooperation, conflict, and interaction in the global commons

    The global commons – the High Seas, Antarctica, the Atmosphere, and Outer Space – are resource domains outside the authority of states. Historically, the global commons have been practically inaccessible and thus rarely subject to sovereignty claims and international regulations. With technological advances and environmental developments, the global commons have become a key site for international relations (hereinafter IR). In spite of often competing claims from state and non-state actors to these areas, the global commons have remained mainly cooperative. This is not what one would expect from most IR perspectives in a close to anarchical environment and a volatile geopolitical international environment. This Special Issue sets out to address this puzzle by asking: To what extent and why is there little conflict in the global commons? For this purpose, this introduction develops a common framework that distinguishes between three models and corresponding hypotheses of the factors affecting the level of cooperation and conflict in these domains. While two are based on realist and liberal IR perspectives, we draw on constructivism, political theory, and law to develop a third model, called the Human Heritage model. To conclude, this introduction also sums up the findings and discusses their implications for the global commons and IR studies.

  • Muddying the waters: migration management in the global commons

    Advanced liberal democratic states interdict migrants on the High Seas global commons. Why have liberal states engaged in this practice over the past four decades? Deterrence and humanitarian rescue explain part of this puzzle, but they are insufficient for understanding the patterns and justifications for migrant interdiction on the High Seas. Tension between states promoting international human rights and circumventing those obligations challenges expectations of liberal state behavior. International relations scholars must incorporate the global commons when explaining state behavior; ungoverned areas create exceptional zones for states to partially suspend their standard operating procedures to execute policies furthering their interests. We argue that liberal states use the regulatory gray zones of the High Seas to ‘muddy the waters’ in order to advance their security interests. States with the highest domestic refugee protections have incentives to circumvent their own obligations, which vary over time with changes to domestic asylum laws.

  • Outer space and the idea of the global commons

    Drawing upon fresh archival research and participant observation, the author traces the emergence and transformative idea of the non-weaponized and peaceful use of space from the 1920s to today. Building on this, the case study questions much of the common wisdom surrounding humans’ relationship with space over the past century. Although the beginnings of the Space Age are usually thought to have closely coincided with the Space Race beginning in 1955, the paper goes further back to the Spaceflight Movement of the 1920s and 30s, tracing the emergence of the idea of space as part of the global commons. This societal-level movement was highly transnational and collaborative in nature, and pushed for the achievement of human spaceflight decades before the technology existed, at the same time advocating for space as a peaceful domain for all of humankind. Using a new approach that also provides the basic ontological assumption for Model 3 of the special issue framework, the author argues that the impetus to engage in space exploration was fundamentally ‘ultrasocial’, defined as a human predisposition to be other-regarding, empathic, and inclined toward seeking wide-scale cooperation, even among strangers.

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