Historically speaking, the study of international relations has largely concerned the study of states and the effects of anarchy on their foreign policies, the patterns of their interactions, and the organization of world politics. However, over the last several decades, the discipline as begun moving away from the study of ‘international relations’ and toward the study of ‘global society’. This shift from ‘international relations’ to ‘global society’ is reflective of several important developments that are the focus of this article. The article begins with a discussion of the anarchy thematic and what John Agnew (1994) has called ‘the territorial trap’, and surveys some of the critical forces that compelled international relations scholars to free themselves from this trap. It then explores the shifts in the what, who, how, and why of the study of international relations. It considers the terminological shift from the study of international governance to the study of global governance, justified because the purposes of global governance no longer reflect solely the interests of states but now also include other actors, including international organizations, transnational corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and new kinds of networks.
Constructivism is an approach to social analysis that deals with the role of human consciousness in social life. It asserts that human interaction is shaped primarily by ideational factors, not simply material ones; that the most important ideational factors are widely shared or “intersubjective” beliefs, which are not reducible to individuals; and that these shared beliefs construct the interests of purposive actors. In international relations, research in a constructivist mode has exploded over the past decade, creating new and potentially fruitful connections with long-standing interest in these issues in comparative politics. In this essay, we evaluate the empirical research program of constructivism in these two fields. We first lay out the basic tenets of constructivism and examine their implications for research methodology, concluding that constructivism's distinctiveness lies in its theoretical arguments, not in its empirical research strategies. The bulk of the essay explores specific constructivist literatures and debates in international relations and comparative politics.
Norms have never been absent from the study of international politics, but the sweeping “ideational turn” in the 1980s and 1990s brought them back as a central theoretical concern in the field. Much theorizing about norms has focused on how they create social structure, standards of appropriateness, and stability in international politics. Recent empirical research on norms, in contrast, has examined their role in creating political change, but change processes have been less well-theorized. We induce from this research a variety of theoretical arguments and testable hypotheses about the role of norms in political change. We argue that norms evolve in a three-stage “life cycle” of emergence, “norm cascades,” and internalization, and that each stage is governed by different motives, mechanisms, and behavioral logics. We also highlight the rational and strategic nature of many social construction processes and argue that theoretical progress will only be made by placing attention on the connections between norms and rationality rather than by opposing the two.
Why we cannot truly implement human rights unless we also recognize human responsibilities
When we debate questions in international law, politics, and justice, we often use the language of rights—and far less often the language of responsibilities. Human rights scholars and activists talk about state responsibility for rights, but they do not articulate clear norms about other actors’ obligations. In this book, Kathryn Sikkink argues that we cannot truly implement human rights unless we also recognize and practice the corresponding human responsibilities.
Focusing on five areas—climate change, voting, digital privacy, freedom of speech, and sexual assault—where on-the-ground (primarily university campus) initiatives have persuaded people to embrace a close relationship between rights and responsibilities, Sikkink argues for the importance of responsibilities to any comprehensive understanding of political ethics and human rights.