Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Research Abstracts

Culture Is The Primary Force Shaping International Politics In The Contemporary Era – A Theoretical Discussion

Research Discipline - Concepts and Methods in International Relations


As international politics is practiced in an increasingly global structure of interdependence, culture is making a major breakthrough within the theories of international relations. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the triumph of the Western political and economical system, world politics has been transformed and has produced a progressive shift of balance within the theoretical discourses. Traditionally, mainstream IR has brutally marginalized the role of culture and identity in international politics by heavily focusing on material facts where ideas did not matter. But postpositivist, constructivist, poststructuralist and feminist theorists have fiercely battled to bring culture and identity to the forefront of the discipline by highlighting the deficiencies and the limitations of the neo-realist paradigm.

This paper argues that culture is primary in shaping all major elements of international politics. The main argument is divided into three parts. First, it seeks to define culture, identify its location within IR’s theoretical spectrum and show how some critical approaches have battled to highlight its primacy. Second, it analyses interest and power, key neo-realist concepts, and proves that culture and knowledge are crucial factors in understanding them. Third, it analyses the transformative qualities of structure by looking at cases of conflict and economic interdependence, showing that global interaction does not take place in a static world. The paper concludes by emphasizing the primacy of culture and identity as forces that shape contemporary international politics.


World of States or ‘State’ of the World?

Between the State and the Individual, there is a disputed narrative of International Relations.

Research Discipline - Human Rights and Migration, International Relations


The State is not going anywhere! This becomes increasingly evident as one seeks to draw a fair account of world politics today. However, there can be little doubt that human rights, which place the Individual at their heart, are constantly changing the language, strategy and subsequently the character of the liberal democratic State.[1] IR theorists on all sides have engaged in a scholarly war to make sense of recent developments without a clear outcome. On the one side, neo-realists such as Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer insist on their rational choice theory and its state-centrist approach. On the opposite side, confronting this traditional (possibly American) account of IR, stand critical theorists such as Alexander Wendt and Mervyn Frost with their emphasis on the Individual and its human rights. The two camps do not have to be eternal enemies. Rather, they could produce a very powerful alliance and contribute immensely to our understanding of today’s world politics.

My argument throughout this short monograph is based on the analysis of recent developments of human rights in a world of states and investigates how the individualisation of the nation-state has produced a multiplicity of micro-strategies that is encouraging a more active supranational citizenship within the international system of world politics. The universal language of human rights is transforming the role of citizenship through its powerful influence on the legal spheres of democratic states. Contrary to what some scholars believe, the advances of ethics and human rights within the administrative and enforcement structures do not weaken the State. Instead, they strengthen its legitimacy.

As I intend to show throughout the analysis that follows, the State and the Individual are inseparable – the sovereign cannot survive without individual rights and rights cannot be enjoyed without the protection of the sovereign.

[1] The capitalization of “Individual” and “State” throughout this essay implies the presumption of both as central players in world politics.


Still Knocking on IR’s Doors…

Feminist approaches to IR have enriched the discipline, but they are not central to it.

Research Discipline - International Relations


When travelling across different camps and theoretical approaches within international relations, it becomes clearly evident that women are almost completely absent from this traditionally men’s field of study. This is the backbone of feminist theory, which came very late into the domain of international relations. Its main purpose has been to identify women as active actors in global politics and give way to a whole new dimension of understanding the international structure by questioning the very rules that have constructed such a practice. However, just as there are personal views there are strands of feminism but if one had to choose between IR feminist scholars, the four most influential canonical writers would be Jean Bethke Elshtain, Cynthia Enloe, J. Ann Tickner and Christine Sylvester. Although each of these theorists brings a different approach of feminism, their work deals largely with gender (women in this case) as well as its social construction in local and international politics.

Despite its developments, feminist scholarship is often strongly resisted by academic gatekeepers, for it reveals the partial and gendered nature of intellectual work which is built on (elite?) men’s experiences.[1] This paper looks at the contributions of feminism as a whole and analyses its place among mainstream IR theories.

[1] Pettman (2001), p. 583.


Is Terrorism Really the Most Dangereous Threat
to European Security Today, or Has it Simply
Captured the Headlines of the Popular Media?

Research Discipline - European Security, International Relations


September 11th 2001, strengthened the view that the post-Cold War world was a fundamentally different environment where the nature of threats and the multiplicity of international actors had dramatically transformed the conduct of post-modern states towards each-other. Terrorism has been a major defining force in today’s international order. It has struck at the heart of powerful nations, it has shown that it is increasingly sophisticated and transnational and has created serious divergences between powerful military alliances.

This paper argues that terrorism is (truly) the most dangerous threat to European security today and that failure to accept it as such can result in catastrophic consequences for the future of world security. The main argument is divided into three sections. First, it looks at how the European Union defines terrorism and the tools it has employed to combat it. Second, it argues that the EU’s unique perception and muddled handling of it can in turn threaten NATO’s future and have grave effects upon the transatlantic alliance. Finally, it suggests that as terrorism is changing into a global activity, the EU needs to strengthen its international security role not only at the diplomatic level but through military means too.


Does the Transatlantic Security
Relationship have a future?

Research Discipline - European Security, Defense Studies, International Relations


The end of the Cold War has given birth to a new world order which has profoundly shaken up the transatlantic security relationship. Until 1989 NATO’s existence depended heavily upon the Soviet Union’s threat and a strong American presence on European soil. But since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the emergence of democratic states in Eastern Europe the transatlantic security relationship has struggled to find a new raison d’etre. Although the alliance seemed united during the crisis of ex-Yugoslavia in the 90’s, since September 11th 2001, the fundamental purpose of the alliance’s existence is continually being questioned by scholars and policy makers across both sides of the Atlantic. This scepticism has emerged from the diverging views that America and Europe have about international threats, their nature and ways to tackle them. Each side confronts the other with its own understanding and vision of a more peaceful world. Such differences can undermine the future of a partnership that has survived for over half a century and emphasize the need for transformation and better communication to ensure its future. Could NATO expand its activities beyond the boundaries of the alliance, and if so, would that mean that its original purpose of creation as well as its operating territory would have to be redefined? Examining the growing differences between America and Europe, this essay analyzes their depths and attempts to provide a more optimistic view for the partnership’s future. The changing nature of global threats in today’s world requires a redefinition of NATO’s original role and calls for a radical transformation of the alliance’s military and intelligence capabilities. Better realization of shared values and interests across the Atlantic, accompanied by enlargement and the expansion of its activities should provide the foundations for a solid future of the alliance.


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