Austin P. Johnson and Quan Li
A debate exists in international political economy on the relationship between regime type and foreign direct investment (FDI). The central point of contention focuses on whether multinational firms generally prefer to pursue business ventures in more democratic or autocratic countries. A considerable amount of theory has been developed on this topic; however, the arguments in previous studies lack consistency, and researchers have produced mixed empirical findings. A fundamental weakness in this literature is that while FDI has largely been treated conceptually as a homogeneous aggregate, in reality, it features divergent characteristics on multiple dimensions. Three possible dimensions that FDI can be decomposed on are: greenfield vs. brownfield, ownership type (wholly owned vs. joint venture), and horizontal vs. vertical. The most relevant dimensions to the problem at hand are: greenfield vs. brownfield, and horizontal vs. vertical. Five propositions, based on the notion of asset specificity, other investment attributes, and host nation domestic factors, are derived to predict how regime type might affect four types of FDI: vertical-greenfield; vertical-brownfield; horizontal-greenfield; and horizontal-brownfield. Depending on the type of FDI, multinational corporations may have no regime preference, an autocratic preference, or a democratic preference. This research contributes to empirical international relations theory by providing a useful example on how to resolve a scholarly debate, theoretically, and by laying out testable propositions for future empirical research.
Regional Politics and Powers: Hierarchy and Comparative Regional Analysis in International Relations
Jon Patrick Rhamey, Jr. and Thomas J. Volgy
Comparative regionalism constitutes a new frontier of international relations analysis that provides a more focused theoretical lens for understanding the localized phenomena dominant in international politics. However, as is often the case with a relatively new area of academic inquiry, the subfield currently suffers from a number of challenges in conceptual agreement and operationalization conventions that have slowed progress. Having perhaps finally caught up with area specialists and researchers in the field of comparative politics in recognizing the relative importance of regional spaces, the question remains as to how to most effectively understand the extent regions—as either levels of analysis or units unto themselves—are substantively integral in generating the outcomes studied by international relations scholars. Following almost four decades of theorizing, future steps lie in clearer conceptual definitions followed by generating novel empirical findings that may complement, or contradict, existing international relations theories.
While some early attempts at engaging comparative regionalism exist prior to the Cold War’s conclusion, most theorizing begins at the point at which the region as a concept is able to emerge from the shadow of international relations research’s emphasis on the bipolar order of the American–Soviet rivalry. These early explorations, however, were frequently limited to either qualitative discussion of emerging trading behaviors and political institutions or, alternatively, the exploration of “non-Western” types of political engagement that challenged the traditional Anglo-European understanding of both international relations and the conduct of political science. Building on the backdrop of this conceptual theorizing, empirical work highlighting regional distinctions began to emerge as well. This renewed emphasis on comparing regional spaces is often undertaken from a small-N comparative methodological approach to identify similarities and differences between regions, with a very specific interest in developing an understanding for the causal variation behind how regional spaces’ trajectories develop and diverge.
Finally, one of the greatest theoretical challenges of comparative regionalism is the applicability of theories designed to understand the interactions of the entire international system (with primary focus on the major powers) to more localized spaces and conflicts. This is not to claim that politics necessarily follows different rules within different regions, but instead that because regional-local contexts are sufficiently unique, the combination of causal variables present may lead to very different outcomes for many phenomena of interest that scholars seek to understand. As regional importance has risen over the past 20 years, a clear set of criteria upon which theoretical development and empirical analysis can proceed is required in order to delineate the effects of regions on states and international politics.
A significant, if minority, current in contemporary international relations scholarship places regions at the center of analysis. In practice, the shift to the regional level of analysis serves several purposes within international relations scholarship. Within the sociology of the discipline, regionalism provides a theoretical justification for work that in earlier periods would have been associated with traditional area studies. Within the broader international relations literature, a regional focus allows for a more nuanced analysis of war and peace outside of the core great power conflicts at the center of traditional analysis. In particular, regional approaches remind us that conflict at the regional level is driven more frequently by local than by global concerns while providing a framework for studying important conflicts that are not simply a manifestation of great power rivalries. Finally, this approach is essential for answering questions that can be couched only at the regional level of analysis. At a narrow level, regional approaches are particularly useful for specifying the dangers of conflict spillover and the actors who are most vulnerable to such spillover. At the broadest level, regional conflict systems become the unit of analysis for work examining why some regions are more peaceful than others and how violent regions may transition to peace. A good understanding of these questions has implications both for policymakers seeking to advance national interests and for peacemakers seeking a solution to violence.
Most states’ foreign policies are secular in orientation and focus. A few make religion a prominent component of their ideological approach to foreign policy. States whose foreign policies are consistently or irregularly informed by religion include Egypt, Iran, India, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. In each case, these states’ foreign policies feature domestic religious actors seeking to have regular or intermittent involvement in foreign policymaking. The impact and capacity of such religious actors is linked to the ideological and/or national interest priorities of incumbent governments. That is, religious actors may have an input into foreign policymaking, which reflects a concern more generally with the association between material concerns—including national security issues—and religious and ethical ideas, norms, and values.
In addition to states with input from religious actors in foreign policymaking, there are several important nonstate actors whose religious beliefs centrally inform their foreign policies, which often focus on activities in the United Nations, the world’s largest and most comprehensive organization with near-universal state membership. The United Nations is a key focal point to pursue such policies, and three such actors are discussed: the Holy See/Vatican (and, more generally, the Roman Catholic Church), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the World Council of Churches (WCC), whose religious orientations are, respectively, Roman Catholicism, Islam, and non-Catholic Christianity. The importance of religious actors in foreign policy, in relation to both selected states and nonstate actors, is explored.
Tanya B. Schwarz and Cecelia Lynch
Though religion was never absent from international relations, since the Iranian Revolution, the end of the Cold War, and the events of 9/11, the international community has taken a renewed interest in it. Questions center on the role of religion in peace and conflict, the compatibility of religious law and norms with different systems of government, and the influence of religious actors on a wide range of issues. A reliance on Enlightenment assumptions, which link “the religious” to the irrational, magical, or emotive, led many to deem religion inappropriate for the public sphere and a key factor leading to conflict. On the other hand, the same assumptions led to an association of “the secular” with reason, proper forms of government, and peace. Multiple scholars challenged such a dichotomous framework, arguing that “the religious” and “the secular” cannot be meaningfully separated, or that, at the very least, the origins of the category of “religion” must be examined in order to study acts and practices deemed religious in the 21st century.
Scholarship that wishes to avoid broad generalizations and problematic assumptions about religion should move beyond Enlightenment assumptions and approaches that treat diverse religious communities, acts, and ideas as inherently “good” or “problematic.” To do so, scholars should reflexively engage with religion, paying attention to their own ontological assumptions and the consequences of those assumptions for analyses of religion and politics. In addition, scholars must situate the practices, principles, and identities of religious individuals and communities within broader historical and geographical contexts in order to understand the critical factors informing their ethical frameworks. There are several approaches that are attentive to interpretation, practice, and ethics, including neo-Weberianism, positive ethics, securitization theory, and a relational dialogical approach. These approaches provide alternatives to essentialized notions of religion and shed light on why and how religious actors choose some possible courses of action over others.
Stephen G. Walker
The concept of role contestation has emerged within the recent renaissance of role theory in foreign policy analysis, which has taken hold among international relations scholars on both sides of the Atlantic. Role contestation is a novel theoretical perspective on the process of role location that complements the more established concepts of role strain, role competition, and role conflict identified earlier by the role theory literature in the subfield of Foreign Policy Analysis. It refers to the process that occurs within states as their decision units debate and decide what role to select in relations with another state in the regional or global international system. The process of horizontal role contestation occurs among elites inside the government while the process of vertical role contestation occurs between elites and interest groups outside the government. These role contestation processes can also extend to interactions before and after a foreign policy decision.
Role contestation processes are part of a larger process of role location that refers to various stages of evolution and transition in the enactment of role and counter-role between Ego and Alter as states construct role conceptions, exchange cues, and adapt to structural role demands in their respective decision making environments. The focus will be limited to the analysis of horizontal role contestation as a causal mechanism that describes and explains how the foreign policy decision making process among elites leads to foreign policy decisions. Digraph models represent the process of debate among elites as they deliberate over the selection of ends and means prior to making a foreign policy decision. Game theory models represent how the decision is likely to be carried out as a strategy of role enactment.
Illustrative applications of this two-stage modeling strategy from recent research into Britain’s appeasement decisions in the late 1930s reveal two patterns: bilateral role contestation between Prime Minister Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Eden in March 1938 over the appropriate enactment of a Partner role toward Italy and multilateral role contestation among members of the British Cabinet over the enactment of a Partner vs. Rival role toward Germany during the Sudeten crisis in September 1938. The outcome in the first case was a victory for Chamberlain in the wake of Eden’s resignation; however, in the second case the Cabinet majority altered the prime minister’s initial appeasement tactics in favor of deterrence tactics later in the crisis. This shift foreshadowed a subsequent British role reversal from Partner to Rival toward Germany in 1939.
Stephen G. Walker
Role theory as an empirical theory of international relations has an underlying logical structure with the ability to generate different models of cooperation and conflict in world politics at multiple levels of analysis: system-oriented models of incentives and role constraints; actor-centered models of role conceptions and expectations; action-focused models of cues and role enactment. The emphasis at each of these levels of analysis is on strategic interaction, which makes role theory a theory of international relations between ego and alter as well as a theory of their respective foreign policy decisions.
The logical and empirical applications of role theory’s models to world politics have morphed from metaphor and analogy into formal models of prediction and explanation that meet the criteria of testability associated with an empirical theory of international relations. These criteria include the logical rules of deductive inference and the correspondence rules of empirical falsifiability associated with the systematic comparison of empirical cases.
The pattern of migration and evolution of role resembles the earlier pattern of importing game as a metaphor and introducing the logical structure of game theory into the field of international relations. Binary role theory employs the concepts of role theory and a set of game theory models to analyze conflict and cooperation in world politics. The role metaphor and the concepts of binary role theory provide a substantive “theory of payoffs” for game theory. The latter’s formal models help transform the logical structure of role theory from a metaphor or analogy to a logically coherent and empirically testable theory of international relations.
Role theory first emerged as an approach to the study of foreign policy with the seminal work of Holsti, who argued that decision makers’ conceptions of their state’s role on the world stage influenced that state’s foreign policy behavior. Holsti’s approach was ahead of its time. The potential of role theory to contribute to the agent-structure debate has not always been appreciated. In fact, early research employing role theory often maintained a close connection to structural theories of international relations, especially among U.S.-based scholars.
In the last decade or so, there has been a renewed interest in role theory that differs from earlier work in that it more clearly connects with psychological approaches to foreign policy analysis. It also takes more seriously the domestic sources of role theory through inquiry into horizontal and vertical role contestation. Much of this new work intersects with constructivism, although it remains grounded in empiricism.
As foreign policy analysis increasingly seeks to understand the foreign policies of a broader array of states—including smaller states that face significant constraints on their ability to act in the international arena—role theory provides an attractive framework. Its focus on decision makers’ conceptions of their state’s role in international politics enhances the ability to make sense of the foreign policies of a wider array of states in the global arena. In essence, role theory allows foreign policy analysis to move beyond a U.S.-centric or global-north-centric field to become more broadly comparative.
What is a “middle power,” and what foreign policy is associated with it? Scholars and diplomats in Canada, Australia, and a more or less stable collection of northern countries—and increasingly scholars from the Global South—have proposed that the term denotes a particular international position, rights, and responsibilities. Canada has been especially associated with claims that it deserved unique representation in the halls of international power by virtue of its secondary or middle contributions to World War II and the post-war peace. Middle powers, it was proposed, were countries who both made significant contributions to that global order and were more likely than the self-interested great powers to protect the values of that order.
However, the term “middle power” never has had a clear meaning or definition, and the so-called middle powers have largely been self-electing (whether the self-election was by scholars or practitioners). Scholarly efforts to bring more rigor to the concept have failed to agree on its basic definition and membership list. This failure results largely from a fundamental disagreement over whether the “middle power” is defined by its functional capabilities, characterized by its strong moral imperative as a “good international citizen,” designated by its position in the international hierarchy, or revealed in its foreign policy behaviors. In time, the behavioral notion that middle powers engaged in “middle power diplomacy” held sway in the scholarship such that any country that pursued multilateral compromises, engaged in acts of “good international citizenship,” and promoted coalition building was labeled a middle power. This subsequently led to a growing scholarship on which states were “middle powers” based on their foreign policy behaviors. In particular, countries from the Global South who embraced multilateralism were included in the ranks of the middle powers.
The inclusion of countries from the Global South created a fundamental problem for the term, since middle power advocates portrayed them as strong supporters of the international order. Southern middle powers, on the other hand, were champions or leaders of states who stood against that order because of historical and present injustices in it. However, even those countries said to be Southern or emerging middle powers seem more interested in establishing their own status within the existing order rather than asserting a common vision on behalf of a revised order.
Ultimately, the lack of agreement about what “middle power” means leaves scholars and practitioners uncertain about whether the term is a useful guide for any particular country’s foreign policy.
There are few questions more interesting and more important for the international community than the issue of how new states are created and accepted into the wider global system through the process of recognition. While there are thousands of ethnic groups around the world, there are just 193 member states of the United Nations. And yet, for many years, the foreign policy aspects of secession and the recognition of seceding territories have received relatively little attention by scholars in the field of politics and international relations. This was largely because the subject was seen to be a marginal interest. Few territories managed to stage a credible attempt at secession. Almost none managed to gain widespread acceptance. However, over the past decade, there has been a significant growth in the attention given to secession and recognition in international relations. This has been particularly apparent since Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia, in 2008, and because of heightened secessionist tensions in the former Soviet Union.
To date, the question of de facto states—territories that are unrecognized or partially recognized—has been at the heart of studies into secession and recognition in the field of politics and international relations. Attention in this area has tended to focus on the nature, structure, and international interaction of unrecognized territories. However, the scope of research is now widening. As well as interest in the historical development of attitudes towards secession and recognition practices, scholars are now looking at the way in which parent states—as the territories they have broken away from are generally known—attempt to prevent de facto states from being recognized or otherwise legitimized by the international community. Meanwhile, increasing attention is also being given to the role of external parties, such as great powers, as well as to the efforts of secessionist territories themselves to find ways to encourage recognition, or at least to participate more widely in the international system. Therefore, while the community of scholars working in the field of secession and recognition is still relatively small, the subject itself is undergoing rapid growth.