International Relations theory has tended to overlook the role of Africa and Africans in the international system. Traditionally, the discipline’s most influential theorists have focused instead on relationships between and perspectives of “major powers.” A growing body of work, however, has challenged these more limited efforts to conceptualize African agency in international politics. This scholarship has emphasized the significant space available to, and carved-out by, African states in molding the agendas of international institutions, and the role of African governments and advocacy networks in influencing the trajectory of major international debates around issues such as aid, development, trade, climate change, and migration. The study of African agency in international politics continues to wrestle with two key debates: the meanings of “agency” and “African.” Much of the literature focuses primarily on the role and influence of African states rather than that of African citizens and communities. This focus provides, at best, only a partial and qualified view of the ways in which African agency is secured and exercised at the global level, particularly given the significant structural constraints imposed on Africa by global economic and political inequalities. The extent to which contemporary analysis captures the breadth of African engagement with the international system is also compromised by current state-centric approaches. It is thus necessary to examine a range of approaches adopted by scholars to deepen and nuance the study of African agency in international politics, including work on agenda-setting, mesolevel dynamics and microlevel dynamics.
Emil Aslan Souleimanov
Reflecting on the recent rise of Salafi groups and their impact on civil war, the academic literature on Salafi radicalization, mobilization, and recruitment has burgeoned in the recent decade and a half. Yet little consensus exists as to the relative power of three major causes: grievances, ideology, and radical milieu and support structures as causes of violent radicalization. Even less is known about how jihadist foreign fighters affect civil wars in terms of conflict intensity and resolution. In both fields, key debates are identified in the recent scholarship, explain the major shortcomings and gaps, and suggest avenues of future research. For instance, it is important—and hardly avoidable—that epistemological and ontological obstacles lay in the way of establishing the causes of (violent) radicalization, because the processes relating to the change of human perception and behavior are extremely difficult to trace. Another point is the frequent—deliberate or unintended—distortion of the testimonies of former combatants, not least Salafi-jihadists, which makes the task of establishing the causes of (violent) radicalization and recruitment harder. Identifying avenues of further research, there is a lack of quality first-hand data in the current research on Salafi-inspired radicalization, mobilization, and recruitment. More methodological plurality—particularly in-depth ethnographic studies and quantitative work—is needed, as well as more research on virtual social networks and non-verbal contents.
Caroline A. Hartzell
Civil wars typically have been terminated by a variety of means, including military victories, negotiated settlements and ceasefires, and “draws.” Three very different historical trends in the means by which civil wars have ended can be identified for the post–World War II period. A number of explanations have been developed to account for those trends, some of which focus on international factors and others on national or actor-level variables. Efforts to explain why civil wars end as they do are considered important because one of the most contested issues among political scientists who study civil wars is how “best” to end a civil war if the goal is to achieve a stable peace. Several factors have contributed to this debate, among them conflicting results produced by various studies on this topic as well as different understandings of the concepts war termination, civil war resolution, peace-building, and stable peace.
Mikael Rask Madsen and Mikkel Jarle Christensen
Over the past several decades scholars have intensively debated what factors drive globalization. Answers have ranged from the emergence of the information society and the global economy to value-conflicts embedded in different civilizations. A different yet closely related question is who is driving globalization? That is, however, much less studied, even if it is arguably key to making global governance intelligible. A whole list of actors seem to offer possible answers to the question of who the globalizers are: Are they global institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) or the International Criminal Court (ICC); communities of experts providing technocratic solutions; transnational networks of activists seeking to alter global and national politics by pursuing, for example, environmental or human rights agendas; or are they powerful individuals forming transnational elites taking the fate of the global society in their hands at a safe distance from ordinary politics in places such as Brussels, New York, or Davos?
Tomasz Warczok and Tomasz Zarycki
Looking at the contemporary Polish political sciences in a wider international perspective—and specifically analyzing their location within the global hierarchies of academic knowledge production—may not only shed new light on the field but will also provide interesting insight to workings of social sciences in peripheral context. The position of the Polish political science, as measured in terms of international rankings or indexes of citations, is rather low. Moreover, its dominant intellectual schools and most commonly used methodological approaches may be considered old fashioned from the perspective of leading Western centers of the discipline. Descriptive analysis and traditional institutionalism dominate, while more sophisticated behavioral approaches or new institutionalism are rare. On the other hand, the field as such may be seen as quite strong, especially given its visibility in the national media, its considerable institutional and human resources, or high numbers of students attracted each year. Moreover, it can be argued that the field has achieved considerable autonomy from the global political science system and has successfully endured post-Communist transformation, retaining most of its staff and institutional assets from the previous regime (which was not the case in most other central European countries). At the same time, one can find within it a smaller faction of internationally oriented scholars. They contest the dominant, locally oriented majority of the field and are well connected to global academic networks. In effect, an interesting duality within Polish political science may be observed and interpreted as a phenomenon typical for many peripheral countries, understood in terms of the world systems theory. Relying on Wallersteinian perspective on the global system of social sciences coupled with Bourdieusian field analysis allows for reconstruction of the genesis and underlying structures of the contemporary field of political sciences in Poland, which may be interpreted as a case of successful autonomy building of a peripheral field of social sciences.
While migration has always existed, and its consequences have always been important, few people have lived a mobile life in the history of mankind. Population immobility has recurrently been part and parcel of political strategies of social control and domination. Since the second half of the 20th century, however, the extent of geographical movements of individuals has expanded enormously. In particular, the size and scope of international travel has increased at an exponential pace. Favored by globalization and technological progress, transnationalism, initially linked to migration, has emerged as a relatively widespread phenomenon that involves a growing portion of the general population, especially, but not only, in developed countries. Mainly on the basis of research carried out in Europe, there is evidence that transnational practices tend to strengthen cosmopolitanism and the legitimacy of supranational polities (particularly the European Union [EU]), while it is less clear whether they entail denationalization. Further research is needed to improve the quality of independent and dependent variables in this area and assess the effect of international mobility and transnationalism outside the European context.
Ari Sitas and Bianca Tame
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.
South African trade unions had a decisive role in the political life of the territory that became the Union of South Africa and later the Republic of South Africa. Such a role was both formative and reactive; since their inception in the 1880s, trade unions attempted to shape the body politic, its legislation, its inclusions and exclusions, its bill of rights, and a whole range of social rights. They had a formative role to play in the construction and destruction of the country’s racial order. They also reacted to policy and law in all periods, creating serious challenges that continue well into the Post-Apartheid period.