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International Relations *

A guide to databases and scholarly online sources that support conducting research in international relations and comparative politics.

IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories, A-F

The descriptions below are from The IR Theory Web Site created by Mark Beavis of the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. Entries are supplemented using sources from the Credo Reference and Gale Virtual Reference Library databases, with additional references to selected books and journal articles. To search for studies that utilize these theories and apply them within the context of IR research and practice, go here.

Balance of Power Theory
As a theory, balance of power predicts that rapid changes in international power and status—especially attempts by one state to conquer a region—will provoke counterbalancing actions. For this reason, the balancing process helps to maintain the stability of relations between states. A balance of power system functions most effectively when alliances are fluid, when they are easily formed or broken on the basis of expediency, regardless of values, religion, history, or form of government. Occasionally a single state plays a balancer role, shifting its support to oppose whatever state or alliance is strongest. A weakness of the balance of power concept is the difficulty of measuring power.

Balance of Power: Theory and Practice in the 21st Century. T. V. Paul, James J. Wirtz, and Michel Fortmann, eds. Stanford, CA: Stanford UIniversity Press, 2004; Little, Richard. The Balance of Power in International Relations: Metaphors, Myths and Models. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007; Saltzman, Ilai Z. Securitizing Balance of Power Theory: A Polymorphic Reconceptualization. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books, 2012; Extract from 'Balance of Power,' Microsoft Encartar Online Encyclopedia 2000 c.1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

An approach to the study of politics or other social phenomena that focuses on the actions and interactions among units by using scientific methods of observation to include quantification of variables whenever possible. A practitioner of behavioralism is often referred to as a behavioralist. Behaviorism refers to the ideas held by those behavioral scientists who consider only observed behavior as relevant to the scientific enterprise and who reject what they consider to be metaphysical notions of "mind" or "consciousness."

Li-hua, Jin. "Probe on different Behavorist Views of Western Political Theory." Journal of Chengdu Teacher's College 3 (2005); Viotti, P. and M. Kauppi, (eds.). 1987. International Relations Theory. Macmillan Publishing Company, New York.

Chaos Theory
In mathematics and physics, chaos theory describes the behavior of certain nonlinear dynamical systems that may exhibit dynamics that are highly sensitive to initial conditions (popularly referred to as the butterfly effect). As a result of this sensitivity, which manifests itself as an exponential growth of perturbations in the initial conditions, the behavior of chaotic systems appears to be random. This happens even though these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future dynamics are fully defined by their initial conditions, with no random elements involved. This behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos. Since the International System can be considered a nonlinear dynamic system, it is reasonable to take this theory into account for the study of the International Order.

Faber, Jan and Henk Koppelaar. “Chaos Theory and Social Science: A Methodological Analysis.” Quality and Quantity 28 (November 1994): 421-433; Gregersen, Hal and Lee Sailer. "Chaos Theory and Its Implications for Social Science Research." Human Relations 46 (July 1993): 777-802; Mostly from Wikipedia.

Classical Realism
Also called human realism and associated with Morgenthau's exposition of realism in which the power pursuit propensity of states is derived from the basic nature of human beings as power maximisers. This perspective holds that ideological, as well as material, factors may constitute 'power' (e.g. power over public opinion) and hence has some social underpinning.

Williams, Michael C. “Why Ideas Matter in International Relations: Hans Morgenthau, Classical Realism, and the Moral Construction of Power Politics.” International Organization 58 (Autumn 004): 633-665; Vasquez, John A. The Power of Power Politics: From Classical Realism to Neotraditionalism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

Collective Defense
Though the term existed before 1949, a common understanding of collective defence with regards to NATO can be found in Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty: 'The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them... shall be considered an attack against them all; and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area' (NATO Handbook: 232). In the context of NATO, then, collective defence is based on countering traditional challenges as understood by the realist/neorealist paradigm, specifically to territory, and finds its focus on an identifiable external threat or adversary.

Alliances in U.S. Foreign Policy: Issues in the Quest for Collective Defense. Alan Ned Sabrosky, ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013; Oneal, John R. "Testing the Theory of Collective Action Nato Defense Burdens, 1950-1984." Journal of Conflict Resolution 34 (September 1990): 426-448.

Collective Efficacy, Theory of
Collective efficacy is defined as the presence of local social cohesion and a shared expectation for informal social control, or collective action (Sampson, 2006). Although often used within the study of criminology, collective efficacy is not exclusively a theory of crime; it is also employed more broadly in the study of neighborhood context and well-being. Examples of informal actions characteristic of high collective efficacy include neighbors’ intervening to prevent an act of vandalism, organizing to defend a local institution (e.g., a fire hall threatened with budget cuts), offering support to an injured or ill neighbor, and providing mutual assistance during a natural disaster. Unlike theories that attribute outcomes to explanations based on variation in “different kinds of people,” collective efficacy focuses on the influence of “different kinds of places” (Kubrin & Weitzer, 2003). Places have different levels of collective efficacy based on variation in ecological context. The underlying perspective is that community-level instability constrains friendship choices and reduces local social cohesion and a norm of informal social control. The theory of collective efficacy recognizes that social cohesion is directly measured through the presence of social networks. In this way, collective efficacy breaks from traditional theories of social disorganization that attribute local social problems to macrofactors, such as invasion and succession (e.g., immigration), the breakdown of traditional institutions (e.g., church, family, local government), and mobility.

Sampson, R. J. (2006). "Collective Efficacy Theory: Lessons Learned and Directions for Future Inquiry." In F. T. Cullen, J. P. Wright, and K. R. Blevins (Eds.), Taking Stock: The Status of Criminological Theory (Advances in Criminological Theory: Vol. 15, pp. 149-167). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction; Kubrin, C. E., and Weitzer, R. (2003). "New Directions in Social Disorganization Theory." Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 40 (4), 374-402.

Collective Security
Employed during the construction of the League of Nations, the concept of collective security goes beyond the pure idea of defence to include, according to Inis Claude, 'arrangements for facilitating peaceful settlement of disputes,' assuming that the mechanisms of preventing war and defending states under armed attack will 'supplement and reinforce each other' (1984:245). Writing during the Cold War, Claude identifies the concept as the post-WWI name given by the international community to the 'system for maintenance of international peace... intended as a replacement for the system commonly known as the balance-of-power' (1984:247). Most applicable to widely inclusive international organizations such as the League and the United Nations, ideally, the arrangement would transcend the reliance on deterrence of competing alliances through a network or scheme of 'national commitments and international mechanisms.' As in collective defence, collective security is based on the risk of retribution, but it can also involve economic and diplomatic responses, in addition to military retribution. From this, it is theorized that perfected collective security would discourage potential aggressors from angering a collectivity of states. Like balance-of-power, collective security works on the assumption that any potential aggressor would be deterred by the prospect of joint retaliation, but it goes beyond the military realm to include a wider array of security problems. It assumes that states will relinquish sovereignty and freedom of action or inaction to increasing interdependence and the premise of the indivisibility of peace. The security that can be derived from this is part of the foundation of the neoliberal institutionalist argument.

Butfoya, Andrew. “Collective Security: Theory, Problems and Reformulations.” Australian Journal of International Affairs 47 (1993): 1-14; Kupchan, Charles A. and Clifford A. Kupchan. “The Promise of Collective Security.” International Security 20 (Summer 1995): 52-61; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

A theory that became influential in the 1990s and sought to place the community at the heart of political theorizing. Communitarians express strong opposition towards the abstract individual of liberal theory, arguing that people need to participate in running their lives. They view with alarm the tendency to retreat from political and social involvement into privatised worlds in which people act simply as consumers. Communitarians are aware that elevating the community may generate a regime that imprisons rather than empowers the individual. Order and autonomy, they contend, should nourish one another, so that individuals become more able to govern their own lives when consciously participating in communities. It is important to see communities, they argue, in the plural. A community is a ‘set of attributes’, Etzioni argues, not a place, so that people should be committed to numerous communities, each with their norms and culture. The more individuals are monopolised by any one community, the less ‘communitarian’ such a society will be. Each community is deemed part of a wider community, so that values cannot be restricted to one particular group, but must be linked to global values – values that express the interest of the community of communities.

Etzioni, Amitai, Communitarianism (2003). Encyclopedia of Community: From the Village to the Virtual World, Vol. 1, A-D, Karen Christensen and David Levinson, eds., Sage Publications, 2003, pp. 224-228. Available at SSRN:; Hoffman, John. Glossary of Political Theory, PaloAlto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007; Communitarianism. (2007). In Political Philosophy A-Z. Retrieved from

Complex Adaptive Systems Theory
The field of complex adaptive systems theory (a.k.a., "complexity theory") seeks to understand how order emerges in complex, non-linear systems, such as, ecologies, markets, and social systems. Three assumptions underpin the behavior of agents within a complex system: 1) autonomous agents--all the agents make choices simultaneously, both influencing and limiting each other's actions; 2) networked structure--the agents do not act randomly, but rather, share some common rules about how they decide what to do next; and, 3) profuse experimentation--these edge of chaos systems are full of novelty and experimentation. They have a quality of dynamic stability that is characteriszed by occasrional rapid and unpredictable shifts in shape and direction.

Brunk, Gregory G. “Why Do Societies Collapse? A Theory Based on Self-Organised Criticality.” Journal of Theoretical Politics 14 (April 2002): 195-230; Cleveland, John. "Complex Adaptive Systems Theory: An Introduction to Basic Theory and Concepts." Innovation Network for Communities, 1994, rev. 2005. Slideshare Presentation; William de. Mills, Analyzing the Future Web site; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

Complex Interdependence Theory
The term 'complex interdependence' was developed by Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye and refers to the various, complex transnational connections (interdependencies) between states and societies. Interdependence theorists noted that such relations, particularly economic ones, were increasing; while the use of military force and power balancing were decreasing (but remained important). Reflecting on these developments, they argued that the decline of military force as a policy tool and the increase in economic and other forms of interdependence should increase the probability of cooperation among states. The complex interdependence framework can be seen as an attempt to synthesise elements of realist and liberal thought. Finally, anticipating problems of cheating and relative gains raised by realists, interdependence theorists introduced the concept of 'regimes' to mitigate anarchy and facilitate cooperation. Here, we can see an obvious connection to neo-liberal institutionalism.

Keohane, Robert O. and Joseph S. Nye. Power and Interdependence. 3rd edition. New York: Longman, 2001. Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013; Wikipedia.

Complexity Theory
See Complex Adaptive Systems Theory.

Constitutional Order Theory
Philip Bobbitt’s central thesis is that the interplay between strategic and constitutional innovation changes the constitutional order of the state. In putting his thesis, Bobbitt also contends that: epochal wars have brought a particular constitutional order to primacy; a constitutional order achieves dominance by best exploiting the strategic and constitutional innovations of its era; the peace treaties that end epochal wars ratify a particular constitutional order for the society of states; and each constitutional order asserts a unique basis for legitimacy. In terms of the current international system, Bobbitt argues that it is transitioning from an order of nation-states to market-states. The value of Bobbitt’s thesis is that it better explains relations between states, as well as changes within states and in the international system, than the (previously) dominant theory of neo-realism, which assumes that all states are the same and seek only to survive in an anarchical and competitive system through on-going power balancing.

Bobbit, Philip. The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History. New York: Knopf, 2002; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

Constitutive Theory

Constitutive theory is directly concerned with the importance of human reflection on the nature and character of world politics and the approach to its study. Reflections on the process of theorizing, including epistemological and ontological issues and questions, are typical. Constitutive theory is distinguished from explanatory or empirical theory (see below) and may be described as the philosophy of world politics or international relations.

Wendt, Alexander. Social Theory of International Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

Constructivist theory rejects the basic assumption of neo-realist theory that the state of anarchy (lack of a higher authority or government) is a structural condition inherent in the system of states. Rather, it argues, in Alexander Wendt's words, that 'Anarchy is what states make of it'. That is, anarchy is a condition of the system of states because states in some sense 'choose' to make it so. Anarchy is the result of a process that constructs the rules or norms that govern the interaction of states. The condition of the system of states today as self-helpers in the midst of anarchy is a result of the process by which states and the system of states was constructed. It is not an inherent fact of state-to-state relations. Thus, constructivist theory holds that it is possible to change the anarchic nature of the system of states.

Wendt, Alexander. "Anarchy is What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics." International Organization, 46 (Spring 1992): 391-425; "Constructivism in International Relations Theory." (2001). In Reader's Guide to the Social Sciences. Retrieved from

This refers to organized interest groups that mediate between society and the state. In fascist theory, corporatism is seen as a substitute for democracy so that major groups are “licensed” by the state to exercise control over “their” section of the population. In the post-war period, corporatism is not restricted to business corporations, but often includes the larger trade unions as well. A limited number of relatively privileged groups play a role in determining public policy in consultation with the state. This contradicts the assumptions of liberal theory. Individuals are not all equal, and the role played in the determination of policy by a relatively small number of actors is unrecognized in the democratic process. Unlike the notion of interest-group pluralism, corporatism assumes that relatively few organizations of a non-competitive kind relate to the state in a privileged way. A distinction is sometimes made between “societal corporatism,” where powerful groups in society are recognized by the state, and “state corporatism,” where the state itself takes the initiative and imposes a scheme upon dominant groups. The latter is usually associated with more authoritarian state systems. Corporatism is defended as a way of imposing order upon society, so that the market itself is controlled and inflation and unemployment managed.

"Corporatism." (2007). In A Glossary of Political Theory. Retrieved from; "Corporatism." (2008). In Key Concepts in Governance. Retrieved from; Schmitter, Philippe C. “Still the Century of Corporatism?” The Review of Politics 36 (January 1974): 85-131; Schmitter, Philippe C. and Gerhard Lehmbruch, eds. Trends Toward Corporatist Intermediation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1979.

The word ‘cosmopolitan’, which derives from the Greek word kosmopolitês (‘citizen of the world’), has been used to describe a wide variety of important views in moral and socio-political philosophy. The nebulous core shared by all cosmopolitan views is the idea that all human beings, regardless of their political affiliation, do (or at least can) belong to a single community, and that this community should be cultivated. Different versions of cosmopolitanism envision this community in different ways, some focusing on political institutions, others on moral norms or relationships, and still others focusing on shared markets or forms of cultural expression. The philosophical interest in cosmopolitanism lies in its challenge to commonly recognized attachments to fellow-citizens, the local state, parochially shared cultures, and the like.

Walker, Thomas C. “The Forgotten Prophet: Tom Paine's Cosmopolitanism and International Relations.” International Studies Quarterly 44 (March 2000): 51–72; From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Cosmopolitanism.

Critical Social Theory
Not really a theory, but an approach or methodology which seeks to take a critical stance towards itself by recognizing its own presuppositions and role in the world; and secondly, towards the social reality that it investigates by providing grounds for the justification and criticism of the institutions, practices and mentalities that make up that reality. Critical social theory therefore attempts to bridge the divides in social thought between explanation and justification, philosophical and substantive concerns, pure and applied theory, and contemporary and earlier thinking.

George, Jim and David Campbell. “Patterns of Dissent and the Celebration of Difference: Critical Social Theory and International Relations.” International Studies Quarterly, Special Issue: Speaking the Language of Exile: Dissidence in International Studies 34 (September 1990): 269-293; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

Cultural Internationalism
Cultural internationalism is the idea that world order can and should be defined through interactions at the cultural level across national boundaries. From this point of view, an alternative view of world order is created by artists, writers, thinkers, popular movements, and civil society organizations which is often in contrast the view of a world system dominated by great powers and the realist demands of geopolitics.

Iriye, Akira. Cultural Internationalism and World Order. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997; Merryman, J. H. “Two Ways of Thinking About Cultural Property.” The American Journal of International Law 80 (October 1986): 831–853; Stamatoudi, Irini A. Cultural Property Law and Restitution: A Commentary to International Conventions and European Union Law. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2011 [see chapter 1].

Decision Making Analysis
The discipline comprising the philosophy, theory, methodology, and professional practice necessary to address important decisions in a formal manner. Decision analysis includes many procedures, methods, and tools for identifying, clearly representing, and formally assessing the important aspects of a decision situation, for prescribing the recommended course of action by applying the maximum expected utility action axiom to a well-formed representation of the decision, and for translating the formal representation of a decision and its corresponding recommendation into insight for the decision maker and other stakeholders.

Hudson, Valerie M. “Foreign Policy Analysis: Actor-Specific Theory and the Ground of International Relations.” Foreign Policy Analysis 1 (March 2005): 1-30; Raiffa, Howard. The Art and Science of Negotiation. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1982; Wikipedia.

Defensive Realism

Defensive realism is an umbrella term for several theories of international politics and foreign policy that build upon Robert Jervis's writings on the security dilemma and to a lesser extent upon Kenneth Waltz's balance-of-power theory (neorealism). Defensive realism holds that the international system provides incentives for expansion only under certain conditions. Anarchy (the absence of a universal sovereign or worldwide government) creates situations where by the tools that one state uses to increase it security decreases the security of other states. This security dilemma causes states to worry about one another's future intentions and relative power. Pairs of states may pursue purely security seeking strategies, but inadvertently generate spirals of mutual hostility or conflict. States often, although not always, pursue expansionist policies because their leaders mistakenly believe that aggression is the only way to make their state secure. Defensive realism predicts great variation in internationally driven expansion and suggests that states ought to generally pursue moderate strategies as the best route to security. Under most circumstances, the stronger states in the international system should pursue military, diplomatic, and foreign economic policies that communicate restraint. Examples of defensive realism include: offense-defense theory (Jervis, Stephen Van Evera, Sean Lynn-Jones, and Charles Glaser), balance-of-power theory (Barry Posen, Michael Mastanduno), balance-of-threat theory (Stephen Walt), domestic mobilization theories (Jack Snyder, Thomas Christensen, and Aron Friedberg), and security dilemma theory (Thomas Christensen, Robert Ross, and William Rose).

Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, 'Security-Seeking Under Anarchy: Defensive Realism Reconsidered,' International Security, 25, 3, Winter 2000/2001: 152-86; Mearsheimer, John J. Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W. W. Norton, 2002.

Democratic Peace
All democratic peace theories seek to explain the disputed empirical fact that two constitutional democracies have never gone to war with each other in recent history (1816 onwards). As such, they rest on a similar hypothesis: that relations between pairings of democratic states are inherently more peaceful than relations between other regime-type pairings (i.e. democratic versus non-democratic or non-democratic versus non-democratic). To prove the reality of the democratic peace, theorists such as Michael Doyle have sought to show a causal relationship between the independent variable - 'democratic political structures at the unit level' - and the dependent variable - 'the asserted absence of war between democratic states'. Critics, such as Ido Oren, dispute the claims of democratic peace theorists by insisting that there is a liberal bias in the interpretation of 'democracy' which weakens the evidence.

Rasler, Karen A. and William R. Thompson. Puzzles of the Democratic Peace Theory, Geopolitics, and the Transformation of World Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005; Rosato, Sebastian. “The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory.” American Political Science Review 97 (November 2003): 585-602; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

Dependency Theory
Dependency theorists assert that so-called 'third-world' countries were not always 'poor', but became impoverished through colonial domination and forced incorporation into the world economy by expansionist 'first-world' powers. Thus, 'third-world' economies became geared more toward the needs of their 'first-world' colonial masters than the domestic needs of their own societies. Proponents of dependency theory contend that relationships of dependency have continued long after formal colonization ended. Thus, the primary obstacles to autonomous development are seen as external rather than internal, and so 'third-world' countries face a global economy dominated by rich industrial countries. Because 'first-world' countries never had to contend with colonialism or a world full of richer, more powerful competitors, dependency theorists argue that it is unfair to compare contemporary 'third-world' societies with those of the 'first-world' in the early stages of development.

Caporaso, James A. “Dependency Theory: Continuities and Discontinuities in Development Studies.” International Organization 34 (September 1980): 605 - 628; Smith, Tony. “The Underdevelopment of Development Literature: The Case of Dependency Theory.” World Politics 31 (1979): 247-288.Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

Deterrence Theory
Deterrence is commonly thought about in terms of convincing opponents that a particular action would elicit a response resulting in unacceptable damage that would outweigh any likely benefit. Rather than a simple cost/benefits calculation, however, deterrence is more usefully thought of in terms of a dynamic process with provisions for continuous feedback. The process initially involves determining who shall attempt to deter whom from doing what, and by what means. Several important assumptions underlie most thinking about deterrence. Practitioners tend to assume, for example, that states are unitary actors, and logical according to Western concepts of rationality. Deterrence also assumes that we can adequately understand the calculations of an opponent. One of the most important assumptions during the Cold War was that nuclear weapons were the most effective deterrent to war between the states of the East and the West. This assumption, carried into the post-Cold War era, however, may promote nuclear proliferation. Indeed, some authors suggest that the spread of nuclear weapons would deter more states from going to war against one another. The weapons would, it is argued, provide weaker states with more security against attacks by stronger neighbors. Of course, this view is also predicated on the assumption that every state actor's rationality will work against the use of such weapons, and that nuclear arms races will therefore not end in nuclear warfare.

Lowther, Adam B., ed. Deterrence: Rising Powers, Rogue Regimes, and Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012; Quackenbush, Stephen L. Understanding General Deterrence: Theory and Application. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011; edited extract from Post-Cold War Conflict Deterrence, Naval Studies Board, National Research Council, National Acadamy of Sciences, 1997.

Dialectical Functionalism
Theory based on an opposition to statist solutions to world order problems at all levels of social interaction, especially at the global level. It states that integration progress causes a protectionist backlash at the national level. Governments give in to these demands and choose a nationalist direction that slows the integration process down. When the negative consequences of this policy become obvious, the politicians initiate the next integrationist step.

Corbey, Dorette “Dialectical Functionalism: Stagnation as a Booster of European Integration.” International Organization Vol. 49, No. 2 (Spring, 1995), pp. 253-284.

Domino Theory
A theory which says that small nations in the developing world are vulnerable to military, political, and psychological pressures resulting from the `fall' of their neighbors to communism, and that, therefore, the West should supply military, economic, and political assistance to threatened regimes as necessary. In the 1950s and 1960s it was held that the fall of Vietnam would topple dominoes in much of South-East Asia, but the aftermath of the Vietnam War has belied the prediction. Indeed US intervention in Vietnam probably caused the fall of neutral Cambodia, which might otherwise not have happened. Domino theories typically overlook the division in international communism, particularly in Asia, which have caused communist regimes like China to align with Western and pro-Western nations such as the US and Thailand. They also underestimate the nationalist resiliency and sheer social inertia of Third World countries. The term `domino' was first used by US President Eisenhower in 1954 at the time of the French defeat in Indochina.

"Domino Theory." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Ed. William A. Darity, Jr. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008), pp. 434-436. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Mar. 2013; Domino Theory. Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History, 2011. Retrieved from; Domino Theory.

Dynamic Interaction Theory
Living systems and human systems are self-organizing, meaning that they generate high degrees of order through complex relationships among their parts and with the environment rather than as a consequence of any clear external agency. The system is maintained through dynamic interaction of its subsystems. In the largest human system, the global political economy, it involves the dynamic interaction of corporations, governments, international organizations, banks and nongovernmental organizations. In both cases, the systems may be said to be ‘self-making’.

Litfin, Karen. "Gaia Theory: Intimations for Global Environmental Politics." In Handbook of Global Environmental Politics [electronic resource]. Peter Dauvergne, editor. 2nd ed., Revised. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing, July 2012; Hui, Victoria Tin-bor. “Toward a Dynamic Theory of International Politics: Insights from Comparing Ancient China and Early Modern Europe.” International Organization 58, no. 1 (February 2004): 175–205.

Emancipatory International Relations
Emancipatory international relations is characterized by a number of schools of thought most broadly falling under the umbrella of Wesern or Hegelian Marxism, such as neo-Gramscian theory and approaches to IR based on the Frankfurt School philosophy. These approaches to emancipatory IR can be shown to be reformist rather than revolutionary, in the sense that visions of an alternative world order fail to transcend the state. Thus, some would suggest that approaches to IR that are derived from an anarchist political philosophy, for example, are more appropriate for an emancipatory conception of IR which is revolutionary rather than reformist.

Spegele, Roger D. “Emancipatory International Relations: Good News, Bad News or No News at All?” International Relations 16 (December 2002): 381-401; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

Empirical Theory
An empirical theory in the social or natural sciences relates to facts and provides an explanation or prediction for observed phenomena. Hypotheses associated with empirical theories are subject to test against real-world data or facts. The theorist need not have any purpose in developing such empirical theories other than satisfying his or her intellectual curiosity, although many will seek to make their work "policy relevant."

Harff, Barbara and Ted Robert Gurr. “Toward Empirical Theory of Genocides and Politicides: Identification and Measurement of Cases Since 1945.” International Studies Quarterly 32 (September 1988): 359-371; Viotti, P. and M. Kauppi, eds. International Relations Theory. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987.

Ethnic Conflict Theory

Ethnic conflicts are old. It is violence for state recognition, autonomy or to join a neighboring state. Such conflicts received serious attention by scholars in the aftermath of the Cold War and with the demise of the former Yugoslavia and USSR into several independent states. Ethnic conflict studies can be a source for understanding international relations bearing in mind that no single book, concept or theory can expect to capture such a complex phenomena in its entirety. Political scientists use concepts and theories of sociologists such as Evans (1993), Giddens (1993), Smith (1986), Rex (1986), Hurd (1986) and Laitin (1986) to explain endemic ethnic conflicts caused by alienation and deprivation of ethnic minority groups bonded by history, descent, language, religion and culture living in a defined territory. This group perceives itself as 'me-you,' 'we-they,' 'insiders-outsiders,' and 'minority-majority.' Three contending ethnic conflict theories: a) Primordialists stress the importance of instinctive behavior of belonging; b) Instrumentalist or Circumstantialists cite compelling socio-economic-political factors; and c) Constructivists point to the social nature of ethnic groups. For ethnic conflict management models of political 'accommodation' or 'arrangements' see Walker, C. 1994, Ethnocentrism: The Quest for Understanding (Chapters 6 & 8), Princeton University Press; McGarry, J. and O'Leary, B. (eds), 1993, The Politics of Ethnic Conflict Resolution: Case Studies of Protracted Ethnic Conflicts (Chapter 1), Routledge; and Lijphart, A. 1997, Democracy in Plural Societies (Chapters 1 & 2), Yale University Press. For further perspectives, see Toft, M. 2003, The Geography of Ethnic Violence: Identity, Interests, and the Indivisibilty of Territory, Princeton University Press; Anderson, B. 1991, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso; and Huntington, P. 1996, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon & Schuster.

Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

Evolutionary World Politics
A sub-field of the study of International Relations that poses the question: what explains structural change in world politics, in the past millennium in particular? It rests on two core premises: that political change at the global level is the product of evolutionary processes, and that such processes might be best understood through the application of evolutionary concepts such as selection or learning, without yet embracing biological determinism. Focusing on longer-term, institutional, change it contrasts with, and complements, rational choice approaches that illuminate shorter-term, ends-means decision-making. Components of it might be recognized both in the realist, and the liberal schools of international relations. Structural change may be studied at three levels: at the actor level, by looking at long cycles of global politics; at the level of global political formation, by inquiring into world empire, the nation-state system with global leadership, and global organization, as alternative forms of coping with global problems; and at the of human species evolution, by asking about the emergence of basic world institutions. Global political change co-evolves with cognate processes in the world economy, and is nested in the longer-term developments in democratization, and changes in world opinion.

The Evolutionary World Politics Homepage. George Modelski, Professor Emeritus, Department of  Political Science, University of Washington.

A branch of Critical Social Theory (see above) that seeks to explore how we think, or do not think, or avoid thinking about gender in international relations (IR). Feminists argue that traditional IR thinking has avoided thinking of men and women in the capacity of embodied and socially constituted subject categories by subsuming them in other categories (e.g. statesmen, soldiers, refugees), too readily accepting that women are located inside the typically separate sphere of domestic life, and retreating to abstractions (i.e. the state) that mask a masculine identity. Gender-minded analysts therefore seek to move from suspicion of officially ungendered IR texts to their subversion and to replacement theories. Some recent gender-attentive research streams include: critique and reappropriation of stories told about the proper scope of the field of IR; revisions of war and peace narratives; reevaluations of women and development in the international system and its parts; feminist interpretations of human rights; and feminist understandings of international political economy and globalization.

Steans, Jill. Gender and International Relations: Theory, Practice, Policy. 3rd edition. Cambridge: Polity, 2013; Adapted from Sylvester, Christine. "Feminist Theory and Gender Studies in International Relations." International Studies Notes, volumes 16-17, Glendale, Arizona: Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management, 1991; Zalewski, Marysia. Feminist International Relations: Exquisite Corpse. New York: Routledge, 2013.

Fourth World Theory

A theoretical framework, based on the distinction between nations and states, examining how colonial empires and modern states invaded and now encapsulate most of the world's enduring peoples. The term Fourth World refers to nations forcefully incorporated into states which maintain a distinct political culture but are internationally unrecognized. Fourth World analyses, writings and maps aim to rectify the distorting and obscuring of indigenous nations' identities, geographies and histories and expose the usually hidden 'other side' of invasions and occupations that generate most of the world's wars, refugees, genocide, human rights violations and environmental destruction. The distinction between political terms such as nation, state, nation-state, a people and ethnic group - which are commonly used interchangeably in both popular and academic literature despite the fact that each has a unique connotation - provides a geopolitical perspective from which one can paint a 'ground-up' portrait of the significance and centrality of people in most world issues, problems and solutions. Fourth World Theory was fashioned by a diverse assortment of people, including activists, human rights lawyers, academics and leaders of indigenous nations. Similar to World Systems Analysis scholars, proponents of Fourth World Theory seek to change the world, not just describe or explain it.

Griggs, Richard and Joseph E Fallon. The Meaning of Nation and State in the Fourth World. Kenmore, WA: Center for World Indigenous Studies, 1992; Neitschmann, B. “The Fourth World: Nations verses States.” In G. J. Demko and W. B. Wood, eds. Reordering the World Geopolitical Perspectives on the 21st Century. Oxford: Westview, 1994), pp. 225–242; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

Frustration-Aggression Theory
A theory that argues that social movements occur when frustration leads to collective, often aggressive behavior. According to the theory and its later variations, frustration has a variety of sources. It may, for example, result from deprivation caused by poor economic conditions or social oppression. For example, deprivation can in turn take two forms. It can be absolute — when people simply do not have enough to survive — or relative — when people have enough to survive but have less than those around them with whom they make comparisons.

Frustration-Aggression Theory. The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology, 2000. Retrieved from


A focus on purposes or tasks, particularly those performed by organizations. Some theorists have explained the growth of organizations, particularly international organizations, as a response to an increase in the number of purposes or tasks demanding attention. Neofunctionalism as a theory of regional integration emphasizes the political calculation and pay-off to elites who agree to collaborate in the performance of certain tasks.

Groom, A. J. R. and Paul Taylor. Functionalism: Theory and Practice in International Relations. New York: Crane, Russak, 1975; Viotti, P. and M. Kauppi, eds. International Relations Theory. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987.