Terms for Political Science 2200
Anarchy- A system operating in the absence of any central government. Does not imply chaos, but in
realist theory the absence of political authority.
Asymmetrical globalization- Describes the way in which contemporary globalization is unequally
experienced across the world and among different social groups in such a way that it produces a
distinctive geography of inclusion in, and exclusion from, the global system.
Balance of power- In realist theory, refers to an equilibrium between states; historical realists regard it
as the product of diplomacy (contrived balance) whereas structural realists regard the system as having
a tendency towards a natural equilibrium (fortuitous balance). It is a doctrine and an arrangement
whereby the power of one state (or group of states) is checked by the countervailing power of other
Capitalism- A system of production in which human labour and its products are commodities that are
bought and sold in the market-place.
Civil society- (1) the totality of all individuals and groups in a society who are not acting as participants
in any government institutions, or (2) all individuals and groups who are neither participants in
government nor acting in the interests of commercial companies. The two meanings are incompatible
and contested. There is a third meaning: the network of social institutions and practices (economic
relationships, family and kinship groups, religious, and other social affiliations) which underlie strictly
political institutions. For democratic theorists the voluntary character of these associations is taken to
be essential to the workings of democratic politics.
Clash of civilizations- Controversial idea first used by Samuel Huntington in 1993 to describe the main
cultural fault-line of international conflict in a world without communism; the notion has become more
popular still since 9/11.
Cold war- Extended worldwide conflict between communism and capitalism that is normally taken to
have begun in 1947 and concluded in 1989 with the collapse of Soviet power in Europe.
Collective security- Refers to an arrangement where 'each state in the system accepts that the security
of one is the concern of all, and agrees to join in a collective response to aggression' (Roberts and
Kingsbury 1993: 30). It is also the foundational principle of the League of Nations: namely, that member
states would take a threat or attack on one member as an assault on them all (and on international
norms more generally). The League would accordingly respond in unison to such violations of
international law. Appreciating that such concerted action would ensue, putative violators-the League's
framers hoped-would be duly deterred from launching aggressive strikes in the first place. As the 1920s
and 1930s showed, however, theory and practice diverged wildly, with League members failing to take
concerted action against Japanese imperialism in Asia, and German and Italian expansionism in Europe
and Africa. Constructivism- An approach to international politics that concerns itself with the centrality of ideas
and human consciousness and stresses a holistic and idealist view of structures. As constructivists have
examined world politics they have been broadly interested in how the structure constructs the actors'
identities and interests, how their interactions are organized and constrained by that structure, and how
their very interaction serves to either reproduce or transform that structure.
Containment- American political strategy for resisting perceived Soviet expansion, first publicly
espoused by an American diplomat, George Kennan, in 1947. Containment became a powerful factor in
American policy towards the Soviet Union for the next forty years, and a self-image of Western policy-
Cosmopolitanism- Denoting identification with a community, culture, or idea that transcends borders or
particular societies, and implies freedom from local or national conventions/limitations. In the early 21st
Century, the dominant cosmopolitanism was that of globalizing capitalism, which promoted a
community and culture that was informed by market economics, a concept of universal human rights,
and a relatively liberal social culture. The cosmopolitanism of globalizing capitalism fostered a degree of
multiculturalism, although it sought to reconcile particular cultures to a common ground of universal
political and economic principles.
Democratic peace- A central plank of liberal internationalist thought, the democratic peace thesis
makes two claims: first, liberal polities exhibit restraint in their relations with other liberal polities (the
so-called separate peace) but are imprudent in relations with authoritarian states. The validity of the
democratic peace thesis has been fiercely debated in the IR literature.
Détente- Relaxation of tension between East and West; Soviet-American détente lasted from the late
1960s to the late 1970s, and was characterized by negotiations and nuclear arms control agreements.
Deterritorialization- A process in which the organization of social activities is increasingly less
constrained by geographical proximity and national territorial boundaries. Accelerated by the
technological revolution and refers to the diminuition of influence of territorial places, distances, and
boundaries over the way people collectively identify themselves or seek political recognition. This
permits an expansion of global civil society but equally an expansion of global criminal or terrorist
Development, core ideas, and assumptions- In the orthodox view, the possibility of unlimited economic
growth in a free-market system. Economies would reach a 'take-off' point and thereafter wealth would
trickle down to those at the bottom. Superiority of the 'Western' model and knowledge. Belief that the
process would ultimately benefit everyone. Domination, exploitation of nature. In the alternative view,
sufficiency. The inherent value of nature, cultural diversity, and the community-controlled commons
(water, land, air, forest). Human activity in balance with nature. Self-reliance. Democratic inclusion,
participation, for example, voice for marginalized groups, e.g. women, indigenous groups. Local control. Empire- A distinct type of political entity, which may or may not be a state, possessing both a home
territory and foreign territories. It is a disputed concept that some have tried to apply to the United
States to describe its international reach, huge capabilities, and vital global role of underwriting world
Failed state- This is a state that has collapsed and cannot provide for its citizens without substantial
external support and where the government of the state has ceased to exist inside the territorial
borders of the state.
Feminism- A political project to understand so as to change women's inequality or oppression. For
some, aiming to move beyond gender, so that it no longer matters; for others, to validate women's
interests, experiences, and choices; for others, to work for more equal and inclusive social relations
Gender- What it means to be male or female in a particular place or time; the social construction of
Gendered division of labour (GDL)- The notion of 'women's work', which everywhere includes women's
primary responsibility for childcare and housework, and which designates many public and paid forms of
work as 'women's' or 'men's', too.
Globalization- A historical process involving a fundamental shift or transformation in the spatial scale of
human social organization that links distant communities and expands the reach of power relations
across regions and continents. It is also something of a catch-all phrase often used to describe a single
world-economy after the collapse of communism, though sometimes employed to define the growing
integration of the international capitalist system in the post-war period.
Hegemony- A system regulated by a dominant leader, or political (and/or economic) domination of a
region, usually by a superpower. In realist theory, the influence a Great Power is able to establish on
other states in the system; extent of influence ranges from leadership to dominance. It is also power and
control exercised by a leading state over other states. Idealism- Holds that ideas have important causal effect on events in international politics, and that
ideas can change. Referred to by realists as utopianism since it underestimates the logic of power
politics and the constraints this imposes upon political action. Idealism as a substantive theory of
international relations is generally associated with the claim that it is possible to create a world of
peace. But idealism as a social theory refers to the claim that the most fundamental feature of society is
social consciousness. Ideas shape how we see ourselves and our interests, the knowledge that we use to
categorize and understand the world, the beliefs we have of others, and the possible and impossible
solutions to challenges and threats. The emphasis on ideas does not mean a neglect of material forces
such as technology and geography. Instead it is to suggest that the meanings and consequences of these
material forces are not given by nature but rather driven by human interpretations and understandings.
Idealists seek to apply liberal thinking in domestic politics to international relations, in other words,
institutionalize the rule of law. This reasoning is known as the domestic analogy. According to idealists in
the early twentieth century, there were two principal requirements for a new world order. First: state
leaders, intellectuals, and public opinion had to believe that progress was possible. Second: an
international organization had to be created to facilitate peaceful change, disarmament, arbitration, and
(where necessary) enforcement. The League of Nations was founded in 1920 but its collective security
system failed to prevent the descent into world war in the 1930s.
Identity- The understanding of the self in relationship to an 'other'. Identities are social and thus are
always formed in relationship to others. Constructivists generally hold that identities shape interests; we
cannot know what we want unless we know who we are. But because identities are social and are
produced through interactions, identities can change.
Imperialism- The practice of foreign conquest and rule in the context of global relations of hierarchy
and subordination. It can lead to the establishment of an empire.
Institutions- Persistent and having connected sets of rules and practices that prescribe roles, constrain
activity, and shape the expectations of actors. Institutions may include organizations, bureaucratic
agencies, treaties and agreements, and informal practices that states accept as binding. The balance of
power in the international system is an example of an institution. (Adapted from Haas, Keohane, and