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About this book

The third edition of this popular textbook offers a comprehensive and authoritative introduction to the key questions that will confront anyone interested in world politics for decades to come. Written at the end of US hegemony, in the midst of numerous global crises, and other burgeoning issues and developments, this text provides the necessary foundation to understanding politics on a global level today.

This text is a collation of topical chapters, each authored by experts in their own field and written in a clear and balanced manner. The issues which endure, as well as new and unexpected issues, are all covered within this text, with cross-referencing between chapters and to external work. New chapters cover the major developments of this era, including the impact of the financial crisis, climate change, the refugee crisis, the rise of China and Russia.

Beeson and Bisely hone this text with their careful editorship. They place this text within the context of the key questions that arise from these issues: to what extent can policy makers cope with fundamental changes to politics, what will the impact of non-state actors be, what can we predict about future world politics, to name a few. This makes the text indispensable to students wishing to understanding contemporary world politics.

Being wide-ranging and completely up-to-date, this is the ideal companion for both undergraduates and postgraduate students of Internationals Relations and Politics. The text has been written in a clear and approachable manner to make it accessible to students unfamiliar with the topic.

Table of Contents

1. Issues in 21st Century World Politics: An Introduction

This is the third time we have edited Issues in 21st Century World Politics. Each time we have done so, there has been some seemingly monumental ‘issue’ or other that seemed remarkable as we were editing the book. This edition is no different. Indeed, there is no shortage of things happening in the world at the time of writing (early 2016) that have potentially major implications for the future of the international system. There is a very real chance that the American electorate could put Donald Trump, a reality TV star with no political experience, into the White House, reinforcing the sense that US political system has serious structural flaws. This also reflects a broader trend towards insurgent populism across the democratic world, with the election of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines one of the most notable examples. Established political processes and practices seem to be unable to deliver, and unpredictable and dangerous politics seems to be the order of the day. Even as China undertakes a brash and confident foreign policy asserting large and destabilizing claims in the South China Sea, its economy faces very significant headwinds. Some analysts think that a serious financial crisis is a distinct possibility in the world’s second largest economy. Britain’s surprising vote to leave the EU is likely to badly damage the broader European project while the ongoing problems in Syria and Crimea underscore the deep-seated political and social fissures in Southwest Asia.
Mark Beeson, Nick Bisley

Chapter 1. Rising Powers and the Return of Geopolitics

On March 18, 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, the first coercive transformation of a European border since 1945. The liberal dream of a post-conflict Europe is over, a dream ignited by the remarkable transformation of Europe’s international relations (IR) after 1945. The Cold War nuclear balance and European institutions appeared to end what had appeared endemic, the use of violent conflict to advance national interests. Of all the world’s regions, the one that had been so war-prone had become peaceful. Even in the aftermath of the Cold War and the horrors of the Yugoslav conflict, the liberally inclined could comfort themselves that it was ultimately a civil conflict in which a federal state broke apart into its constituent republics. States using military muscle to change the map appeared to have been banished. Some thought that Europe represented proof that laws, institutions and norms, whether those of the European Union (EU) or the United Nations (UN), could fundamentally change the way states behave. The gloomy realist who insisted that no amount of well-intentioned legalese could change the primacy of power was said to be proven definitively wrong. Some, evidently unaware of the constantly transformative nature of modern social life, thought that history, understood as the struggle of ideas over the optimum way of organizing political and economic affairs, had come to an end (e.g. Fukuyama 1992).
Nick Bisley

Chapter 2. Ways of War in the Twenty-First Century

After the end of the Cold War, contradictory trends in warfare became apparent. For many scholars during the 1990s, the demise of the Soviet Union had brought about a new world order in which international politics had taken on a more optimistic shape. Some scholars even expressed the sentiment that war itself had been unlearnt and had passed into history alongside other arcane practices such as duelling and slavery (Mueller 1995). It became commonplace to argue that hard military power had been replaced by ‘soft’ forms power (Keohane and Nye 1998). Thus it appeared the scholarly community was hopeful that peaceful modes of transformations would dominate international relations (IR). However, any idea that war had gone away proved illusory. Throughout the 1990s, civil and ethnic wars proliferated across the globe.
Caroline Kennedy-Pipe, Thomas Waldman

Chapter 3. Non-traditional Security and World Politics

Worldwide, people witness devastation caused by floods, earthquakes, storms, heatwaves and drought that affected 107 million people across 94 countries in 2014 alone (IFRC 2015). We see infectious disease outbreaks like Ebola in West Africa, which claimed the lives of 8,600 people in 2014 (IFRC 2015); the Fukushima triple disaster that claimed the lives of over 18,000 people in 2011 (McCurry 2015); the piracy attacks off the Horn of Africa peaking in 2007–2008; the continuing reality of human trafficking; and the impact of the food price crisis of 2007–2008. These crises create widespread political and economic instability in both the developed and developing worlds.
Alistair D. B. Cook

Chapter 4. Global Terrorism

On September 11, 2001, history resumed. A mere 12 years earlier, the rubble of the Berlin wall had seemed to mark a grand historical terminus. With communism following fascism into oblivion, political theorist Francis Fukuyama speculated about the possible ‘end of history’ (Fukuyama 1989), with the defeat of America’s last remaining totalitarian adversary supposedly heralding capitalist democracies’ universal triumph. But by 2001, the World Trade Center’s ruins invited a far darker assessment of history’s course. On 9/11, 19 hijackers exploited the very openness and technological sophistication of liberal societies to inflict more destruction on the US mainland than had any of America’s state-based adversaries in the twentieth century. The events of 9/11 immediately hastened a profound transformation in the foreign policies of the US and its closest allies. Dismissed by many as a second-order concern in the 1990s, since 9/11 global terrorism is now recognized as one of the most potent threats to international security. In particular, the failure of the ‘Arab Spring’ and the rise of the Islamic State (IS) have catapulted global jihadist terrorism to renewed prominence, highlighting its status as an especially enduring, virulent and resilient threat to international order. The nature of the global terrorist threat, its historical evolution, contemporary import and prospective significance, form the subjects of this chapter.
Andrew Phillips

Chapter 5. International Organizations: Can They Break Free from States?

Collectively, international organizations (IOs) are one of the core actors in international relations (IR), especially since the dawn of the post-World War II era. There is not a day that goes by without some IO or another making the nightly news somewhere in the world. There are by now thousands of IOs seemingly covering every issue and region of the globe, including Antarctica and the oceans – and even outer space. Some are well known and have multi-billion dollar budgets with thousands of staff, such as the United Nations (UN), while others are more obscure, but nevertheless provide an important forum for IR, such as the International Seabed Authority. A key issue for the twenty-first century in relation to IOs is whether any of them are really autonomous from their member states, especially the most powerful ones? Are they at best a forum for member states to interact and negotiate with each other to advance common interests, at worst a tool of the powerful to impose their interests upon the rest? To put it another way, are there any significant IOs that have been able to move beyond internationalism to become supranational (between and above nation-states, respectively) in their governance? Can IOs break free from states?
Sean Starrs

Chapter 6. Globalization and Governance

Of all the issues that will challenge policymakers in the twenty-first century, none is more important than the fate of the state. The state, after all, is at the center of national politics and power, and still remains the most consequential actor in the international system – or some states do, at least. As we shall see, while all states are subject to an array of forces we can conveniently package under the heading of ‘globalization’, not all states were created equal. On the contrary, one of the more important debates in contemporary international relations (IR) and international political economy (IPE) is about the capacity of states to manage national affairs at a time of greater international economic integration and political interdependence. This is not simply an academic debate either: national living standards and overall security are increasingly determined by the state’s interaction with the wider international system within which it is embedded.
Mark Beeson

Chapter 7. Regions and Regionalism

This chapter considers the meaning and significance of regions and regionalism and their roles in international politics today. It does so by first considering how regionalism as a concept has come to be defined and understood, and by exploring its characteristics and contours in European and non-European settings. The chapter then tracks the major developments in the history and theory of regionalism. It is particularly concerned to illustrate regionalism as a global process, one that is not uniquely associated with any single regional experience. In that sense it seeks to move beyond a commonly held Eurocentric bias in studies of regionalism and consider regional processes in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In highlighting its contemporary significance it qualifies the notion that regionalism has experienced exponential growth since the end of the Cold War – a point brought sharply into focus by the continuing crisis of the European Union (EU). Rather, it argues that regionalism today needs to be understood as part of a complex architecture of multilateralism.
Louise Fawcett

Chapter 8. International Law and World Politics

The end of the Cold War led to great optimism about the future capacity of the UN to regulate inter-state relations (Berdal 2003: 9; Barnett 2010: 21; Chesterman 2011: 2). With the end of the ‘Superpower Standoff’ – which had severely restricted the ability of the Security Council to enforce the vast corpus of international laws ratified since 1945 – we had, according to Geoffrey Robertson, entered ‘the age of enforcement’ (2000: xvii). Indeed, the ‘happy nineties’ (Kaldor 2003: 149) appeared to some to evidence the growing dominance of international law over traditional realpolitik; indicatively, Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2000 presented a very favorable analysis of the international community’s ‘new willingness’ to uphold international law, and heralded ‘a new era for the human rights movement’ (Human Rights Watch 2000).
Aidan Hehir

Chapter 9. Nationalism and Identity

Nationalism is the primary legitimator of political identities in the modern world. The major forum of humanity – the United Nations (UN) – is an organization of purported nation-states. Yet in his classic study Eric Hobsbawm (1992: 191) declared that nationalism is no longer a global political program and the history of the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century would have to be written in largely supranational and infranational terms. In the nineteenth century, nationalism was an important historical force in the developed world, combining nation-states with a national economy that formed a building block of the world economy; similarly, national liberation movements after 1945 played a progressive function as they were unificatory, internationalist (in opposing ethnic tribalism) and emancipatory (ibid.: 169). However, the rise of the European Union (EU) and a host of international organizations (IOs) such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank show the limits of state sovereignty in the contemporary world. In its separatist and populist forms nationalism has regressed to being a politics of identity, expressing a hunger to belong. Its goals of making political and ethnographic boundaries are unrealizable in a world of global economic disruptions and mass migration. It is a symptom of the disorientation produced by such changes, offering no diagnosis, let alone a treatment of problems that can be tackled at a higher level (ibid.: 177).
John Hutchinson

Chapter 10. Climate Change

In late 2015, one of the largest diplomatic meetings in global history concluded in Paris. Over 40,000 delegates from countries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations (IOs), research institutes, business organizations and many more, had been there to either negotiate an international treaty, to lobby and protest to get that treaty to be better according to some criteria held by the lobbyists or protesters, or to follow and track the negotiations and politics more generally. Given the size of the meeting, we might think it was something on the traditional ‘high politics’ agenda – security, terrorism, perhaps the global economy. But this meeting was about climate change, and was scheduled to produce a treaty that might enable states and other actors to improve a global response that has so far proved highly inadequate. Climate change has itself arguably become an issue of ‘high politics’ – regarded as a national security issue in many states, and certainly central to many aspects of the trajectory of the global economy.
David Gordon, Matthew Paterson

Chapter 11. Global Financial Crises

A reality of global politics is that some of its most important features are overshadowed by what, on a dispassionate analysis, are really much less significant issues. Financial crises, for example, are increasingly frequent and can pose challenges to the established order of global politics. But even though financial volatility seriously affects governments and the lives of billions, it is typically relegated to the business pages by the drama of terrorism or the high politics of trade negotiations, until it bursts forth in a global financial crisis, such as the one that began in 2007, or in dramatic events like the Chinese stock market falls that began in 2015 but whose consequences are unclear. This is unfortunate because it means that what is happening in the ‘engine room’ of globalization is often poorly understood by those in power and by those who wish to change the policies of those in power.
Giulia Mennillo, Timothy J. Sinclair

Chapter 12. Gender and World Politics

In April of 2014, nearly 300 Chibok girls and young women were kidnapped by Boko Haram in the Borno State in Nigeria. Over the course of 2015, thousands of Yazidi girls and young women were kidnapped and sold into sex slavery by the Islamic State (IS). In the same year, hundreds of women migrated to and took up arms for IS, characterized in the media as ‘jihadi brides’ looking for ‘jihottie’ husbands. In 2015, domestic violence rates were on the rise, and women were disproportionately affected by a number of disease outbreaks, migration patterns, and economic setbacks. Almost everywhere in the world, women are under-represented in the halls of power, and over-represented among the poor, sick, impoverished and undereducated.
Laura Sjoberg, Natalia Fontoura

Chapter 13. Inequality and Underdevelopment

Global inequality and underdevelopment are particularly contentious issues in contemporary world politics. In essence, they talk to issues which ask the following questions: what is the (global) North–South divide? How has it emerged, how is it reproduced, and what can be done about it? Has the recent era of ‘globalization’ eroded a North–South divide and promoted some forms of convergence, or at least poverty reduction, in the global order? This chapter examines these questions, and the last one in particular. Debate over the relationship between globalization, inequality and underdevelopment has been particularly contentious. On the one hand, there are relatively upbeat assessments concerning a shift towards convergence between rich and poor countries in the global economy. A variant on this argument suggests that while inequality in some forms may not have been reduced in recent years, what matters is the fact that global poverty has been reduced, and this has occurred because of the opportunities that globalization presents to developing countries. Not all states have necessarily taken advantage of these opportunities, but it is precisely in these states where rapid economic growth and poverty reduction have not occurred.
Ray Kiely

Chapter 14. Migrants and Refugees in Global Politics

The movement of people has helped shape the trajectory of history for as long as human communities have existed. Ever since the first groups of modern humans left Africa to populate the world, population movements have brought with them prosperity and devastation, cultural enrichment and annihilation, cooperation and conflict. Mass migration has contributed to the collapse of some great powers (the migration of Visigoths, Vandals and other peoples contributing to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century) and the rise of others (the mass emigration of some 60 million Europeans to the US in the nineteenth and early twentieth century). More recently, technological innovations have made long- distance relocation cheaper and easier, while the combination of globalization and inequality has primed the world’s working-age population to consider migration as a natural path to achieve economic opportunities and betterment. Add to this the record number of refugees, asylum seekers and other forced migrants fleeing a surge in political repression and wars, and it is safe to say that the movement of people will continue to be a salient feature of global politics throughout the twenty-first century.
Anne Hammerstad

Chapter 15. Social Movements in World Politics

Social movements have played a central role in global political change, both historically and in recent decades. During the 1990s and early 2000s the global justice movement advocated for an alternative vision of globalization to that being developed through international financial institutions (IFIs), In recent years, more localized movements, such as the interconnected city-based manifestations of Occupy, have been organizing in response to the recent economic crisis, and, more generally, the conflicts and contradictions of neoliberalization. Despite their central role in global politics, this is the first contribution on social movements in this series. The omission of such a chapter draws attention to a broader lack of engagement with social movements outside of the field of ‘social movement studies’. In political science, scholars have increasingly engaged with the question of what constitutes political action, considering diverse new modes of political engagement and participation outside of formal political institutions (Bang and Sorensen 1999; Li and Marsh 2008), often drawing on related debates in sociology on the political motivations of social action (cf. Maffesoli 1996; Riley et al. 2010).
Kelly Gerard, Sky Croeser

Chapter 16. Democracy’s Meaning, Progress and Recession

Democracy, in a mainstream understanding, involves the recruitment of state position holders and the making of public policies in ways that allow participation by, and promote accountability to, ordinary citizens. During the European Enlightenment, democracy’s procedures began to cohere in their modern representative and majoritarian form, made manifest in parliaments and regular elections. But greater than two centuries more were needed for democracy to spread globally, involving a series of what Samuel Huntington (1991) identified as ‘waves’. A ‘long’ first wave, beginning during the nineteenth century and extending into the early twentieth, introduced elected parliaments across Europe and, at least nominally, in Latin America and Japan. But during the 1920s–1930s, a ‘reverse wave’ set in, with democracy losing ground in all these places amid the rise of totalitarian ideologies. After victory by the Allied powers in World War II, followed by the break-up of empires, a second wave took shape, renewing democracy in Europe and Japan, while conveying it also to parts of Africa and East and Southeast Asia. However, during the 1950s–1960s, momentum was again reversed, with democracy retreating before military coups and modernizing bureaucracies.
William Case
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