Glossary of IR terms
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GT35M Comparative Foreign Policy

Just in case you forgot what you learned in 12A, here's a refresher of common IR terms and concepts!

ANARCHY the absence of an international authority
see also: global governance, international society, neoliberal institutionalism, security dilemma

ARMS CONTROL AGREEMENTS among states to restrict the research, manufacture, or deployment of weapons systems and certain types of troops

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS the flow of money into and out of a country from trade, tourism, foreign aid, sale of services, profits, etc., for a period of time
see also: structural adjustment programme

BALANCE OF POWER an international system in which states enjoy relatively equal power, states form alliances or make policies to counteract the acquisition of power by other states, and no one state is able to dominate the international system

BEHAVIORALISM an approach to the study of social science and international relations that posits that individuals and units like states act in regularized ways; leads to a belief that behaviors can be described, explained, and predicted

BELIEF SYSTEM the organized and integrated perceptions of individuals in a society, including foreign-policy decision-makers, often based on past history, that guide them to select certain policies over others
see also: cognitive consistency

BIPOLAR an international system with two major powers or two groups of states having relatively equal power
see also: multipolar, unipolar, balance of power

BUREAUCRATIC POLITICS the model of foreign-policy decision-making that posits that national decisions are the outcomes of bargaining among bureaucratic groups having competing interests; decisions reflect the relative strength of the individual bureaucratic players
see also: organizational politics, societal model

CAPITALISM the economic system where the ownership of the means of production is in private hands; the system operates according to market forces where capital and labor move freely. According to radicals, an exploitative relationship between the owners of production and the workers
see also: comparative advantage, imperialism

CIVIL WAR armed conflict within a state between factions that wish to control a government or exercise jurisdiction over territory; may have international repercussions with the flow of armaments and refugees, often leading to intervention by other states
see also: general war, track-two diplomacy

COGNITIVE CONSISTENCY the tendency of individuals to accept information that is compatible with what has previously been accepted, often by ignoring inconsistent information; linked to the desire of individuals to be consistent in their attitudes
see also: belief system, groupthink

COLD WAR the era in international relations between the end of World War II and 1990, distinguished by ideological, economic, and political differences between the Soviet Union and the United States
see also: containment, first-generation peacekeeping, superpower

COLLECTIVE GOODS public goods that are jointly provided forthe air, the oceans, or Antarcticabut that no one owns or is individually responsible for; with collective goods, decisions by one group or state have effects for other groups or states

COLLECTIVE SECURITY concept that aggression against a state should be defeated collectively because aggression against one state is aggression against all; basis of the League of Nations and the United Nations

COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE the ability of a country to make and export a good relatively most efficiently; the basis for the liberal economic principle that countries benefit from free trade among nations
see also: capitalism

COMPELLENCE the policy of threatening or intimidating an adversary to take or refrain from taking a particular action

CONSTRUCTIVISM an alternative international relations theory that hypothesizes how ideas, norms, and institutions shape state identity and interests

CONTAINMENT a foreign policy designed to prevent the expansion of an adversary by blocking its opportunities to expand, by supporting weaker states through foreign aid programmes, and by using coercive force against the adversary to harness its expansion; the major U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War era

CULTURAL RELATIVISM the belief that human rights, ethics, and morality are determined by cultures and history and therefore are not universally applicable

DEMOCRATIC PEACE the classical theory now being empirically tested that democratic states are least likely to wage war against each other

DEMOGRAPHIC TRANSITION the situation where increasing levels of economic development lead to falling death rates, followed by falling birthrates

DEMOCRATIZATION the process of adopting democratic characteristics. A country is considered to be democratizing when it adopts one or more of the following features:
(a) government policy is made by officials chosen through free, fair, and periodic elections in which a substantial proportion of the adult population can vote;
(b) actions of officials are constrained by constitutional provisions and commitments to civil liberties; and
(c) government candidates sometimes lose elections and leave office when they do.
Freedom of speech, freedom to organize, to contest elections, and to present varied viewpoints in the media are preconditions for fair elections.

DEPENDENCY THEORY derived from radicalism, an explanation of poverty and underdevelopment in developing countries based on their historical dependence and domination by rich countries

DETERRENCE the policy of maintaining a large military force and arsenal to discourage any potential aggressor from taking actions; states commit themselves to punish an aggressor state
see also: game theory, prisoners dilemma

DIPLOMACY the practice of states trying to influence the behavior of other states by bargaining, negotiating, taking specific non-coercive actions or refraining from such actions, or appealing to the public for support of a position
see also: public diplomacy

DISARMAMENT the policy of eliminating a states offensive weaponry; may occur for all classes of weapons or for specified weapons only; the logic of the policy is that fewer weapons leads to greater security

DOMINO EFFECT a metaphor that posits that the loss of influence over one state to an adversary will lead to a subsequent loss of control over neighboring states, just as dominos fall one after another. Used by the United States as a justification to support South Vietnam, fearing that if that country became communist, neighboring countries would also fall under communist influence
see also: containment, Cold War

ETHNIC GROUP a group of people with a distinctive collective consciousness based on a common language or culture, myths of common ancestry, or a common historical experience. This type of group is distinct from the term nation.

EUROPEAN UNION (EU) a union of 15 European states, formerly the European Common Market. Designed originally during the 1950s for economic integration, but since expanded into a closer political and economic union

EXTERNALITIES in economics, unintended side effects which can have positive or negative consequences

FIRST STRIKE a nuclear attack against an enemy that is designed to eliminate the possibility of its being able to make second strike

FIRST GENERATION HUMAN RIGHTS political or civil rights of citizens that prevent governmental authority from interfering with private individuals or civil society (negative rights)

GAME THEORY a technique developed by mathematicians and economists and used by political scientists to evaluate the choices made in decision situations, where one states or individuals choice affects that of other actors; based on the assumption that each player knows its and the others unique sets of options and the payoffs for each associated with these options. Among the various types of games is the prisoners dilemma
see also: deterrence

GENERAL WAR war designed to conquer and occupy enemy territory, using all available weapons of warfare and targeting both military establishments and civilian facilities
see also: civil war

GENERAL ASSEMBLY one of the major organs of the United Nations which generally addresses issues other than those of peace and security; each member state has one vote; operates with six functional committees of the whole
see also: Security Council

GENERAL AGREEMENT ON TARIFFS AND TRADE (GATT) founded by treaty in 1947 as the Bretton Woods institution responsible for negotiating a liberal international trade regime that included the principles of nondiscrimination in trade and most-favored-nation status. Re-formed itself as the World Trade Organization in 1995

GLOBAL GOVERNANCE the rules, norms, and organizations that are designed to address international problems that states alone cannot solve
see also: anarchy

GLOBALIZATION the process of increasing integration of the world in terms of economics, politics, communications, social relations, and culture

GROUP OF 77 (G-77) a coalition of about 125 developing countries that press for reforms in economic relations between developing and developed countries; also referred to as the South

GROUPTHINK the tendency for small groups to form a consensus and resist criticism of a core position, often disregarding contradictory information in the process; group may ostracize members holding a different position

HEGEMON a dominant state that has a preponderance of power; often establishes and enforces the rules and norms in the international system

HYPOTHESIS a tentative assumption about causal relations put forward to explore and test its logical and usually empirical consequences

IMPERIALISM the policy and practice of extending the domination of one state over another through territorial conquest or economic domination. In radicalism, the final stage of expansion of the capitalist system

INTER-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (IGOs) international agencies or bodies established by states and controlled by member states that deal with areas of common interests

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND (IMF) the Bretton Woods institution originally charged with helping states deal with temporary balance-of-payments problems; now plays a broader role in assisting debtor developing states by offering loans to those who institute specific policies, or structural adjustment programmes
see also: World Bank

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS the interactions among various actors (states, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and sub-national entities like bureaucracies, local governments, and individuals) that participate in international politics

INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY the states and sub-state actors in the international system and the institutions and norms that regulate their interaction; implies that these actors communicate, sharing common interests and a common identity; identified with British school of political theory
see also: anarchy

IRREDENTISM the demands of ethnonationalist groups to take political control of territory historically or ethnically related to them by separating from their parent state or taking territory from other states

LEAGUE OF NATIONS the international organization formed at the conclusion of World War I for the purpose of preventing another war; based on collective security

LEGITIMACY the moral and legal right to rule, which is based on law, custom, heredity, or the consent of the governed; with reference to a government, a state recognized by members of the international community

LEVELS OF ANALYSIS in international relations, the widely accepted notion and analytic approach that each levelthe individual, the state, and the international systemmatters; specific events can be described and explained according to each of the three different levels

LIBERALISM the theoretical perspective based on the assumption of the innate goodness of the individual and the value of political institutions
see also: neoliberal institutionalism

LIMITED WAR a war fought for limited objectives with selected types of weapons or targets; the objective will be less than the total subjugation of the enemy

MALTHUSIAN DILEMMA the situation that population growth rates will increase faster than agricultural productivity, leading to shortages; named after Thomas Malthus

MIRROR IMAGE tendency of individuals and groups to see in ones opponent the opposite characteristics as seen in ones self

MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS (MNCs) private enterprises with production facilities, sales, or activities in several states

NATION a group of people sharing the same race, a common language, history, and/or culture. A nation can be specifically defined as a group of people who see themselves as distinct in their culture, history, institutions, or collective principles and who aspire to self-rule.

NATION-STATE the entity formed when people sharing the same historical, cultural, or linguistic roots form their own state with borders, a government, and international recognition; trend began with French and American Revolutions

NATIONAL INTEREST the interest of the state, most basically the protection of territory and sovereignty; in realist thinking, the interest is a unitary one defined in terms of the pursuit of power; in liberal thinking, there are many national interests; in radicalist thinking, it is the interest of a ruling elite

NATIONALISM devotion and allegiance to the nation and the shared characteristics of its peoples; used to motivate people to patriotic acts, sometimes leading a group to seek dominance over another group.

NEOLIBERAL INSTITUTIONALISM a reinterpretation of liberalism that posits that even in an anarchic international system, states will cooperate because of their continuous actions with each other and because it is in their self-interest to do so; institutions provide the framework for cooperative interactions

NEOREALISM a reinterpretation of realism that posits that the structure of the international system is the most important level to study; states behave the way they do because of the structure of the international system; includes the belief that general laws can be found to explain events

NEW INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ORDER (NIEO) a list of demands by the Group of 77 to reform economic relations between the North and South, that is, between the developed countries and the developing countries

NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs) private associations of individuals or groups that engage in political activity usually across national borders
see also: transnational

NORMATIVE relating to ethical rules; in foreign policy and international affairs, standards suggesting that a policy should be

NORTH refers to the developed countries, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, including North America, the European countries, and Japan
see also: South

NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION (NATO) military and political alliance between western European states and the United States established in 1948 for the purpose of defending Europe from aggression by the Soviet Union and its allies
see also: Warsaw Pact

NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION the spread of nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons technology; Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligates nuclear powers not to transfer their nuclear technology to third countries and obligates non-nuclear signatories to refrain from acquiring or developing the technology

ORGANIZATIONAL POLITICS the foreign-policy decision-making model that posits that national decisions are the products of sub-national governmental organizations and units; the procedures and processes of the organization largely determine the policy; major changes in policy are unlikely
see also: bureaucratic politics, societal model

OPPORTUNITY COST when a choice is made, the value of the best forgone opportunity

PLURALIST MODEL a model of foreign-policy decision-making that suggests that policy is formed as a result of the bargaining among the various domestic sources of foreign policy, including public opinion, private interest groups, and multinational corporations; these interests are generally channeled through democratic institutions like legislatures or persons holding elective positions

POWER POTENTIAL a relative measure of the power an entity like a state could have, derived from a consideration of both tangible and intangible resources that may be used; states may not transfer their power potential into actual power

POWER a relationship between two individuals, groups, or states in which one party has the ability both to influence the other and to force outcomes that the other party may not want

PRISONERS DILEMMA a theoretical game in which rational players (states or individuals) choose options that lead to outcomes (payoffs) in which all players are worse off than under a different set of choices
see also: deterrence, reciprocity, game theory

PUBLIC DIPLOMACY use of certain diplomatic methods to create a favorable image of the state or its people; methods include, for example, goodwill tours, cultural and student exchanges, and media presentations

RADICALISM a social theory, formulated by Karl Marx and modified by other theorists, that posits that class conflict between owners and workers will cause the eventual demise of capitalism

RATIONAL ACTOR in the realist assumption, an individual or state that uses logical reasoning to select a policy; that is, it has a defined goal to achieve, considers a full range of alternative strategies, and selects the policy that best achieves the goal

REALISM a theory of international relations that emphasizes states interest in accumulating power to ensure security in an anarchic world; based on the notion that individuals are power seeking and that states act in pursuit of their own national interest defined in terms of power

RECIPROCITY in international relations, treating the actions of other states in the same manner; if one side cooperates, the other cooperates; if one side engages in negative actions, the other responds in kind

REGIME in international relations, an all-encompassing term that includes the rules, norms, and procedures that are developed by states and international organizations out of their common concerns and are used to organize common activities

SANCTIONS economic, diplomatic, and even coercive military force for enforcing a states policy or legal obligations; sanctions can be positive (offering an incentive to a state) or negative (punishing a state)

SATISFICE in decision-making theory, the idea that states and their leaders settle for the minimally acceptable solution, not the best possible outcome, in order to reach a consensus and formulate a policy

SECOND GENERATION HUMAN RIGHTS social and economic rights that states are obligated to provide their citizenry, including the rights to medical care, jobs, and housing (positive rights)

SECOND-GENERATION PEACEKEEPING the use of multilateral forces, both military and civilian, to organize governments, promote law and order, and offer humanitarian aid and intervention to states or regions experiencing conflict; used extensively in the postCold War era to try to mitigate the effects of civil and ethnic strife

SECOND-STRIKE CAPABILITY in the age of nuclear weapons, the ability of a state to respond and hurt an adversary after a first strike has been launched by the adversary; ensures that both sides will suffer an unacceptable level of damage

SECURITY DILEMMA the situation in which one state improves its military capabilities, especially its defenses, and those improvements are seen by other states as threats; each state in an anarchic international system tries to increase its own level of protection leading to insecurity in others, often leading to an arms race
see also: realism

SECURITY COUNCIL one of the major organs of the United Nations charged with the responsibility for peace and security issues; includes five permanent members with veto power and ten nonpermanent members chosen from the General Assembly

SOCIALISM an economic and social system that relies on intensive government intervention or public ownership of the means of production in order to distribute wealth among the population more equitably; in radicalist theory, the stage between capitalism and communism

SOUTH the developing countries of Africa, Latin America, and southern Asia, generally located in the Southern Hemisphere
see also: North, Group of 77 (G-77)

SOVEREIGNTY the authority of the state, based on recognition by other states and by non-state actors, to govern matters within its own borders that affect its people, economy, security, and form of government

STATE the organized political unit which has a geographic territory, a stable population, and a government to which the population owes allegiance and which is legally recognized by other states

STRATIFICATION the degree to which there is an uneven distribution of resources among different groups of individuals and states

STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT PROGRAMME IMF policies and recommendations to guide states out of balance-of-payment difficulties and economic crises

SUMMIT TALKS AND MEETINGS among the highest-level government officials from different countries; designed to promote good relations, discuss issues, and conclude formal negotiations

SUPERPOWER highest-power states as distinguished from other great powers; term coined during the Cold War to refer to the United States and Soviet Union

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT an approach to economic development that tries to reconcile current economic growth and environmental protection with future needs

SYSTEM a group of units or parts united by some form of regular interaction, in which a change in one unit causes changes in the others; these interactions occur in regularized ways

TERRORISM the use of violence by groups or states to intimidate, cause fear, or punish their victims to achieve political goals

THEORY generalized statements about political, social, or economic activity that seek to describe and explain those activities; used in many cases as a basis of prediction

THIRD GENERATION HUMAN RIGHTS collective rights of groups, including the rights of indigenous people and children, and the rights to democracy and development

TRACK-TWO DIPLOMACY unofficial overtures by private individuals or groups to try and resolve an ongoing international crisis or civil war

TRANSNATIONAL across national boundaries; can refer to actions of various non-state actors, such as private individuals and NGOs

TREATY OF WESTPHALIA treaty ending the Thirty Years War in Europe in 1648; in international relations represents the beginning of state sovereignty within a territorial space

UNIPOLAR an international system where there is only one great power
see also: bipolar, multipolar

UNITARY ACTOR an assumption made by realists that the state speaks with one voice and has a single national interest

UNIVERSAL JURISDICTION a legal concept that permits states to claim legal authority beyond their national territory for the purpose of punishing a particularly heinous criminal or protecting human rights

WARSAW PACT the military alliance formed by the state of the Soviet bloc in 1955 in response to the rearmament of West Germany and its inclusion in NATO; permitted the stationing of Soviet troops in Eastern Europe

WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION (WTO) organization to support the principles of liberal free trade; includes enforcement measures and dispute settlement mechanisms; established in 1995 to replace the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)

WORLD BANK a global lending agency to finance projects in developing countries; formally known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, established as one of the key Bretton Woods institutions to deal with reconstruction and development
see also: International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Adapted from Karen Mingst, Essentials of International Relations, New York: Norton, 1998.