IS; ISIS; ISIL; Islamic State & IR Theory - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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Ongoing wars and conflict resolution, international agreements or lack thereof. Nationhood, secessionist movements, national 'home' government versus internationalist trends and globalisation.

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Humblebum wrote:Can anyone suggest ways in which the phenomenon of IS challenges how traditional IR theory conceptualizes states and terrorist organizations?
Sorry abut that sounds awfully like a homework question.
#14599296
Humblebum wrote:Can anyone suggest ways in which the phenomenon of IS challenges how traditional IR theory conceptualizes states and terrorist organizations?

Suggestions for relevant academic reading on the subject would be particularly welcome.



Having lived through the IR and living through the IS, I see no real difference between the two. Not in basic philosophy, but the IS is certainly more aggressive. But, it is going through a more revolutionary period. And, it has wider territory and a wider audience. The Shia have always been the quieter. I am sure that is only because of numbers.
#14599299
IS certainly challenges the westphalian order which is central to some traditional IR theories. From there it should be easy to find readings.

But traditional IR theories are shit anyway
#14599309
Sounds like HW to me as well, but since I am responsible for dozens students who don't read their syllabi, it won't hurt to try t help one more.

It's true that traditional theories are highly statist and tend to elevate the state as the primary actor in international relations, while downplaying others. Realism(s), most liberal theories, institutionalist theories are guilty of this. However, there is no theoretical limitation to analyzing non-state actors in the context of these paradigms as long as you are able to do so in a manner that would be consistent with its assumptions. Non-state actors (such as ISIS) are not as big a challenge to theory as is often assumed.

For example, Realism focuses on the impact of the system (anarchy) on balancing outcomes based on the structure of the system (i.e. polarity). You might say, oh but this is about states' foreign policies and alignment preferences. Moreover, states are functionally undifferentiated and their unique characteristics don't matter for such analyses. However, there is nothing stopping you from looking at another level of analysis and highlighting different aspects of the struggle for power under anarchy. You could say that states are but one type of political organization we encounter in anarchic systems, but the logic of survival dictates that all political units, from dynastic competitors to terrorist organizations have the same goal: survival. In this sense, ISIS is not very unique. Furthermore, Realists and liberals are more than capable of dis-aggregating the state in order to examine specific phenomena such as elites coalitions, interest groups, corporations, and state/society conflicts. ISIS could easily be understood as a group that rejects the present domestic and international status quo and can be treated as a transnational insurgency. Not only that, but mainstream IR theory has some of the tools needed to address ISIS. Realist theories can observe the phenomenon in the context of third world security dilemmas (see: Stephen David), utilization of non-state actors by states as a weapon of the weak (literature on state sponsoring of terrorism), or state formation/building (Tilly and countless others). Liberal theories can consider the role of economics, ideology, transnational flows of people and ideas etc. to explain the rise and success of ISIS etc.

I think the real problem is that some people read hyper-globalist drivel and all these hipster arguments about "the world falling apart and how the state and realism are dead!! etc." and think they can claim that statist conceptions of international politics are quaint and the state is destined to disappear and so on. States are not going anywhere; they are here to stay.

IS certainly challenges the westphalian order which is central to some traditional IR theories.

We aren't even in a Westphalian order. The modern international system with strong sovereignty truly emerged in the 19th century. But more importantly, IS is attempting to build a state. A state is state is a state. Not very "anti-Westphalian", if you ask me.

But traditional IR theories are shit anyway

Realism and the English School are rather excellent. I don't care much for Liberalism, which is composed of several equally degenerate research paradigms ('Realism-plus' aka institutionalism and hegemonic stability theories, Derpocratic Peace Theory, and we-stole-our-assumptions-from-soft-constructivists-like-Barnett-and-Wendt-etc-liberalism)

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