Recasting Statecraft: International Relations and Strategies of Peaceful Change

T. V. Paul
  • International Studies Quarterly, February 2017, Oxford University Press (OUP)
  • DOI: 10.1093/isq/sqw059

Recasting Statecraft: International Relations and Strategies of Peaceful Change

Why is it important?

Much of mainstream International Relations (IR) scholarship considers war to be a precondition for significant changes at the systemic level. Peaceful change as a subject has received limited attention in Realism, except by E. H. Carr and Robert Gilpin, although several strategies for stability are present in the paradigm. Mechanisms inherent in Liberalism have offered the most insights on obtaining change without war. Constructivism also focuses on change, caused largely by norms and inter-subjective ideational forces. Yet concrete strategies for peaceful change at the international level remain elusive in much of IR theory. The traditional grand strategy literature has focused most attention on obtaining national objectives through war while ignoring peaceful mechanisms of change and transformation. This article, based on my presidential address at the 57th ISA Convention in Atlanta in March 2016, calls for a reorientation in the grand strategy literature by incorporating strategies of peaceful change. It examines the contributions for peaceful change made by Europe, the United States, and rising and resurgent powers Russia, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa, in addition to ASEAN as a regional grouping. The article concludes by asking why some of these countries pursued peaceful strategies of change at various points in time only to abandon them subsequently. The article calls on the IR discipline to think more clearly about strategies for peaceful change and foreign policymakers to adapt and reorient succeeding generations to seek change without violence as a subject matter of serious study.

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