Department of International Relations and European Studies (IRES)

Developments in and Contributions by CEU faculty to International Relations over the Last 20 Years

As with many departments of International Relations (IR), the disciplines represented by IRES department faculty at CEU are varied and include International Relations Theory, International Law, Comparative Politics, International Political Economy, Security Studies and Area Studies. These numerous offerings make for a pluralistic and diverse intellectual environment, where cross-disciplinary discussions are inherent to the life of the department. IRES is a quintessentially interdisciplinary department, and its contributions over the past 20 years well reflect this.

IRES’s most influential and noticeable contributions lie in three distinct, but partly overlapping fields:

  • international relations theory and security studies;
  • international political economy; and
  • European Studies, especially with regard to the processes of EU integration and enlargement.

The changing nature of the international system in the post-Cold War period

The winding down and eventual dissolution of superpower competition between the United States and the Soviet Union profoundly affected the field of international relations, a discipline which, despite its plethora of self-understandings, has always conceived of itself in terms of thinking about war and peace. On the most general level, the end of the Cold War ushered in a period of extensive and intensive self-reflection on the part of IR, raising questions not only about the discipline’s ontology—that is, who the actors are — but also epistemological and methodological concerns. The department has become increasingly engaged in the so-called ‘third debate’, between rationalism and  constructivism. Alongside its greater attention to the latter, now one of the leading schools of thought in the discipline, sociological and critical approaches to IR have also received greater attention.

IRES faculty have made numerous contributions to this debate, including those by former Head of Department, Stefano Guzzini, in Realism in International Relations and International Political Economy, and Constructivism in International Relations: Alexander Wendt and His Critics (co-edited with Anna Leander), and Michael Merlingen in “Foucault and World Politics: Promises and Challenges of Extending Governmentality Theory to the European and Beyond” (published in Millennium: Journal of International Studies). Subsequent changes in world order, from the bi-polar (to unipolar?) to a more multipolar world, the affects of globalization, and the war on terror have also led to a greater concentration on the growth of regionalism, transnationalism, and the re-emergence of forces such as religion and ethnicity as political-organizing principles. Set against this is Irina Papkov’s forthcoming book, The Orthodox Church and Russian Politics, and Matteo Fumagalli’s Ethnopolitics in Central Asia: Identity, Patronage, and the Soviet Legacy, also forthcoming.

Moreover, since the end of the Cold War did not mean the disappearance of war altogether but rather significant changes in the character of armed conflicts, these changes also necessarily affected the sub-field of international security, bringing with it critical security studies and a renewed interest in ethnic conflict. Significant department contributions here can be listed as Paul Roe’s articles in the Review of International Studies ("The ‘Value’ of Positive Security") and the European Journal of International Relations ("Former Yugoslavia: The Security Dilemma That Never Was?"), and Erin Jenne’s award-winning book, Ethnic Bargaining: The Paradox of Minority Empowerment.

With a number of such conflicts occurring both within Europe and on its eastern periphery—for example, former Yugoslavia, Moldova, Armenia-Azerbaijan and Russia-Georgia—IRES’s concern has been not only with the conflicts themselves, but also with the efforts of the European Union and other actors in conflict resolution and peace-building measures. Worthy of note in this regard is Michael Merlingen’s book, European Union Peace-building and Policing: Governance and the European Security and Defence Policy.

Moreover, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, relations between Russia and its successor states have been critical in defining new political spaces and forms of engagement, as discussed in noteworthy contributions by department faculty: Alexander Astrov’s "The ‘Return of History’ or Technocratic Administration," which looks at the effects of the depoliticization of Russia-Estonia Relations, and Matteo Fumagalli’s "Alignments and Re-Alignments in Central Asia," in International Political Science Review, which investigates the role of regime security and survival in shaping the foreign policy conduct of non-western states.

Expertise in IRES has been especially strong on the East-Central European region, with a special focus on the processes of EU integration and enlargement. This emphasis has led to studies on Europeanization, through conditionality or other means, on European Neighborhood Policy and on the EU’s democracy promotion. The department’s numerous works in this field include the article by former faculty Ulrich Sedelmeier, "The EU's Role as a Promoter of Human Rights and Democracy: Enlargement Policy Practice and Role Formation," Thomas Fetzer’s "The Road to a United Europe: Interpretations of the Process of European Integration," as well as Peter Balazs’s numerous contributions to this field.

With respect to the field of international political economy, for about a decade after 1989, the established field of political economy of policy reforms in the context of international constraints and external conditionality got new inspiration from the events and processes of post-socialist transformation to democratic capitalism. Laszlo Csaba significantly contributed to these debates through his analyses of Eastern Europe in the world economy, and the relationships between transition and development, while Julius Horvath contributed through his work on the impact of currency crises (frequently occurring in the transforming region), and the economic ramifications of the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Moreover, Bela Greskovits analyzed the link between social movements, contentious collective action and economic hardship in an inter-regional comparative and transnational context.

While some of the lead topics of the earlier conditionality literature were picked up and painstakingly analyzed by the Europeanization literature, the focus on EU enlargement also changed the focus of the debate to factors and achievements of the diverse paths of EU and EMU integration. Laszlo Csaba made an impact in this expanding field of research in his pathbreaking book, The New Political Economy of Emerging Europe, and Julius Horvath, through his studies on optimum currency areas and monetary integration. Additionally, since the early 2000s, there has been intensifying interest in the varieties of capitalism and the ways in which these may or may not resist the impact of forces of globalization. As far as the diversity of East European capitalisms is concerned, both Csaba's above-mentioned studies and Greskovits’ (and Dorothee Bohle’s) work are now being frequently cited in the field; see, for example, "Varieties of Capitalism and Capitalism tout court," in European Journal of Sociology, and "Neoliberalism, Embedded Neoliberalism, and Neocorporatism: Towards Transnational Capitalism in Central-Eastern Europe," in West European Politics.