Glossary of Terms for IR

(courtesy of )

Use the following glossary to help you learn the language of International Relations.

Anarchy: implies not the complete chaos or absence of structure or rules, but rather than lack a of a central government that can enforce rules

APC Network:  Association for Progressive Communications comprises more than 20,000 subscribers to electronic listservers in 95 countries, and have recently been very much involved in agitating for global development and democratization of the United Nations

balance of payments: net flow of goods, services and financial transactions that takes into account outflows and inflows of money from a state

balance of payments deficit: a state spends more than it receives from other countries

balance of payments surplus: a state receives more than it spends in other countries

balance of power:  a condition in which the distribution of military and political forces among nations means no one state is sufficiently strong to dominate all the others.  It may be global, regional or local in scope

bargaining power: the general capacity of a state to control the behaviour of others, power to cause another actor to do an action (also see structural power)

biodiversity:  two kinds: species and genetic diversity, species diversity refers to the differences between species, while genetic diversity refers to differences within species

Brezhnev Doctrine: reinforced the right of the Soviets to ntervene where Moscow deemed socialism was threatened by 'counter-revolutionary forces'

Brundtland Commission Report: published 1987, commissioned 1983 with Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway, as commissioner, mandate was to look into the alarming rate at which environmental resources were being consumed, a the levels of their waste, particularly in the case of development, at the ways in which developing countries were falling further and further behind the industrialized world in their standards of living, coined term 'sustainable development'

Cold War: the period in world affairs from c.1947-1990, marked by ideological, economic and political hostility and competition between the US and the Soviet Union, and drawing in other powers at various levels of involvement

common unit of exchange: a currency in which international economic exchanges are valued

comparative advantage:  Doctrine says that states should 1)  produce and export whatever they can produce most efficiently relative to other states  i.e., whatever they have a comparative advantage in;  and they should 2) import those things they can't produce as efficiently from states that can

Concert of Europe: the informal system of consultation set up by the Great Powers (Austria, Britain, France, Prussia and Russia) to manage the balance of power at the end of the Congress system

conflict:  perceived rival and incompatible claims over some desired "good"

Congress of Vienna:  meeting of the four main victors over Napoleon and France: Austria, Britain, Prussia and Russia.

containment: policy pursued by the US toward the Soviet Union c. 1947-1989, the aim of which was to deny Moscow opportunities to expand its political influence abroad, to draw a line and contain the Soviets within their borders, (also see Truman Doctrine )

CSCE: Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, from 1973-75 all European states (except Albania) plus the US and Canada met to discuss regional security (now the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and one of the central security organizations in Europe

D5: denuclearization, demilitarization, dealignment, democratization, and development, five main goals of peace and social movements

defence strategy: involves the assumption that war will be fought with three aims in mind:  1. to punish the aggressor  2. to deny territorial gains  3. to limit the damage to oneself (also see deterrence)

deflation: money is gaining value relative to goods and services produced in an economy

deterrence: efforts of an actor to dissuade the opponent from doing something considered against the actor's interests by making the costs of action outweigh the benefits with threat of punishment, the implicit or explicit purpose of this strategy was to avoid actually fighting war (also see defence)

devaluation: a government deliberately decides to lower the value of its currency relative to other currencies

Doctrine of Flexible Response: a nuclear utilization strategy which legitimized the notion of limited nuclear war, involved two dimensions:  limited targetting ('counterforce strategy') and the use of battlefield nuclear weapons (also see MAD)

dollar overhang: the amount of US dollars overseas exceeded US reserves of gold, undermining dollar convertibility to gold

ethnic group: a group of people who define themselves as distinct from other groups because of cultural differences

Eurodollar markets: free market where buyers and sellers exchange currencies outside of their country of origin

exchange rate:  value at which one currency is traded for another

fixed exchange rate: the rate of exchange of a currency or currency is set by agreement between governments or by government policy (see also gold standard)

floating exchange rate: the rate of exchange of currencies is permitted to rise and fall with supply and demand on the international private market

foreign policy: the goals that state officials seek to obtain abroad, the values that give rise to those objectives, and the means or instruments through which these are pursued

free trade: means the buying or selling of goods and services across international borders with few or no restrictions (see also protectionism)

fungibility: the extent to which one form of power can be converted into another

 GATT: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, drawn up in 1947 to codify the rules of conduct in trade for its members, in the GATT, states agreed to negotiate "reciprocal and mutually advantageous arrangements directed to the substantial reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade" and to increase free and fair trade

glasnost: 'openness', a term introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev about his post-1985 opening of Soviet society to dissidents, public criticism and limited admission of past Soviet mistakes (also see perestroika)

gold standard: the value of a currency is fixed relative to an amount of gold, can be converted to gold at a fixed rate (see also fixed exchange rates)

GSP: Generalized System of Preferences: early 1970's nineteen advanced industrial states agreed to eliminate tariffs on manufactured and semimanufactured goods exported by 140 LDCs unilaterally for ten years, renewed during 1980s for another decade (see UNCTAD, IPC)

Holy Roman Emperor:  the supreme secular authority in Medieval Europe

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645): the 'father' of international law, a Dutch jurist, humanist and diplomat His great work 'On the Law of War and Peace' is widely regarded as a landmark in the development of international law

HYV's: high-yielding varieties of agricultural plants, genetically designed to produce higher quantities of product with the aid of fertilizer, pesticides, and mechanized agricultural methods

ICBM's: inter-continental ballistic missiles

inflation: money is losing value relative to goods and services produced in an economy

international governmental organization (IGO): any international body or agency set up by the state, controlled by its member states, and dealing primarily with their common interests

IPC: Integrated Programme for Commodities, concerted attempt to control price fluctuations in commodities on which LDC's depended for foreign exchange income (see UNCTAD, GSP)

LDC: Less Developed Country

MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction, strategic doctrine which guarantees that each side in a nuclear exchange would survive a first strike by its opponent with enough arms intact to launch a second-strike sufficient to destroy the aggressor (also see Doctrine of Flexible Response)

massive retaliation: a a nuclear strategy which calls for a nuclear response to any aggressive action

MFN: Most Favoured Nation:  every member is treated as well as the "most favoured one":  ie:  if U.S. offers low tariff to Canada on ice cubes:  every other GATT member is entitled to the same treatment (see also free trade, GATT)

MIRV'S: multiple independently targetted re-entry vehicles (see also ICBM'S)

monetarism: a policy of manipulating the money supply (inflating or deflating a currency) to influence economic growth

monoculture: refers to the use of one genetic strain of plant or animal to replace a diversity of strains

multiple-sum game: both actors can mutually gain (also see zero-sum game)

natural law: the idea there existed rights and duties attached to human beings as such that existed in all times and all places, that could be discovered by reason, and that should be applied in the relations between groups

negative peace: the absence of war and physical (direct) violence (also see positive peace)

netwar: the  primary objective of "netwar" is to use computer networks and databases to inflict cultural and political damage to the international image of the opponent.

news values: the criteria for determining what kinds of stories are reported; used to identify, define and present a story

NIEO: United Nations Resolution of May 1974 for a New International Economic Order to address concerns of LDC's

Non-Aligned Movement: loose organization of Third World countries which dealt with statements on a wide variety of issues from nuclear proliferation to trade and development, first meeting: Bandung, Indonesia, 1955, led by a few relatively strong, independent personalities:  Tito, Nehru, and Nasser (Yugoslavia, India, Egypt) (see also UNCTAD, NIEO)

non-governmental organization (NGO): any private organization involved in activities that have transnational implications
nuclear fission: relies on splitting heavy atoms (uranium and plutonium) into smaller elements (used to make the A-bomb)

nuclear fusion: relies on forcing two hydrogen atoms together, and in the process destroying some extra matter that is converted into energy (called H-bomb)

NWIO: New World Information and Communication Order, begun in the 1970s around the same time as the Group of 77 launched its drive for a NIEO, called for a more balanced flow of communications globally, development of communication infrastructure in LDC's, control or elimination of information monopolies, and respect for each people's cultural identity

OECD: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, organization of 29 industrialized countries

OPEC: Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies: cartel of oil producers formed to control the price and supply of oil on world markets

perestroika: 'restructuring', a term used by Mikhail Gorbachev to describe his plans to reform, modernize and partly decentralize the Soviet economy (also see glasnost)

positive peace: the absence of structural violence as well as direct violence  (see also negative peace)

protectionism: protecting your economy from the international economy by imposing various restrictions on flow of imports or exports of goods or services into or out of your country (see also free trade)

reserve currency: a currency that countries hold in reserve because of its strength and stability

security dilemma: a situation in which states' actions taken to assure their own security, tend to threaten the security of other states

self-help: necessity to rely on a states' own resources and capabilities

SLBM's: submarine-launched ballistic missiles

specie money: solid money (gold or silver, traditionally)

spheres of influence: an area declared by a Great Power to be its exclusive area of interest, where it acts to defend its dominance and to exclude other Great Powers.

SOP's: standard operating procedures

sovereignty: means a government has the right, at least in principle, to do whatever it liks in its own territory (also see state)

structural power: the power to change the rules of the game for others, the power to structure the choices of other actors

structural violence: latent or hidden forms of social conflict

state: an organized political entity that occupies a definite territory, has a permanent population, and enjoys stable government, independence and sovereignty

Stockholm Conference: UN Conference on the Human Environment, held 1972, was first worldwide environmental conference in history

sustainable development:  term coined by Brundtland Commission Report 1987, defined as development which can "ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"

terms of trade:  the ratio in prices between a country's exports and its imports

Truman Doctrine: a promise of US aid to all 'free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside powers" (also see Brezhnev Doctrine)

UNCED: United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio 1992. Effort by the int. Community to reach consensus on principles and a long-term workplan for global sustainable development, major output was Agenda 21 (referring to the Twenty-First Century), a global plan of action containing 294 pages encompassing every sectoral environmental issues as well as international policies affecting both environment and development and the full range of domestic social and economic policies.

UNCTAD: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: formed 1964: first Secretary General Raul Prebisch: called for reform of system of international trade based on liberalism and comparative advantage, in order to assist development of poor countries, included calls for a GSP and IPC (see also NIEO)

war:  legitimate use of organized violence or force to achieve "goods" (also see conflict)

zero-sum game: one actors' gain is another's loss    

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