Perhaps more so than any other in recent memory, the first issue of Volume 31 of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs showcases the breadth of approaches, perspectives and subjects covered by the journal. Collecting five diverse articles from scholars from across the globe, this issue contributes to multiple contemporary debates of deep importance to IR scholarship, as well as a range of other disciplines. Each demonstrates the tremendous impact and insight international affairs scholarship, broadly defined and assiduously executed, can have on a range of contemporary global issues.
This issue’s first article comes from Corneliu Bjola and Ilan Manor—two scholars from the University of Oxford keenly interested in how recent technological changes can update canonical theories about diplomacy and foreign policy. Their article re-examines Robert Putnam’s two-level game theory model of diplomacy as it applies to contemporary international political actors’ use of social media. Drawing on a comprehensive case study of digital diplomacy surrounding the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Iran, Bjola and Manor advance a new theoretical concept, Domestic Digital Diplomacy, to refer to governments’ use of social media to build domestic support for foreign policy goals. In the next article, Thorsten Wojczewski likewise offers an important theoretical re-conceptualization of widely-accepted IR scholarship. His article advances a novel theoretical framework, built on the notion of discursive hegemony developed by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, to critically engage with the phenomena of “global power shifts” and “Western”-centrism in IR. Ultimately, the article provides illuminating insight that forces readers to question what have become largely unquestioned assumptions about the contemporary world order.
The next article, the issue’s third, comes from Eugenio Cusumano and James Pattison and examines another vital contemporary issue—the provision of search and rescue (SAR) missions in the Mediterranean to save migrants in peril. Citing ample philosophical precedent, the authors forcefully argue that “states have not only the responsibility to coordinate, but also to directly provide adequate SAR operations” to prevent unnecessary loss. This article's normative perspective provides an interesting contrast to the issue’s fourth contribution, an in-depth critical analysis of another phenomenon of tremendous importance to the Middle East—the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. Authored by the University of Waterloo’s Maha Kamel, this fourth article argues that the BRI has the potential to greatly impact the balance of power in the Middle East and, ultimately, that Iran stands to gain most from the changes that might ensue.
Finally, the issue concludes with an article by Matthew Stephen on the reform and legitimacy of international organizations. Stephen offers a new term—legitimacy drift—to describe how international organizations can slowly lose legitimacy over time as they fail to adapt to their changing environments and emerging global trends. In a rigorous case study of the United Nations Security Council, he demonstrates the utility of this concept in understanding evolving global views about an historically important institution.
The Cambridge Review of International Affairs (CRIA), the University of Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies’ flagship journal is published online and in print six times per year by Taylor and Francis. Now in its thirty-first year, CRIA publishes original scholarship on international affairs. It is committed to publishing diverse approaches, methods and areas of analysis, and encourages the submission of interdisciplinary work from academics and policymakers.