Glossary

Find definitions of the key terms and concepts in World Politics New Review in alphabetical order below.

Asymmetrical Warfare
Conflict between two or more parties, often a state and a non-state actor, in which the relative balance of force dramatically favors one party. For example, the conflict between the world’s only remaining superpower, the United States, and militants in Afghanistan might be characterized as asymmetrical warfare. 

Beggar-Thy-Neighbor
An expression describing policies which seek to protect one country’s economy at the expense of another’s. The term was first used to describe policies that emerged during the Great Depression, including increasing tariffs and quotas in an effort to protect the domestic economy at the expense of trading partners.

Common Pool Resources
Also referred to as common property resources, are resources which are said to exhibit rivalry but not excludability. In other words, because of characteristics like their size, common pool resources can be depleted but it is difficult to exclude potential users from obtaining benefits from their use. Examples of common pool resources include fisheries, irrigation systems, forests, and the atmosphere. Fisheries, for example, contain a limited number of fish which can be depleted as a result of over-exploitation of fishing grounds. But because of the size of the oceans, restricting access to fisheries is difficult at best. Management of common pool resources often presents a collective action dilemma.

Competitive Devaluation
An effort by a country’s government to increase its international economic competitiveness by devaluing its currency. Competitive devaluation works by lowering the relative cost of exports. However, such efforts often fail, as such maneuvers often encourage other countries to attempt to lower their currency values as well, offsetting any gains earned by devaluation in the first place.

Deterrence
A strategy in which the threat of retaliation effectively precludes an attack. The theory is widely cited in the context of nuclear weapons that suggest that countries would be unlikely to use nuclear weapons in a conflict against another country with nuclear weapons because of the high cost of retaliation. During the Cold War, this was often referred to as Mutually Assured Destruction.

Eurozone
The 16 member states within the European Union that use the euro as the only legal tender. The Eurozone is comprised of:  Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

Exchange Rate
Also referred to as the foreign exchange rate, the forex rate, or the FX rate, the exchange rate is the value of one currency priced in another currency. For example, if £1 costs US $1.50, the exchange rate is 1:1.50. Exchange rate regimes may be fixed or floating. Until 1971, the US dollar was pegged to the value of gold and most major international currencies were pegged to the value of the US dollar. But since 1971, most major international currencies have been allowed to float. In other words, the value of currencies is determined primarily by the market (by what someone is willing to pay for that currency) rather than by being backed by tangible assets like gold.

Externality
A cost or benefit associated with a good that is not factored into the price of that good. A positive externality is an unpriced benefit, while a negative externality is an unpriced cost. An example of a positive externality might be education, where benefits accrue to society (an educated public or well-trained workers, for example), while pollution is an example of a negative externality. Externalities are market failures, and government intervention (in the form of regulation or subsidies) is often required to address the problems posed by externalities.

Failed State
A state which is no longer able to provide the political goods demanded by its people and which no longer exercises sovereignty in terms of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force over its territory.

Federalism
The constitutional division of political authority and power between national and sub-national governments.

First-Past-the-Post
Also referred to as a plurality voting system, a first-past-the-post electoral system is one in which the country is divided into a number of electoral districts, each of which selects one member to represent that district in the legislature. The winner is the candidate who receives the most votes (a plurality). This system, used in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and India, among others, is often contrasted with proportional representation systems.

Fiscal Policy
The use of government revenue and expenditrues to influence the economy. Ficsal policy is favored policy of Keynesian economists, and generally includes things like unemployment insurance or stimulus spending.

Flexible Response
The U.S. force strategy articulated by President John F. Kennedy that replaced the doctrine of massive retaliation. Under flexible response, the United States asserted that it would not rely exclusively on the threat of nuclear retaliation to deter Soviet aggression abroad. Instead, it maintained that it would use multiple means, ranging from nuclear strikes, to conventional warfare, to counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare, to address the threat of Soviet aggression.

Foreign Direct Investment
Foreign direct investment, or FDI, is usually understood as a company in one country purchasing production facilities in another country.  FDI can be contrasted with public sector assistance (foreign aid).

Free Rider Problem
The free rider problem refers to the tendency for individual, rational actors to avoid paying for their share of a public good. This tendency generally results in the under-provision of public goods by the market.

Fungibility
In international relations, fungibility refers to the degree to which one type of power may be converted to another. Normally, soft power and economic power are thought to be more fungible insofar as they can be used for multiple purposes and converted to other types of power (such as military force).

Government of National Unity
An alliance which seeks to incorporate all political factions or parties into a single government in the legislature. Unity governments are most commonly used during wars (such as in the United Kingdom during World War I and II) or as a mechanism to address longstanding political, ethnic, or religious divisions (such as in Kenya in 2008 or in Lebanon regularly throughout its history).

Gross Domestic Product
The total value of goods and services produced in an economy in a given year. Gross domestic product, or GDP, is perhaps the most widely used measure of the wellbeing of an economy.

Hard Power
Power derived from the exercise or threat of exercise of force, usually military but also economic force, in international relations.

Head of Government
The individual or office that serves as the chief officer of the executive branch of government. In parliamentary systems, the office is usually (though not always) referred to as Prime Minister, while in presidential systems the office is often fused with the head of state position in to the office of the President.

Head of State
The individual or office that serves as the public face of the country. According to French President Charles de Gaulle, the position should serve as the “spirit of the nation.” In constitutional monarchies, like the United Kingdom, the reigning monarch usually serves as head of state, while the elected representative of the people (selected either by direct vote of the people or though the national legislature) serves as head of government.

Least Developed Countries
A classification of development developed by the United Nations, indicating an extremely low level of socioeconomic development. Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are those countries which (1) have a gross national income per capita of less than $905; (2) exhibit a human resource weakness based on measures of nutrition, health, education, and adult literacy; and (3) exhibit high levels of economic vulnerability and instability. Currently, 49 countries are classified by the United Nations as being LDCs, with 33 of those being located on the African continent.

Massive Retaliation
The U.S. nuclear strategy articulated by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles which guided U.S. nuclear policy from the end of World War II until the mid-1950s. Under massive retaliation, the United States promised that a conventional attack by the Soviet Union against U.S. allies abroad would be met with a massive nuclear retaliation by the United States. The aim was to deter Soviet aggression, but the U.S. threat lost credibility as the Soviets developed their own nuclear stockpiles, forcing a rethinking of American nuclear strategy.

Monetary Policy
Government intervention in the economy, usually by a central bank, which attempts to influence the performance of the economy by adjusting the supply, availability, or cost of money. Expansionary monetary policy (such as lowering interest rates or increasing the money supply) is generally used to reduce unemployment and encourage economic growth. Contractionary monetary policy (such as increasing interest rates or cutting the money supply) is used to reduce inflation.

Mutually Assured Destruction
The doctrine governing deterrence associated with the use of nuclear weapons. Under mutually assured destruction, or MAD, neither side will risk the use of nuclear weapons if their opponent retains a second-strike capability. In other words, if country A launches a nuclear strike against country B, but country B retains a sufficient nuclear capacity after a first strike to destroy country A, neither side will risk a first-strike nuclear policy because such a policy would result in their own destruction.  Mutually assured destruction is the principle that underlies nuclear deterrence.

Nation
A people who share a common sense of identity and belonging, normally based on one or more of the following: a shared history, culture, language, religion, ethnic origin, etc. Benedict Anderson describes nations as “imagined communities,” noting that “the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.”

Negative Liberty
Freedoms normally associated with restraint on the activities of the government. Examples might include freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. All of these posit that the government cannot unduly restrict or limit the choice of the individual.

Night Watchman State
A conception of the state in which the role of the government is narrowly defined to provide only for the common defense (military and policing) and the enforcement of contracts. The night watchman state is popular among libertarians and objectivists, who believe that any government intervention in the economy necessarily results in suboptimal outcomes and undermines individual freedom.

Political Culture
The fundamental values and beliefs that underscore political action. Political culture comprises the common social understanding of the proper role of the state and government in social, political, and economic life. The term was popularized by Gabriel Almond, Sidney Verba, and Arend Lijphart, who used the concept to explore differences in cultural attitudes towards political questions in Europe and the United States.

Political Goods
Those intangible goods demanded by the people of the government which provide the foundation for the development of political cultures. Examples of political goods might include security, a legal system, health care, education, infrastructure, and a money and banking system.

Political Socialization
The process by which political cultures, values, and beliefs are transmitted through society, particularly from generation to generation. Agents of political socialization usually include may include family, friends, schools, and the media.

Positive Liberty
Freedoms normally requiring active intervention on the part of the state. Unlike negiatve liberties, which are freedoms from, positive liberties might include the right to food, shelter, education, and so on.

Proportional Representation
A voting system in which seats in the legislature are distributed according to the percentage of the vote received. For example, a party which receives 25 percent of the vote would receive approximately 25 percent of the seats in the legislature. This electoral system is widely used in parliamentary democracies, including Belgium, Japan, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. It is often contrasted with first-past-the-post electoral systems.

Public Good
Public goods are goods that are both non-rivalrous and non-excludable. Non-rivalrousness means that one person’s use of a good does not undermine the ability of another person to benefit from or use that good. Non-excludability means that it is not feasible to prevent someone who has not paid for a good from benefitting from or using that good. National defense is an example of a public good. It is not feasible to prevent someone who has not contributed to the cost of national defense from benefitting from its provision, and one person’s benefitting from national defense does not undermine the ability another to benefit as well. Because of their nature, public goods tend to be under-provided by the market.

Republic
A form of government in which the people retain sovereign control over the government and in which the head of state is not a monarch. In the United States, the term republic (or republican democracy) is often used to contrast the idea of direct democracy. In a republic, the legitimacy of the government is usually predicated on popular suffrage and the strict constitutional protections of civil and political liberties. Examples of republics include the United States and France.

Security Dilemma
Originally articulated by John Herz in Political Realism and Political Idealism, a security dilemma arises when an attempt to increase the security of a state by increasing armament leads neighboring states to increase their military spending, leading to all states felling less secure. In the context of game theory, it is an example of the prisoners’ dilemma, where the rational course of action for each individual actor leads to a suboptimal outcome for all involved.

Social Capital
The networks of trust and reciprocity between individual members of a community. These connections are often viewed as being a requirement for the maintenance of democratic political institutions.

Soft Power
Power derived from leadership, prestige, or influence rather than through the exercise or threat of force. The term was coined by Joseph Nye in his book Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power.

State
(1) The political institutions responsible for making the rules governing the people of a specific territory (i.e., a government). According to Max Weber, the defining feature of a state is that it “possesses a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” (2) A country.

Subsidy
A payment by a government to a producer or distributor. Many subsidies are trade distorting, encouraging over-production and effectively lowering the cost of production of a good. As a result, under the rules of the World Trade Organization, most subsidies are illegal.

Territorial Integrity
The principle in international law which suggests that secessionist movements should not, in general, change the national borders of an existing state.

Washington Consensus
The common policy prescriptions that underlie reform packages promoted by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The consensus normally includes ten specific policies, including fiscal discipline, redirecting public expenditures, tax reform, liberalization, privatization, and deregulation. In recent years, the term has increasingly been used to refer to the market fundamentalism associated with such policy prescriptions.

World Economic Forum
A foundation established in 1971 and based in Davos, Switzerland, which brings together the world’s top business leaders, political leaders, and selected academics and journalists to discuss the most important issues facing the global economy.

World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization was created out of the final round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1995 to oversee the liberalization of international trade. As of 2008, it had 153 member states and 30 observers, collectively accounting for more than 95 percent of all global trade.

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