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ÖFG Working Group on Peaceful Change

Today's world politics is characterized by two tendencies that have gained momentum in recent years: On the one hand, these are turbulent times. There are trade wars, rising concerns about climate change, a number of highly destructive internationalized civil wars, very high numbers of refugees and internally displaced people, increasing global arms expenditure, and the return of geopolitics. On the other hand, the ability of states and other actors to address these issues has declined drastically. Multilateralism is in a state of crisis.

This project, generously funded by the Austrian Research Association (Österreichische Forschungsgemeinschaft - ÖFG), examines this tension by addressing a key question of International Studies: What fosters or hinders peaceful change? Inquiring into this question, we focus on processes of world ordering. What different functional and regional orders are there? How do they relate to one another and how does agency shape their production and re-production? How does peaceful change feature in these production and re-production processes?

The research will unfold in three phases:

1 Differentiations of order (years 1-2)

  • Functional differentiations: Which functional orders evolve in world politics? How are they interrelated?
  • Regional differentiations: Which regional orders evolve in world politics? How are they interrelated?
  • Putting the pieces together: What is the evolving topography of world orders? Into what directions has this constellation moved in recent years? Into what directions is it likely to evolve in the foreseeable future?

2 Mechanisms of change (years 3-5)

  • Institutional context and material environment: How is agency shaped by context and environment and, vice versa, how do they shape agency?
  • Political judgments: How do agents come to make their judgments? What substantive and procedural orientations do they embrace and how does this happen?
  • Communication: How do political judgments shape communication and vice versa? What role do brokers play to bridge divides across communities and networks?

3 Spotlights (years 6-7)

  • Spotlight on functional order: Arms control. How is this functional order changing? Is it moving toward peaceful change or away from it? What are the sub-orders of arms control? In what overriding order is arms control embedded in? With which orders does it overlap? Who are the key actors and networks? What are their positions and strategies? How do they represent them and how successful are they in doing so?
  • Spotlight on regional order: Europe. How is this regional order changing? Does it move towards more or less peaceful change? With which other regional and functional orders does the European regional order interact? Who are the key actors and networks? What external actors influence this order? What are their positions and strategies? How do they represent them and how successful are they?

In order to carry out our collaborative research efforts, we engage in the following activities:

  • ÖFG Peaceful Change Lecture Series. These take place at the Diplomatische Akademie Wien - Vienna School of International Studies. They are also streamed live and available here and on YouTube.

  • ÖFG Peaceful Change Discussion Papers. These short papers (1,000 words) are brief summaries of the lectures, written by the speakers.

  • ÖFG Peaceful Change Workshops. Concluding each of the three research stages, a workshop will prepare an edited volume or a special issue in a leading journal.

  • ÖFG Peaceful Change Panel Discussions. These public discussions between scholars, policy-makers, diplomats, and civil society representatives make sure that the project benefits from the expertise of practitioners and, vice versa, that scholarship disseminates to the practitioners.