Whose Revisionism, Which International Order? Social Structure and Its Discontents

Academic article

While the distinction between status quo and revisionist states is well established in International Relations, only more recently have scholars begun to refine the concept of revisionism itself, emphasizing that revisionism comes in different forms. A number of typologies have been introduced to capture this diversity. In this article, we offer a critique of these typologies, highlighting how many of these works elide the rule-governed and contextual nature of what counts as revisionism. Building on an understanding of international orders as social structures, we argue that the revisionist character of state conduct can only be determined with reference to the conception of the legitimate ends and means current in a particular international order. This leads us to distinguish between three types of revisionism: competitive revisionism that is transgressive of the legitimate means; creative revisionism that is transgressive of the legitimate ends; and revolutionary revisionism that is transgressive of legitimate ends and means. We further emphasize that determining the revisionist character of state conduct always involves interpretation and judgment. The concern for analytical precision conveyed by the development of different typologies of revisionism must therefore be followed by an equally deliberate concern for the politics of revisionism—in both theory and practice.

  • Published year: 2023
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/isagsq/ksad009
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Language: English
  • Journal: Global Studies Quarterly
  • URL 1: https://hdl.handle.net/11250/3068726
  • URL 3: