What are the consequences of states turning away from international institutions? This question is addressed in the current issue of the journal Historical Social Research (HSR) under the title “Drifting Apart,” edited by Matthias Dembinski and Dirk Peters. The issue also contains contributions by Mikhail Polianskii on Russia and by Dirk Peters on Brexit.
Dissociation processes may not only affect international institutions. They can even significantly affect interstate relations, as they often increase tensions between departing and remaining states. Brexit, as well as Trump's de facto blockade of the World Trade Organization, are visible manifestations of states turning away from international cooperation. Although the consequences of such dissociation tendencies are of high political importance, they have not been properly addressed in academic research so far. This volume aims to remedy this situation, as a better understanding of such processes could contribute to new strategies and, eventually, could help defuse potential conflicts.
In addition to a programmatic introduction, the HSR issue contains five historical and contemporary case studies. The topics in detail are Iran's distancing from the West, East Germany's withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, Russia's exit from European security cooperation, China's distancing from global financial institutions, and Brexit. Underlying all research contributions is the question of whether and how the handling of dissociation processes affects relations between departing and remaining states.
In all case studies, researchers have observed that dissociation processes increase tensions between states. How strong these are depends on how the disengagement is handled. In particular, they intensify when the conflicts are about fundamental norms and values. On the other hand, if distributive conflicts are the main reason for processes of disengagement, this has a less negative effect on interstate relations.
Given the current trend toward de-globalization – that is, a partial renunciation of globalization efforts – the researchers expect that states will continue to leave alliances in the future. Accordingly, they consider it important to conduct intensive research on the consequences of dissociation tendencies.
About the Project “Drifting Apart”
Since 2019, the project Drifting Apart explores the tensions between states that result from dissociation processes. It examines how five different dissociation processes unfolded and seeks to identify the factors that created, reinforced or mitigated tensions between the states in question. The interdisciplinary project was developed under PRIF's lead in the Leibniz Research Alliance "Crises in a Globalised World". It brings together four member institutions of the Leibniz Association. Besides PRIF, these are: GIGA - German Institute of Global and Area Studies (Hamburg), the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ, Munich) and the Center for Contemporary History (ZZF, Potsdam).It is funded from the Leibniz Association's program Leibniz Competition.