Drifting Apart: Dissociation Processes in International Relations

Matthias Dembinski and Dirk Peters have edited new issue of the journal Historical Social Research (HSR)

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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.