Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, students of international politics have been trying to come to terms with the fact that existing analytical tools had left them totally unprepared. The dominant Cold War framework, realism, proved woefully inadequate to the task of understanding how a great power like the Soviet Union could suddenly reinterpret its own national security interests, shortly before dissolving into a myriad of unanticipated new national identities.
This volume draws on the work of mostly younger scholars who have abandoned the realist model in favor of a richer view that draws on concepts from sociology and cultural studies like norms and identity. Alastair Johnston's chapter, for example, argues that while China followed realist precepts in foreign policy, it did so not because realism is a universal mode of state behavior, but because it arose out of Chinese cultural and historical experience. Other chapters look at the development of international norms in areas like human rights and chemical weapons proliferation.
The broadening of realism to take account of social and cultural factors in the shaping of security policy is to be welcomed. The authors of this collection have largely avoided the pitfall of abandoning power politics altogether as a framework in favor of cultural studies.