Social movements and international relations: a relational framework

  • Thomas R. Davies
  • Alejandro M. PeñaEmail author
Original Article


Social movements are increasingly recognised as significant features of contemporary world politics, yet to date their treatment in international relations theory has tended to obfuscate the considerable diversity of these social formations, and the variegated interactions they may establish with state actors and different structures of world order. Highlighting the difficulties conventional liberal and critical approaches have in transcending conceptions of movements as moral entities, the article draws from two underexploited literatures in the study of social movements in international relations, the English School and social systems theory, to specify a wider range of analytical interactions between different categories of social movements and of world political structures. Moreover, by casting social movement phenomena as communications, the article opens international relations to consideration of the increasingly diverse trajectories and second order effects produced by social movements as they interact with states, intergovernmental institutions, and transnational actors.


English School Ideology International relations theory Social movements Systems theory 



We would like to thank all JIRD reviewers, who provided insightful, constructive, and detailed comments on previous versions of this article.


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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of International PoliticsCity, University of LondonLondon, EnglandUK
  2. 2.Department of PoliticsDerwent College, University of YorkYork, EnglandUK

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