Call for Papers: Geoeconomics as Foreign Policy Strategy - Comparing Regional Powers Workshop

Time: September 5, 2014
Place: The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Helsinki, Finland
Convenors: Dr Mikael Wigell, Senior Research Fellow, Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Dr Mikael Mattlin, Lecturer and Adjunct Professor, University of Turku
Keynote: Prof. Andrew Hurrell, Montague Burton Professor of International Relations,
University of Oxford
Abstract submission deadline: April 4, 2014

Geoeconomic power and its use are a crucial, albeit understudied, aspect of today’s international relations. Traditionally, power has been thought of in geopolitical rather than geoeconomic terms. Looking at the balance of power from such a traditional geopolitical perspective, the world looks doggedly unipolar, with the US as the undisputed hegemon on the basis of its military power. However, applying geoeconomic lenses, the balance of power looks different. The US appears to be in decline and the balance of power decidedly multipolar. From a realist geopolitical perspective, we would expect rising powers, such as China, Brazil and India to start balancing militarily against the US. Yet, despite China’s military modernization, there is still little evidence to point towards classical military balance-of-power behaviour among the emerging powers. If anything, an older power, namely Russia, seems to be more prone towards such balancing.

For the emerging powers, we are more likely to observe efforts towards, what recent discussions have called “soft balancing”, i.e. through economic methods, something a geoeconomic perspective is better able to detect. Generally, the imperatives of economic development are starkly evident in the foreign policies of the BRIC countries. A crucial question thus concerns to what extent the relative decline of military concerns and rise of economic security concerns in relations between Great Powers is redefining the classical balance-of-power concept, and whether geoeconomics has risen to rival geopolitics as a strategic desideratum in the foreign policies of regional powers as well as the means by which they go about asserting their national interests.

Recent developments seem to denote a newfound economy-oriented notion of foreign policy Realism that understands the global political economy in terms of a zero-sum competition in which one side’s gain is another’s relative loss. Some observers even speak of a new geoeconomic game, where economic power is leveraged aggressively to extract concessions and pressure neighboring countries. Tensions over resource access (energy, food, and water) also appear to be on the rise, fuelled by rapid demand growth from the emerging economies and accelerated environmental degradation. Such intensified resource stress is said to be propelling economic security to the center of the global agenda for the foreseeable future and, thus, for geoeconomic calculations to become paramount in the concerns of regional powers in their policy calculus.

Little systematic comparative analysis has yet been undertaken with regard to the geoeconomic activities of the most prominent emerging powers in world politics. If, indeed, we have entered an age of geoeconomics, developing a better understanding of geoeconomic power and its use by the major actors is needed. This workshop will focus on what role the geoeconomics approach play in the foreign policy strategy of regional powers and whether its role has been elevated over the last decade. Comparing to what extent geoeconomics has emerged to rival geopolitics in the strategic thinking of regional powers and the means they deploy to operate in geoeconomic space, should help clarify whether and how geoeconomics is redefining power and the rules of the contemporary balance of power game.

The workshop will be held 5 September 2014 in Helsinki at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. Professor Andrew Hurrell, Montague Burton Professor of International Relations and Director for International Studies at the Department of Politics and International Relations of the University of Oxford, has been confirmed as the initial keynote speaker.

An open call is now announced seeking additional papers by international IR scholars focusing on the foreign policy of regional powers (Brazil, China, India, Russia etc.), economic and resource security, the interplay between economy and foreign policy and other geo-economic aspects of international relations. The aim is then to publish the papers from the workshop as peer-reviewed articles in a special issue/section of a forefront journal of IR.

Conference registration for the event is free of charge with travel and accommodation to be funded by the participants themselves. Abstract submission for paper proposals should be sent to with the deadline set at April 4, 2014.