Thomas Risse

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Thomas Risse (formerly Risse-Kappen) is a Berlin-based international relations scholar. He currently acts as chair for “transnational relations, foreign- and security policy” at the Otto-Suhr Institute for Political Science at Freie Universität Berlin. Furthermore, he has several engagements in German and international research networks, he also heads the PhD program of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

International relations studies about relationships between two or more states

International relations (IR) or international affairs (IA) — commonly also referred to as international studies (IS), global studies (GS), or global affairs (GA) — is the study of interconnectedness of politics, economics and law on a global level. Depending on the academic institution, it is either a field of political science, an interdisciplinary academic field similar to global studies, or an entirely independent academic discipline in which students take a variety of internationally focused courses in social science and humanities disciplines. In all cases, the field studies relationships between political entities (polities) such as sovereign states, inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and multinational corporations (MNCs), and the wider world-systems produced by this interaction. International relations is an academic and a public policy field, and so can be positive and normative, because it analyses and formulates the foreign policy of a given state.

Political science is a social science which deals with systems of governance, and the analysis of political activities, political thoughts, and political behavior. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics which is commonly thought of as determining of the distribution of power and resources. Political scientists "see themselves engaged in revealing the relationships underlying political events and conditions, and from these revelations they attempt to construct general principles about the way the world of politics works."

Free University of Berlin research university located in Berlin, Germany

The Free University of Berlin is a research university located in Berlin, Germany. One of Germany's most distinguished universities, it is known for its research in the humanities and social sciences, as well as in the field of natural and life sciences.



Born in 1955, he received his PhD. from the University of Frankfurt in 1987. From 1997-2001, he was Joint Chair of International Relations at the European University Institute's Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and the Department of Social and Political Sciences in Florence, Italy.

Goethe University Frankfurt university in Frankfurt, Germany

University of Frankfurt is a university located in Frankfurt, Germany. It was founded in 1914 as a citizens' university, which means it was founded and funded by the wealthy and active liberal citizenry of Frankfurt. The original name was Universität Frankfurt am Main. In 1932, the university's name was extended in honour of one of the most famous native sons of Frankfurt, the poet, philosopher and writer/dramatist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The university currently has around 45,000 students, distributed across four major campuses within the city.

European University Institute teaching and research institute

The European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy, is an international postgraduate and post-doctoral teaching and research institute established by European Union member states to contribute to cultural and scientific development in the social sciences, in a European perspective.

Florence Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,084 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area.


Risse is usually identified as a constructivist scholar of international relations. In contrast to American constructivists, his work borrows heavily from German social theory and philosophy, and in particular the work of Jürgen Habermas. His work suggests that communicative action can reshape actors' understanding of their interests with important consequences for world politics.

In international relations, constructivism is the claim that significant aspects of international relations are historically and socially constructed, rather than inevitable consequences of human nature or other essential characteristics of world politics.

Jürgen Habermas German sociologist and philosopher

Jürgen Habermas is a German philosopher and sociologist in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theories on communicative rationality and the public sphere. In 2014, Prospect readers chose Habermas as one of their favourites among the "world's leading thinkers".

During the 1980s the main focus of his work laid on security policy, his dissertation “Die Krise der Sicherheitspolitik” (The Crisis of Security Policy) dealt with foreign and security policy decision making processes in West-Germany. In his thesis he observes the development of a Peace movement (opposed to the installation of medium-range rocket on German soil) and theorised their influence on West-German foreign policy. The contribution of his work is crucial to IR theory because it opposes the logic of equality between force and deterrence.

Security policy is a definition of what it means to be secure for a system, organization or other entity. For an organization, it addresses the constraints on behavior of its members as well as constraints imposed on adversaries by mechanisms such as doors, locks, keys and walls. For systems, the security policy addresses constraints on functions and flow among them, constraints on access by external systems and adversaries including programs and access to data by people.

West Germany Federal Republic of Germany in the years 1949–1990

West Germany is the common English name for the Federal Republic of Germany in the period between its creation on 23 May 1949 and German reunification on 3 October 1990. During this Cold War era, NATO-aligned West Germany and Warsaw Pact-aligned East Germany were divided by the Inner German border. After 1961 West Berlin was physically separated from East Berlin as well as from East Germany by the Berlin Wall. This situation ended when East Germany was dissolved and split into five states, which then joined the ten states of the Federal Republic of Germany along with the reunified city-state of Berlin. With the reunification of West and East Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany, enlarged now to sixteen states, became known simply as "Germany". This period is referred to as the Bonn Republic by historians, alluding to the interwar Weimar Republic and the post-reunification Berlin Republic.

Peace movement social movement that seeks to achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war (or all wars)

A peace movement is a social movement that seeks to achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war, minimize inter-human violence in a particular place or type of situation, and is often linked to the goal of achieving world peace. Means to achieve these ends include advocacy of pacifism, non-violent resistance, diplomacy, boycotts, peace camps, moral purchasing, supporting anti-war political candidates, legislation to remove the profit from government contracts to the Military–industrial complex, banning guns, creating open government and transparency tools, direct democracy, supporting Whistleblowers who expose War-Crimes or conspiracies to create wars, demonstrations, and national political lobbying groups to create legislation. The political cooperative is an example of an organization that seeks to merge all peace movement organizations and green organizations, which may have some diverse goals, but all of whom have the common goal of peace and humane sustainability. A concern of some peace activists is the challenge of attaining peace when those that oppose it often use violence as their means of communication and empowerment.

With the end of the Cold War, the focus of his work shifted to transnational relations and human rights. One of his works out of this period is the edited volume “Bringing Transnational Relations Back In”. Here he argues that regular interactions between non-state actors, that do not act on behalf of national governments, but try to influence the policies of a state, got out of focus. These organisations could be various NGOs for example, the Socialist International, Amnesty International or religious groups among others. In this volume an outlook on methodology and theory of transnational relations and their impact on domestic policy is developed. Another work of reference of this period is “Die Macht der Menschenrechte” (The Power of Human Rights). Based on liberal theory and democratic peace, Risse looks at international norms, speech acts and political change in the South. Whereby the main focus is laid on the realisation of human rights. His core theory is that the key for respect of human rights is the influence on transnational and domestic civil society on state structures. Inter alia he shows that economic development and democratisation do not forcibly go hand in hand.

Human rights Inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled

Human rights are "the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled" Examples of rights and freedoms which are often thought of as human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and property, freedom of expression, pursuit of happiness and equality before the law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in science and culture, the right to work, and the right to education.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Socialist International Political international

The Socialist International (SI) is a worldwide association of political parties which seek to establish democratic socialism. It consists mostly of democratic socialist, social-democratic and labour political parties and other organisations.

Amnesty International London-based international human rights organization

Amnesty International is a London-based non-governmental organization focused on human rights. The organization says it has more than seven million members and supporters around the world.

Post 9/11 his focus changed again towards research on failed states and governance. In his latest publication he focussed on aspects of governance in areas of limited statehood - distinct from failed states.

Other activities


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