Book chapter (electronic)
in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies
Throughout history, technology has played a significant role in international relations (IR). Technological development is an important factor underlying much of humanity's social, economic, and political development, as well as in interstate and interregional relationships. Beginning with the earliest tool industries of the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods to the present time, technology has been an integral component of the transformative processes that resulted in the organization, expansion, and establishment of distinctive societies. The presence or absence of equal access to technology has often determined the nature of relationships between societies and civilizations. Technology increases the options available to policymakers in their pursuit of the goals of the state, but also complicates their decision making. The question of whether, and how much, technological change has influenced IR has been the subject of considerable debate. Scholars are divided on the emphasis that should be placed on technological progress as an independent variable in the study of relations between states and as a factor in analyzing power configurations in the international system. Among the scientific and technological revolutions that are believed to have contributed to the changing nature of power and relations between states are transportation and communication, the industrial revolution, the nuclear revolution, and the contemporary information revolution. Future research should focus on how these technological changes are going to influence the debates on power, deterrence, diplomacy, and other instruments of IR.