The renaissance of diplomatic theory

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When traditional diplomacy was institutionalised in the seventeenth century diplomatic theory and theorists were invaluable in overcoming a period of confusion as to what diplomacy was or ought to be. Similarly, the modern diplomatic environment with its mixture of state, non-state and rogue diplomatic actors is equally puzzling.

Charting the historical and modern relationship between diplomatic theory and diplomatic practice, this article argues that such confusion is a sign of a theoretical and practical renaissance in diplomacy. In order to make sense of and potentialise modern diplomacy (what it is now and what it ought to be) this paper argues that diplomatic studies needs to move beyond its culture of theoretical resistance and embrace both the idea of grand and abstract theorizing and the many benefits that would follow. To that end, three schools of diplomatic thought are evidenced, reified and presented in this article.

This proposed taxonomy should prove useful as it offers a neat synopsis of many diverse views on what constitutes modern diplomacy today. Not only does this exercise categorize and allude to the remarkable collection post-Cold War writing and thinking on diplomacy, it demonstrates that the surface of our modern theoretical understanding of the ‘business of peace’ is only just beginning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-39
Number of pages17
JournalGuoji Zhengzhi Yanjiu (International Politics Quarterly)
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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