Network Analysis for International Relations

35 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2008 Last revised: 3 Oct 2015

See all articles by Emilie Marie Hafner-Burton

Emilie Marie Hafner-Burton

UCSD School of Global Policy and Strategy

Miles Kahler

American University-School of International Service

Alexander H. Montgomery

Reed College

Date Written: October 21, 2008


International relations research has regarded networks as a particular mode of organization, distinguished from markets or state hierarchies. In contrast, network analysis permits the investigation and measurement of network structures -- emergent properties of persistent patterns of relations among agents that can define, enable, and constrain those agents. Network analysis offers both a toolkit for identifying and measuring the structural properties of networks and a set of theories, typically drawn from contexts outside international relations, that relate structures to outcomes. Network analysis challenges conventional views of power in international relations by defining network power in three different ways: access, brokerage, and exit options. Two issues are particularly important to international relations: the ability of actors to increase their power by enhancing and exploiting their network positions, and the fungibility of network power. The value of network analysis in international relations has been demonstrated in precise description of international networks, investigation of network effects on key international outcomes, testing of existing network theory in the context of international relations, and development of new sources of data. Partial or faulty incorporation of network analysis, however, risks trivial conclusions, unproven assertions, and measures without meaning. A three-part agenda is proposed for future application of network analysis to international relations: import the toolkit to deepen research on international networks; test existing network theories in the domain of international relations; and test international relations theories using the tools of network analysis.

Keywords: networks, network analysis, international relations, centrality, structural equivalence, power

Suggested Citation

Hafner-Burton, Emilie Marie and Kahler, Miles and Montgomery, Alexander H., Network Analysis for International Relations (October 21, 2008). International Organization, Vol. 63, No. 3, July 2009. Available at SSRN:

Emilie Marie Hafner-Burton (Contact Author)

UCSD School of Global Policy and Strategy ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States


Miles Kahler

American University-School of International Service ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Alexander H. Montgomery

Reed College ( email )

3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Portland, OR 97202
United States


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