In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section From Club to Network Diplomacy

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals and Resources
  • Traditional “Club” Diplomacy
  • Non-Western Perspectives
  • The Shift to “Network Diplomacy”
  • Politics and Policy in a Networked Age
  • Communication
  • Nonstate Diplomacy
  • Soft Power
  • Public Diplomacy
  • Digital Diplomacy
  • Diplomatic Influence in the “Network(s)”
  • Hubs and Spokes of Network Diplomacy

International Relations From Club to Network Diplomacy
Jorge Heine, Joseph F. Turcotte
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0137


It is estimated that some two-thirds of all foreign ministers in the world today are on Twitter. Some of them handle their own accounts, others have assistants that do it for them, but the fact remains that a large number of the world’s chief diplomats engage with the public through a micro-blog known best for its flippant and provocative nature, a social media platform that puts a premium on spontaneity and informality—in other words, features as far removed from the cautious and highly formalized ways of traditional diplomacy as one could expect. One can safely say that Cardinal Richelieu would not have liked it. Few matters are as emblematic of the seismic changes this ancient and venerable craft has undergone since the 1980s as this one. In 2006, when Twitter was launched, very few observers would have forecast that a few years later a whole new subfield, known as Twiplomacy, would be taking ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs) and missions by storm, leading to a radical rethinking of the interaction between diplomats and the public. Yet, Twiplomacy is only the latest, though perhaps one of the most visible, expressions of what Heine has referred to as the shift from “club” to “network” diplomacy. By this is meant the change from the traditional model of diplomacy, founded on the principles of national sovereignty and statecraft (that becomes less relevant as a whole slew of new, influential actors enters the international system) to a very different one. Thus, diplomats must engage a vastly larger number of players in host countries, as the age-old, highly hierarchical “club” (or “cabinet”) model of diplomacy gives way to a flatter, and more horizontal “network” model. This entails not just a few “add-ons” to traditional diplomatic practices but rather a whole new way of looking at how relations between states are to be managed in the new century, one that is very different from the established mores of a millenarian craft, more set in its ways than most. The purpose of this article is to provide a survey of the current literature on the subject of this major change. In this perspective, such apparently distinct phenomena as the rise of public diplomacy (in some ways an upgraded version of the “cultural diplomacy” of old), the emergence of digital diplomacy (through its many platforms), and the eruption of Twiplomacy (in its many stages, from conveying boilerplate information to its actual use in formal negotiations) are nothing but part and parcel of this much broader shift to network diplomacy. The latter goes hand in hand with the processes unleashed by the Third Industrial Revolution launched circa 1980, and the rise of the network society identified by Manuel Castells in his magnum opus of the same title.

General Overviews

Is diplomacy an art or a science? Most observers would reply that it is a craft, that is, a professional activity with a strong applied component. This means it draws both on an extant body of knowledge and on the insights of practitioners in a constantly evolving field. The most recent and comprehensive attempt to pull together in a stand-alone volume the reflections and research of some of the leading scholars in diplomatic studies and those of prominent practitioners is that of Cooper, et al. 2013. With fifty chapters and nearly 900 pages, it is the most ambitious publishing venture available in the field. Diplomatic Theory of International Relations (Sharp 2009) is a fascinating effort to look at international relations (IR) from the vantage point of diplomacy, and assessing what it has to contribute to the latter. Kissinger 1994 remains a pertinent and salient exploration of diplomacy, one enhanced by the authority of the writer, one of the leading scholar-diplomats of the 20th century. Watson 2010 offers an insightful analysis of diplomacy and sets the stage for the transitions the craft has undergone since its publication. Leguey-Feilleux 2009 provides a useful and accessible overview of the field from ancient times to the current period. Freeman 1997 provides key conceptual definitions.

  • Cooper, Andrew F., Jorge Heine, and Ramesh Thakur, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199588862.001.0001

    A comprehensive, fifty-chapter volume that analyzes the shift from club to network diplomacy, arguing that it is the defining feature of the craft in our time. Featuring contributions from scholars and practitioners, from Harvard don Joseph Nye to Canadian prime minister Paul Martin, it blends theoretical and historical frameworks with practical insights into the changing nature of 21st-century diplomacy as viewed from the vantage of IR.

  • Freeman, Charles W., Jr. Arts of Power: Statecraft and Diplomacy. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1997.

    Written as a dictionary-style overview, this reference text provides explanatory definitions combined with analytic observations about the role of diplomacy in international relations. Particularly good on the delicate balancing act of aiming for peace while keeping all options on the table.

  • Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

    Henry Kissinger analyzes key instances of diplomatic engagement in the 20th century. As the ultimate scholar-practitioner (Harvard professor-turned secretary of state-turned political consultant) steeped in the realist school of IR, the author writes with special authority on the subject.

  • Leguey-Feilleux, Robert. The Dynamics of Diplomacy. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2009.

    A straightforward overview of the discipline from ancient times to the present. Manages to be both comprehensive and analytical, showing a nuanced understanding of the challenges facing diplomats today.

  • Sharp, Paul. Diplomatic Theory of International Relations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511805196

    Instead of looking at diplomacy from the point of view of IR, Sharp does the opposite, and in so doing comes up with some revealing insights and conclusions. A volume that should be on the shelf of every student of diplomacy.

  • Watson, Adam. Diplomacy: The Dialogue between States. New York: Routledge, 2010.

    Originally published in 1982. Although somewhat dated, this text provides an insightful analysis of the conventions and institutions that form the diplomatic system. Written at the dawn the diplomatic revolution of our age, it provides an early glimpse of what was to come.

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