Introduction: Approaches to uncertainty in global politics

Miriam Matejova, Anastasia Shesterinina

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Uncertainty shapes international relations (IR), global politics, institutional and state interactions, and many other relationships within and outside of the state. Yet, IR scholars have devoted relatively little attention to studying what uncertainty is; how we can (and should) approach it; and how it affects political actors’ interests, identities, and behaviors. This chapter tackles analytical confusion that exists in IR research over the meaning of uncertainty and the relationship between this concept and such associated terms as risk, ambiguity, and complexity. We argue that multiple, qualitatively different forms of uncertainty exist that pose distinct challenges and affect actors in diverse ways, including how actors react to and navigate the uncertain world they face. This chapter identifies several such forms, including practical, analytical, inherent, routine, extreme, and potential/possible uncertainty. These forms are explored in detail in substantive contributions to this volume. Engaging with these different forms of uncertainty reveals the social processes by which political actors make sense of their reality, including by collectively producing knowledge and information itself.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUncertainty in Global Politics
PublisherTaylor and Francis Ltd.
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781003823834
ISBN (Print)9781032546704
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 selection and editorial matter, Miriam Matejova and Anastasia Shesterinina; individual chapters, the contributors.

Cite this