Dr Pigman’s research interests began with multilateral commercial diplomacy and international trade policy and politics. He embraced a political economy-based understanding of diplomacy as a way of viewing and understanding global interactions between different types of actors: governments, global firms, multilateral organizations, civil society organizations, eminent persons, and the global public. This approach departs from the more traditional diplomatic studies paradigm, in which diplomacy was understood primarily as how governments represented themselves to and conducted relations with one another. What are the effects upon people and policies when firms, governments and other organizations engage in diplomacy in the technology-mediated, information-intensive contemporary environment? What is the impact of changing types of venues and settings in which diplomacy takes place (such as the World Economic Forum, the G7/8 and G20, etc.) and of the hugely expanded diplomatic interaction with global publics? In this mode of understanding diplomacy, economic and social-cultural issues are central and inseparable from high politics, rather than being consigned to the periphery. How global firms function as diplomatic actors and how they affect the politics of financial regulation become central, as do development diplomacy, public diplomacy, place branding and investment promotion, and the underlying features of political communication that they embody.
He explored the public-private interplay in diplomacy in his first book, The World Economic Forum; A Multi-Stakeholder Approach to Global Governance (2006), the first book published on the World Economic Forum. The book focuses on the Forum’s unique nature as a non-government-led global venue that brings together a wide range of governmental, business and civil society actors for diplomacy and problem solving. An article in the Hague Journal of Diplomacy, ‘“Do this one for me, George”: Blair, Brown, Bono, Bush and the “Actor-ness” of the G8’, co-authored with John Kotsopoulos, explores the extent to which the G8 moved from being a venue for diplomacy to functioning as a diplomatic actor in its own right. In Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, ‘Consuls for Hire: Private Actors, Public Diplomacy’, Anthony Deos and Pigman examine the increased use of private firms by governments to undertake public diplomacy initiatives.
Dr Pigman’s second book, a text on diplomacy intended for upper division undergraduate and MA students in international relations and diplomacy courses, Contemporary Diplomacy: Representation and Communication in a Globalized World (Polity Press, 2010), seeks to integrate theory with a comprehensive rendering of the contemporary landscape of actors, venues and issues in diplomacy today. Related work includes:
- A chapter on US trade policy in the environment of the emergence of large developing countries for an edited book on the World Trade Organization and developing countries, Leadership and Change in the Multilateral Trading System, published by Republic of Letters/Martinus Nijhoff (2009).
- A co-authored paper with Brendan Vickers at South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry on the extent to which contemporary international trade diplomacy affirms or challenges the ‘new paradigm’ for diplomatic studies in the International Journal of Diplomacy and Economy (2012).
- A chapter on global firms as diplomatic actors for the Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy edited by Andrew Cooper et al. (2013).
- A chapter on economic diplomacy, ‘Trade, Diplomacy and the Evolving Global Economy’ in Global Diplomacy: Theories, Types and Models, Alison R. Holmes with J. Simon Rofe, eds. (2016).
In his third book, Trade Diplomacy Transformed: Why Trade Matters for Global Prosperity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015; revised and expanded 2nd edn., Lulu Press, 2016). Dr Pigman argues that over the past two centuries the international economy has undergone three successive, overlaying transformations in how and why international trade diplomacy is done. These transformations in turn have shaped the evolution of the global economy and the actors (states, firms, multilateral institutions, NGOs) that operate within it. He draws policy prescriptions for needed reforms to international trade policy and diplomacy.
Dr Pigman’s most recent book, Negotiating Our Economic Future: Trade, Technology, and Diplomacy (Agenda Publishing, 2020), explores the present and expected future impact of technological change on international trade and the diplomacy that facilitates it. Not only is what is traded and how changing, but diplomacy in the digital age is changing as well. He analyzes the new constraints under which trade operates and proposes policy approaches for the diplomatic management of a future of accelerating automation and ever more powerful artificial intelligence.
Dr Pigman’s research on economic diplomacy between public and private actors in developing and industrialized countries more recently has led him to explore the convergence of diplomacy and international sport. In 2011 he co-founded a research group on diplomacy and international sport with Stuart Murray (Bond University, Australia) and J. Simon Rofe (SOAS – University of London). In 2014 Murray and Pigman co-authored an article framing an analytical taxonomy of sports-diplomacy, which appeared in a special issue of the journal Sport in Society on sports-diplomacy that Rofe and Pigman co-edited. He produced a single-authored article on public diplomacy and international sport for Diplomacy and Statecraft in 2016 and in 2019 an overview chapter on sports-diplomacy in The Business and Culture of Sports: Society, Politics, Economy, Environment, a reference text edited by Maguire, Falcous, and Liston. Looking ahead, he is beginning a new book on the challenges sports-diplomacy faces in mediating global estrangement, focusing particularly on the interaction between public and private actors.