Power, Interdependence, and Nonstate Actors in World Politics

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Interdependence most simply defined means mutual dependence. They differentiate interdependence from simple interconnectedness by the existence of costly reciprocal effects. They argue that is distinction is crucial for understanding the politics of interdependence. Keohane and Nye distinguish between two dimensions of interdependence for understanding power and interdependence: In a similar vein, Haas , p. In this context, Baldwin , p. One is when an actor is significantly affected or constrained in attaining valued outcomes by someone or something else. This meaning denotes a causal relationship in which an effect is contingent on, conditioned, or caused by something else.

The second meaning focuses more on the nature and structure of a relationship, in which one party is subordinate or reliant on another party. It is a relationship of structural inequality and is costly to break. Duvall , pp. Definitions of interdependence, however, are not without contention. For example, Rosecrance et al. The first focused on transaction flows of individuals and resources, and it relates primarily to interconnectedness. The second was more structural and focused on relationships related to changes in factor prices. Tetreault has suggested that only this second measure corresponds to what scholars like Cooper and Keohane and Nye mean when they talk of sensitivity interdependence.

Tetreault , p. Each actor is also interdependent with the other participants in the system. In this context, she brought in the vulnerability dimension. Here, she stresses the importance of nation-to-system linkages as opposed to nation-to-nation linkages. As Baldwin reflected, this benchmark has also been noted by Katzenstein and Ruggie For the terms to be comparable, we need to use a different term: Both increase or decline over time. He further clarified that interdependence is not just economic, but also strategic, environmental, and ideational.

Clearly, ambiguity exists over the concept and its usage. What is equally clear, however, is that the concept is central for explaining the nature and dynamics of international organization, as well as international relations more broadly conceived. Broadly speaking, this concept has been used in international relations theorizing to provide the context necessary for understanding its use and potential for understanding the dynamics of international organization and global governance.

Specifically, the analysis examines the use of the concept in the study of general international systems, world-systems theory, dependency, international integration, and transnational relations. As reflected by Baldwin , interdependence thinking has a long history in contemporary international relations scholarship. Writing in the first half of the 19th century, for example, Karl Marx endeavored to create a scientific theory of the nature and evolution of human social organization and world order. In the midth century and the debates among purported schools of thought in international relations, distinctive general tendencies within these various traditions can be identified regarding why systems change, but all are based on interdependence logic.

World-system theory and dependency theory tend to explain change or lack thereof as a function of the hierarchical structure of the system status difference among actors therein. In many respects, E. Carr initiated the interwar-time context. To develop a comprehensive image of international relations, he focused on interdependence related to relative power relationships among major powers in the Westphalian interstate order. He distinguished power into three distinct elements: The struggle to fulfill power-related objectives creates an interactive framework in which states cause conflict while attempting to achieve additional power.

In this context, the struggle for power among states may cause change at the systemic level, which can serve as a stressor for conflict among them. Carr did not believe in absolutist assumptions. Historical conditions and relative positions, actual and perceived, among state actors conditioned such systemic change. The struggle for power in the historical European context had led to an interdependent balance of power structural configuration. The balance of power system is based on the twin goals of stability and preservation.

It is also based on the concept of equilibrium. The objective then becomes reducing vulnerability. Thus, for Morgenthau, coping with interdependence can be an underlying cause of conflict. Writing several decades later, Bull suggested that endeavoring to coping with interdependence can also be an underlying cause of cooperation. Bull argued that, while the international system is anarchical, it is subject to principles of interdependence.

The members of the system form a society with common rules and institutions, providing order in the international arena. These rules and institutions are based on basic goals of the society of states, including a preservation of the system and society of states; b maintaining the sovereignty of states; c preserving peace; and d general goals of social life Bull, , pp. International society or the society of states exists when a group of states perceive themselves bound by a common set of rules in their relations with one another and work together in common institutions.


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He juxtaposed this with interconnectedness in the international system, which is, more simply, when two or more states have contact and dealings with each other. Common rules and institutions serve to limit conflict among states. These include conceptions of justice, balance of power, international law, diplomacy, and great powers. On the question of the relationship between change and conflict, the approach is very incrementalist. In this regard, the major powers are instrumental.

They can contribute to maintaining order by preserving the balance of power, avoiding and controlling crises, limiting war, unilaterally exercising local preponderance, agreeing to establish spheres of influence, and agreeing to create Great Power concerts. It is instructive to begin an exploration of interdependence thinking in international relations theorizing by reflecting on its usage in general international systems theory.

Parsons , and Kaplan , were pioneers in bringing systems logic to the study of international relations. As Morse has succinctly clarified, a system functions as a whole because of the interdependence of its parts. Interaction among the parts is shaped by the constraints and parameters of system structure. The parties create and maintain the social structures through regularized practices that characterize the social system in which they are acting.

Thus, participants shape the structure and the structure impacts on the interaction of agents. Parsons postulated that all recurring actions occur in systems and that any person at a given time is a member of multiple interrelated and sometimes nested systems. Focusing on various subsystems e. He placed substantial emphasis on the notion of system equilibrium and argued that four prerequisites are necessary for social system maintenance: When applied to the field of international politics on an international level, he postulated that common values and procedural consensus would be integral to having equilibrium and international stability.

Based in interdependence logic, he argued his case for systems theory by positing six ideal-type models of international systems. Here, the theorizing began. Each of the six system types can take on different characteristics under each of the four different types of actors, further specifying five different patterns of choice—thus linking system and process. While Kaplan emphasized specifying actors and essential rules within systems, he understated the conditions under which systems change and become transforming into different system types. The crux of system transformation rests for the most part on violations of the essential rules necessary for system stability and survival and, relatedly, to permanent change in essential actors.

In his formulation, change is neither a cause of conflict nor necessarily a stressor. Like Kaplan, Wright focused on the interdependent nature of world politics. In his The Study of International Relations , he brought together a wide diversity of disciplines and disciplinary approaches—international law, international organization, military science, diplomatic history, international trade, foreign policy, world history, geography, psychology, sociology, operations research, and more—in an attempt to build international relations theory.


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Wright envisioned a grand theory of international relations, grounded in interdependence logic; thus, all aspects of the human social condition needed to be taken into consideration. The former locates people and their actions in actual space and time. This conception of field is standard.

The analytical field notion represented more path-breaking thinking for scientific theory construction. Wright explained in depth the notion of social field theory, its complexities, and its potential for forging both international relations theory and international relations as a field of study. He went on to discuss how each system of action has different structural levels that may affect criteria for choice and action. Wright suggested that changes in the nature of the character of international relations may be seen as movements of systems of action in analytical fields, resulting from general changes in the fields, from the interaction between capabilities and values, and interaction between geographic fields and analytical fields.

Clearly, the concept of interdependence has been instrumental in general international systems theorizing.

Introduction

And systems thinking is inherent in theories endeavoring to describe and explain interdependence and its implications for world order and for international organization, broadly speaking. Closely related to general systems theorizing is world-systems theory and theorizing about dependency. The work of Immanuel Wallerstein provides a vantage point for exploring interdependence in world-systems theory.

Wallerstein , contended that between and a new form of multisocietal organization arose in Europe that transformed global political economy. This new evolving world system, according to Wallerstein, was organized around a capitalist mode of production: Those who control production combine factor inputs into the production process to create value in excess of the value of the individual factor inputs and other production costs, resulting in growth, expansion of the scale of production, and capital accumulation.

The nature of unequal exchange and relative dependencies within the system as a whole breeds and perpetuates inequality among the parties. In his conceptualization of the capitalist world system CWS , Wallerstein focused on the nature of interdependence between and among three primary zones: The nature of dependence—interdependence in the capitalist world system was centered on a division of labor between those who owned and controlled finance capital and production processes and other parties to the relationship who provided other factors of production as well as markets.


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  5. Thus, this division of labor is founded in a complex system of unequal exchange relationships in which surplus value is appropriated from certain participants to the benefit of other participants as well as from certain zones within the world economy to other zones. The position occupied by a given area is a function of the structural role played by that area in the global division of labor at any particular point in time.

    According to Wallerstein, the semiperiphery plays a crucial role and is essential for the smooth functioning of the overall system; it inhibits polarization within the larger system. Wallerstein , p. According to Wallerstein , pp. In times of overall system expansion, movement up-or-down across zones is restricted as the core can continue to expand at the expense of the other two zones.

    However, during times of a decline in relative surplus and system contraction, retrenchment among producers within the core may make possible opportunities for upward movement for parties from semiperipheral areas. Closely related to world-systems theory is the concept of dependency. Duvall , Caporaso , and Baldwin include asymmetrical relationships of subordination in which one party must rely on another for the satisfaction of basic needs and values under the rubric of vulnerability dependence.

    Dependence is seldom, if ever, absolute. While both parties to a relationship of dependency possess some degree of power, the bulk of the power lies in the hands on the dominant party. Perroux has argued that relations between core and periphery zones of the global political economy cannot be adequately understood by narrow conceptions of interdependence that focus on sensitivity dependence or vulnerability interdependence among relatively equal parties.

    Under conditions of dependency, the relationship is about vulnerability dependence—the relative distribution of benefit and the ability or inability to alter or even break the relationship. Cardoso and Faletto , pp. In exploring the nature of international interdependence, Cardoso and Faletto , p. Reflecting on the role of interdependence thinking, as exemplified in general international systems theory, world-systems theory, and theorizing about dependency, yields important insights. It underpins power-dependent relationships; it is an inherent characteristic of all systems of action; and it is seldom symmetrical in nature.

    Asymmetrical interdependence can perpetuate and exacerbate inequalities regarding the nature and dynamics of relationships of dependence and interdependence in systems of action. Interdependence also highlights the importance of systems thinking, itself, for the study of international organization and global governance. In this article, international organization and global governance are viewed both as processes and structures—with an admitted bias toward process.

    In the following two sections, systems thinking, embodied in studies of processes of international integration and transnational relations, is explored to further set the stage for a more focused analysis of interdependence in international organization studies. Another important analytical thread in interdependence theorizing has been international integration. Mitrany , laid the foundation for the functionalist approach to international integration. He argued that peace may result from compatible interests and collective pursuits with regard to providing for citizens welfare through technical means and other aspects of low politics, as opposed to the high politics of national security.

    Integration was based in the perceived need and search for solutions to technical problems and issues. As this process evolves, norms of cooperation may eventually replace norms of conflict. Building on this, Deutsch , linked his ideas about integration to interdependence associated with interlocking relationships, a division of labor, and covariance among parties in a system of action. Such a relationship entailed mutual dependence among the parties and not simply mutual responsiveness. Haas , , , Lindberg , Nye , Schmitter , and Lindberg and Scheingold would build further on this foundation, ultimately positing a theory of neo-functionalism.

    As opposed to functionalism, neo-functionalism placed greater emphasis on the role of self-interested political elites and nongovernmental and private-sector elites and interest groups who realize that their interests may be better served through supranational arrangements.

    Functional supranational arrangements in one issue can lead to the demand for such arrangements in other areas. Puchala and Cobb and Elder expanded the on this notion of interdependence as a pattern of relationships among a set of actors. Joseph Nye , a , b among others built on this conceptualization, though his work is most illustrative.

    Nye posited seven process mechanisms that underpin integration: The integrative process itself is conditioned by additional factors, such as perceived equity of distribution of benefits, perceived external cogency, and relatively low perceived costs. To these, he added the importance of factors such as politicization, redistribution, changes in perceived utility of alternatives to integration, and externalization with regard to dealing with nonmembers. In summary, interdependence thinking lies at the core of international integration theorizing and analysis in a more or less formally structured way: Another important scholarly focus in international organization studies—transnational relations—has tended to focus on more interactive and less formally structured networks of interdependence.

    With interdependence as a core element, Keohane and Nye , , Kaiser , Mansbach et al. Keohane and Nye would expand on the role of transnational interactions among government subunits under the rubric of transgovernmental relations. In explicating their transnational framework, Keohane and Nye , p. They grouped these actors into diffuse, flexible, and situationally specific alignments. Whereas Keohane and Nye tended to focus on how transnational politics constrain government action, Kaiser stressed the nature of governmental attempts to influence international organizations and transnational actors.

    He distinguished three forms of multinational politics: Transnational politics in this context, he suggested, refers to interactions between and among national governments and international organizations that originate in transnational society. The study of the role of NGOs and other nonstate actors in world politics is almost as old as the contemporary study of international organization itself.

    Pioneers in the exploration nonstate actors from a more implicit interdependence perspective include White , Haas , Wolfers , , Alger , Lador-Lederer , Angell , Skjelsbaek , Feld , and Kriesberg A proliferation of studies followed regarding various aspects of interdependence related to nonstate actors engagements in transnational relations.

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    Some have a more general focus, including, for example, Gordenker and Weiss , Weiss and Gordenker , Florini , Higgott et al. Others are more functionally specific. Haas , , Coleman , Benner et al. A plethora of studies have dealt with transnational social movements and global campaigns, including Leatherman et al. Chadwick Alger led the way in investigating the role of local communities in international organization Alger, , , Gordenker and Weiss focused their analysis on the role of social networks in international cooperation. Using an interorganizational relations framework, they argue that international cooperation requires the creation and maintenance of networks of organizational units.

    According to Gordenker et al. Social exchange and bargaining in the context of social networks lie at the core of the framework set out by Gordenker et al. Transnational networks are the seen as the foundation of international regimes, and network activity contributes to or constrains international cooperation.

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    In this context, however, the authors reiterated that international networks, like international regimes, are analytical constructs. Nonetheless, these constructs help us understand processes of social networking and the role it plays in international cooperation. In addition to traditional international relations literature reviewed above, they built on elements of exchange theory from sociology and administrative science. Participants in organizations tend to establish formal and informal mechanisms to deal with vulnerability regarding external forces Evan, ; Thompson, Underpinning social exchange theory in interorganizational relations is the assumption that organizational actors seek to reduce uncertainty with regard to dealing with critical vulnerabilities.

    Thus, they engage in exchange relations to achieve negotiated and relatively predictable environments. What ensues is a continuous bargaining learning process. Much of the social exchange literature focuses on the role of resource acquisition, broadly defined, regarding power-dependent relationships. The more dependent an organization is on outside resources, the less power it has in relation to other associated organizations in its environment Thompson, An important drawback of social exchange theory in this context is a dominant focus on the role of resource dependency in interorganizational relations.

    Nonetheless, this literature is instructive in that it developed and attempted to use important concepts regarding power dependence that later made their way into international relations. These concepts include sensitivity, vulnerability, essentiality, and substitutability. As early as , Emerson discussed the importance of vulnerability regarding an organizations liability to suffer costs even after it had changed its policies in order to deal with the condition. Thompson and Jacobs use the concepts of essentiality and substitutability to make the concept of vulnerability more specific.

    Vulnerability relates positively to essentiality and is negatively associated with substitutability. Thereafter, a resurgence of scholarly interest in theorizing about international organizations as interorganizational relations occurred e. Theorizing about interdependence in transnational relations, however, has remained relatively underdeveloped compared to the other general international relations traditions, such as general international systems, world-systems theory, dependency, international integration, and transnational relations.

    In important ways though, it also provides insights into how interdependence thinking has influenced and impacted how scholars have more directly approached studying and theorizing about the dynamics of international organization and the role of international institutions therein. In fact, many of the leading contemporary international organization scholars have their foundations in international integration and transnational relations studies.

    In this context, the essay now examines the nature and use of interdependence thinking in the study of international institutions and regimes. Reflecting on studies of international integration and transnational relations reveals a subtle but important dual focus on institutional processes and institutional structures. Both of these foci are essential components for analyzing the role of interdependence in the study of international organization and global governance.

    In the context of this essay, however, it is important to differentiate between IOs in the more formal and narrower organizational sense and IO in the broader institutional sense. Formal IOs are, of course, comprised of interdependent systems of action, involving definable component parts—member states, delegate bodies, secretariat, civil society partners, and so forth.

    Yet, for the purposes of this study, the relationships among IOs and other actors comprise larger international systems of action that is of primary concern. Notably, however, such larger international systems of action, such as in the case of European integration, may be characterized by more or less formalized and regularized institutional patterns of behavior so as to blur the distinction between international organizations and international organization. In this context, a focus on international regimes is instructive. John Ruggie was one of the first international relations scholars to discuss the concept of international regime as an interdependent arrangement among states, consisting of mutual expectations about institutionalized rules, norms, and behaviors.

    In their path-breaking book, Power and Interdependence , Keohane and Nye , p. Haas , p. Definitions aside, approaches to the study of international regimes as it relates to interdependence have varied. Similar to the alternative perspectives on systems theory, a division exists between scholars who treat international regimes as actual phenomena manifest in international relations and scholars who view international regimes more as social constructs and an analytical device for understanding international cooperation and organization. To Krasner b , Keohane and Nye , , and most other scholars focusing on international regimes as an area of study, tend to take the former stance.

    Young , a , b , , , , Puchala and Hopkins , and Coate take the latter. Young a , for example, views international regimes as complex social institutions. They constitute systems of action characterized by patterned behaviors and expectations about appropriate practices. Young a , p. Also shunning the tendency of most international relations scholars to reify the concept of international regimes and treat such arrangements as empirical reality, Puchala and Hopkins have taken a more analytical approach. They stressed five main features of interdependent relationships underpinning such arrangements.

    From their perspective, an international regime is a subjective construct—an attitudinal phenomenon. Regimes are characterized by norms of appropriate procedures for decision making. Third, regimes have embedded within them major principles and hierarchies among those principles. Fourth, the main actors in international regimes are elites representing government units as well as international, transnational, and subnational organizations: Strange has challenged the assertion that the concept of international regime is a useful tool for understanding international organization and world politics.

    She argued that the study of regimes was a fad. Fourth, it overemphasizes the static, as opposed to dynamic, aspects of world politics. As reflected much earlier by Morse in regard to interdependence frameworks more generally, it ignores the vast majority of international relations that lie beyond the scope of interstate relations and international bargaining makes a similar criticism. Keohane and Nye offered their conceptualization of complex interdependence as an ideal type of international system in contrast to the traditional realist approach.

    They identified three channels connecting societies: Military and national security issues do not dominate the agenda, and the distinction between domestic and foreign issues becomes blurred. Different issues generate different coalitions, both within governments and across them, and involve different degrees of conflict. The distribution of power, as well as goals, vary by issue area.

    This effect, in turn, complicates attempts at issue linkage and affects the nature of international hierarchy and reduces its impact. The existence and importance of transgovernmental, as well as transnational, policy networks lays bare the realist assumption of unitary state actors as well as brings into question the assumption that states act to satisfy some objective national interests.

    Under conditions of complex interdependence, the role of international organizations and international regimes assume a new importance. They provide decision-making environments for enhancing communication and information flows reducing uncertainty and arenas for agenda setting, coalition formation, bargaining, and influence peddling. In important ways, they even the playing field between otherwise disparate players regarding power capabilities. States engage one another in negotiations to achieve mutual adjustment.

    Thus, cooperation is not merely a function of common interests, it serves as an instrumental goal of states caught up in interdependent relationships. He reiterated that international institutions take on importance because they reduce transaction costs, provide information, and thus reduce uncertainty; they make commitments credible. A second major theoretical contribution to international relations interdependence theory, especially as it relates to systems thinking, has come from James Rosenau. He was never captured by the image of a reified international system being the Westphalian interstate legal order.

    Perhaps more than any other international relations scholar, Rosenau has captured complex interdependence inherent in the multiplex world of the late 20th and early 21st century. It is a messy and somewhat chaotic world in which individuals and groups simultaneously play multiple roles and engage in multiple systems of action.

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    In the world of the 21st century, Rosenau was sending a call to students who wished to understand world politics in the new century. Moreover, he invited those who wanted to really understand what had happened in 20th century international relations—devoid of epistemological, methodological, and ideological blinders—to move his analysis forward. Moreover, embodied within the various systems of action were various institutions that actors utilize as they attain valued outcomes and satisfy needs. In this context, individuals and groups hold role expectations about their own behaviors and the behaviors of others.

    Role scenarios provide shared action scripts, which hold social systems together and also can create role conflicts. The associated turbulence created a world order bifurcated between state-centric and multicentric systems. To Rosenau, interdependence is characterized by how and the extent to which parts of the world order are connected with each other. Global order, Rosenau proposed, is underpinned by three basic levels of interactive patterns: The ideational level entails how people sense, perceive, and understand to maintain order.

    The behavioral level is the realm of what people routinely do to maintain order. Finally, the institutional level captures the interactions among institutions and regimes, as they engage to implement policies inherent in ideational and behavioral patterns. Global orders are established and sustained by the interdependence of ideational, behavioral, and institutional patterns. On the other hand, resource scarcity, subgrouping, effectiveness of governments, transnational issues, aptitudes of publics, as well as exogenous conditions can trigger change and transformation.

    Rosenau portrays this combination of increasing interdependence, fragmentation, and decentralization as postinternational politics. Where does this field of study go from here? Understanding governance and international organization in the exceedingly complex and dynamically interdependent world of the early 21st century requires the kind of innovative thinking and theorizing attempted by Rosenau, Keohane, Mansbach, Kaiser, and others. There exists no fixed hierarchy among issues, and security has taken on a diversity of blurred meanings—for example, global security, human security, national security, and so on.

    Rectitude moral, religious, ethical beliefs , respect, enlightenment, affect, and well-being loom large on center stage. A new interdependence is playing itself out. The range and diversity of participants—governmental and nongovernmental, actual and potential, organized and unorganized—is seemingly overwhelming, yet need not be.

    An analytical approach is needed that enables the analyst to envision not only what appears on the surface but, as Strange has challenged, what lurks below. As Truman , p. Similarly, Lasswell differentiated between unorganized and organized participants. In any substantive issue, there will be persons i.

    As suggested by Rosenau, identity and identity politics have also moved to center stage. Individuals are involved in a wide variety of social relationships, each associated with differing identities. Identity with culture, nation, religion, class, clan, and race vie for allegiance with that of the state. Different events and conditions may trigger and bring to the fore different identities.

    To understand the complex interdependence of the 21st century, students of international organization need to think outside the box and blinders of state-centric and Western liberal ideological thinking. Economics and politics, for example, are not distinct spheres of reality.

    Roger A. Coate, Jeffrey A. Griffin, and Steven Elliott-Gower

    Western notions of nongovernmental actors and of civil society are of limited utility for conceiving of and analyzing interdependence among the diversity of essential players in contemporary world affairs. This is not new thinking. More than fifty years ago, Gabriel Almond suggested that models of social organization that may be useful for understanding social and political phenomena in advanced Western liberal societies may not and probably are not so useful for understanding such phenomena in other parts of the world.

    Regarding processes of aggregating and articulating interests, he differentiated four main types of identity grouping: Institutional groups are based on identities related to professional association, such as militaries, bureaucracies, and churches. Nonassociational groups are based on identity to more traditional cultural and social collectivities, such as clan, kinship, ethnicity, region, religion, status, and social class. Anomic groupings are more or less spontaneous aggregations of individuals responding to situations or events.

    In large parts of the world, Western-style associational groups, which are the focus of most international organization and international relations scholarship on transnational relations, international regimes, etc. Thus, they need to be integrated into our thinking and conceptualizing about interdependence and our models of international organization and cooperation. Moreover, identities, perceived values and interests, associations and relationships, loyalties and allegiances vary not only by issue area but also by issue framings.

    Finally, as implicit in the work of Wright, Puchala and Hopkins, Young, Coate, Mansbach, Ferguson, and others, adequately describing and explaining the exceedingly complex and dynamically interdependent world of the early 21st century requires acknowledging, confronting, and overcoming the reification fallacy that has dominated mainstream international organization and international relations scholarship for decades. Systems, networks, international regimes, and the like need to be viewed, analyzed, and treated as analytical constructs rather than concrete manifestations of social reality.

    The concept of the international system itself greatly constrains and diminishes the ability to envision, explain, and understand 21st century international organization and processes of global governance. The Westphalian interstate diplomatic-legal order is but one important conceptualization of the multitude of important systems of action that underpin contemporary world order. Future theorizing about interdependence would be well served by breaking free from the remnants of these conceptual blinders from the past.

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