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James Rosenau the Study of Global Interdependence

James Rosenau the Study of Global Interdependence

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The Study of Global Interdependence: Essays on the Transnationalization of World AffairsBook by James N. Rosenau; Frances Pinter, 1980. 334 pgs. (pg 35-52)
www.questia.com3 Capabilities and Control in anInterdependent World
*
In pondering the changing nature of 'national power, I tworecent but contradictory examples come to mind as indicative of  profound changes occurring in the nature and dynamics of whatever it is we mean when we refer to the 'power' of nations. One example isthe 'failure' of American 'power' in Vietnam. The other is the 'success'of Arab 'power' in the 1973-74 off embargo. What kind of changesthese examples indicate, however, is obscure. Do they suggest that military 'power' has diminished (hence the Vietnam failure) and thateconomic 'power' has become more effective (hence the oil embargosuccess)? Do they point up the increasing variability of 'power' considerations? Do they suggest that generalized characterizations of national 'power' are no longer reasonable? Or do they highlight thelimitations of the 'power' concept, suggesting once again that it is aconcept without meaningful content and with misleading connotations?If the last question is addressed first and the parameters of theconcept precisely delineated, all four of these questions can beanswered in the affirmative. Such is the thrust of the ensuing pages.The ambiguous and misleading uses of the 'power' concept are set forthat the outset and an alternative formulation outlined. The latter is thenapplied to the changing nature of world politics, to the evolution of economic and other new, nonmilitary types of issues, and to the implications of these issues for the nature of national 'power.' ____________________ 
*
An earlier version of this chapter was published in
 International Security
,Vol. 1 ( Fall 1976), pp. 32-49. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher.
THE 'POWER' CONCEPT AND ITS LIMITATIONS
To stress that conventional usage of the 'power' concept results in misleading ambiguities isnot in any way to deny that profound changes have occurred in world politics and that thesehave greatly altered the dynamics whereby nations employ their 'power' to pursue andachieve their foreign policy goals. The changes are independent of the way in which theconcept is formulated. Appreciation of their scope and direction, however, becomesdifficult if they are traced with imprecise and obfuscating conceptual equipment. Vietnamand the oil embargo can thus be seen as illustrative of both substantive change andconceptual disarray.
 
Stated differently, the
 surprises
that attended the inability of the 'mighty' United States to prevail in Vietnam and the ability of the 'weak' Arab states to induce altered postures in theindustrial world regarding their conflict with Israel are but the most recent and dramaticexamples supporting a long-standing conviction that the concept of national 'power'confounds and undermines sound anslyde.
1
 Little is accomplished by explaining thesurprising quality of these events in terms of the changing nature of 'power.' Such anexplanation merely asserts that surprising events occurred because unrecognized changeshad transpired in whatever may have been the sources of the events. Likewise, to strew thatmilitary 'power' has given way to economic 'power' is not to enlarge comprehension of 
why
American policies in Vietnam and the Arab oil embargo had such contradictory outcomes.Had the conventional usage of the concept of 'power been more precise, with its empiricalreferents more accurately identified, there would have been no surprise with respect toVietnam and the embargo. Indeed, conceivably neither the war in the former nor the crisissurrounding the latter would have occurred if officials had more clearly grasped the 'power'concept and disaggregated it into its component parts at the time policies toward thesesituations were evolving.The two examples clearly highlight the central problem with the concept because they bothsuggest that the success or failure of foreign policy efforts is dependent on the possessionof appropriate resources in sufficient abundance to prevail in conflict situations. So viewed,the United States 'failed' in Vietnam because it lacked the requisite military resources andMiddle East countries 'succeeded' because they had sufficient economic resources. Nothingcould be more misleading. Such an interpretation overlooks the equally crucial facts thatwhile ____________________ 
1
My convictions in this regard were first developed in my essay,
Calculated Control as aUnifying Concept in the Study of International Politics and Foreign Policy
( Princeton:Center of International Studies, Princeton University, 1963), reprinted in James N.Rosenau,
The Scientific Study of Foreign Policy
( London: Frances Pinter, New York: Nichols, 1980) Chap. X.the North Vietnamese were not overly impressed by American military resources, theWestern industrial nations were impressed by the oil which Middle East states could or could not make available.Possessed resources, in other words, are only one aspect of 'power'; actions and reactionsthrough which actors relate to each other are another aspect, and neither aspect is alonesufficient. Put even more pointedly, whatever else it may connote, national 'power' involvesrelational phenomena. Whether it be considered in the bipolar period when militaryconsiderations predominated, or whether it be assessed in the present era when economicand transnational factors are more salient, national 'power' can only be understood in thecontext of how the actors involved relate to and perceive each other. The resources each'possesses' may well be relevant to the way in which they perceive each other, but theoutcome of the way in which they exercise 'power' toward each other is primarily aconsequence of how they assess, accept, resist, or modify each other's efforts.
 
Stated in still another way, the 'power' of a nation exists and is subject to meaningfulassessment only insofar as it is directed at and responded to by other actors. All the possessed dimensions of 'power' imaginable will not have the anticipated and seeminglylogical outcomes if those toward whom they are directed perceive the possessionsotherwise and thereby withhold the expected compliance. This is perhaps the prime lessonof both the Vietnam War and the off embargo, the lesson that renders the two seeminglydiverse situations highly comparable.Unfortunately, for reasons having to do with the structure of language, the concept of 'power' does not lend itself to comprehension in relational terms. Without undue violationof language, the word 'power' cannot be used as a verb. It is rather a noun', highlighting'things' possessed instead of processes of interaction. Nations influence each other; theyexercise control over each other; they alter, maintain, subvert, enhance, deter, or otherwiseaffect each other, but they do not 'powerize' each other. Hence, no matter how sensitiveanalysts may be to the question of how the resources used by one actor serve to modify or  preserve the behavior of another, once they cast their assessment in terms of the 'power'employed they are led -- if not inevitably, then almost invariably -- to focus on theresources themselves rather than on the relationship they may or may not underlie.
2
 The tendence of the concept of 'power' to focus attention on possessed qualities is clearlyillustrated by the pervasive inclination ____________________ 
2
For example, see James W. Howe, "'Power in the Third World,'"
 Journal of International  Affairs
, Vol. 29 ( Fall 1975), pp. 113-28; and Susan Strange, "'What Is Economic Power,and Who Has It?'"
 International Journal 
, Vol. 30 ( Spring 1975), pp. 207-24.to rank states in terms of their 'power' as defined by these attributes. Indeed, analyzing theattributes and resources of states in such a way as to classify some as superpowers, some asgreat powers, others as regional or middle powers, and still others as small powers is thestandard approach to the concept. Nor have changes on the world scene altered thisconventional treatment of the concept. Most analysts tend to account for the changes byassessing how they affect the mix of attributes and resources states possess and then deriveconclusions as to whether, say, the United States is still number one, whether China hasmoved ahead of Western Europe and Japan as number three, and whether all of these plusthe Soviet Union form a world of five superpowers that has come to replace the bipolar world of the postwar era. 
3
 There is a remarkable paradox in the compulsion to analyze world affairs in terms of rankings of relative strengths and weaknesses. As students of international politics we are primarily interested in what states do or do not get each other to do, and yet we are divertedfrom concentrating on such relational phenomena by our reliance on a concept that focuseson the secondary question of their attributes and resources.This is not to say, of course, that the attributes and resources that states bring to bear in their foreign relations are irrelevant. The 'power' they possess underlies their officials' estimates

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