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International System

Talked before about levels of analysis….what were they?....Individual, State,
International System…..What is the point?.....focus of search for answers….?If we want
to understand war, for example….more useful to look at individual, state or system?

Ok…so we’re going to look at each individually….starting from the outside
in….International System…

PP….What is a system?
• Assemblage of units, objects, parts
• Change in one leads to changes in other parts
• Patterns to the interaction
• Acts in regularized ways

PP….3 Liberal characterizations:
International system as process, multiple interactions among actors
» Keohane and Nye Power and Interdependence
» Interdependent system, mutual sensitivities and vulnerabilities
• International system as international society (English school)
» Actors share common identity
» They consent to common rules and institutions

• Neoliberal institutionalists see international system as anarchic
» But possibility of institutions created from self interest
» Moderate state behavior

PP….Ways Change occurs in Liberal International System
Occurs from exogenous technological developments (communication/
• Changes in relative importance of different issues (from security to
• New actors emerge liberal
(MNCs, interpretations:
Characterization interdependence among actors,
international society, and anarchy
States, international governmental
institutions, nongovernmental
organizations, multinational corporations,
substate actors
Constraints None; ongoing interactions
No possibility of radical change; constant
Possibility of
incremental change as actors are involved
in new relationships
pp…..Realist view
• System is anarchic; no authority above the state
• State is sovereign; each must look out for own interest
• Constrains the actions of states
• Disagree: about degree of state autonomy

• Now….realists are also concerned about polarity… (number of blocs of states
that have power)

• Polarity important because influences system management and stability

PP….2 slides

PP….Norms of Balance of Power Arrangement? (back to Multipolar system slide)

• Any anchor or coalition that tries to assume dominance must be
• States want to increase their capabilities by acquiring territory, increasing
their population, or developing economically.
• Negotiating is better than fighting.
• Fighting is better than failing to increase capabilities.
• Other state are views as potential allies.
• State seek their own national interests defined in terms of power.

PP….Norms of Bipolar System? (back to bipolar system)
• Negotiate rather than fight
• Fight minor wars rather than major ones
• Fight major wars rather than fail to eliminate rivals
• Alliances are long term

PP…Which is more stable?....Who says Bipolarity?.....Why?
• Two sides can moderate use of violence
• Absorb destabilizing changes
• Each focus activity on other
• Anticipate actions of other

PP…Who says multipolarity?...Why?
More interactions, less opportunity to dwell on one
• More crosscutting alliances
• Less likely to respond to actions of any one state
PP….Who says Unipolarity?....Why?

• Hegemon pays the price to insure stability
• When hegemon declines, less system stability

PP…..China…(pp 96 in book)…
What is China’s role in International System?....Will it challenge our

Is China becoming an active participant in international institutions, ex. UN
Security Council and ASEAN ?....PP….yes

Does the current international economic system operates to China’s
benefit…..Yes….will it want to upset the status quo?...No…PP…

Where do China’s priorities lie?....internally or externally?.... PP…domestic:
poverty in rural areas and environmental problems

Despite the great fear of China….can it afford to take the U.S. on right

PP…..Ok….talk about some of the potential benefits of unipolarity…
debate….pp. 89....(divide class.....)

Will the United States’ Pursuit of Global Hegemony Lead to International Peace?

• A liberal international order can only be achieved if all U.S./ power is
• U.S. hegemony is necessary to prevent a power vacuum in internal relations.
• Other countries have abrogated their international responsibilities, so that
the United States must take the lead.
• The United States has had a long and exceptional commitment to democracy,
human rights, and liberal values and should marshal those values in the
pursuit of international peace.
• U.S. primacy engenders strong animosity toward the United States among
both friends and foes.
• To maintain its hegemony, the United States will be forced to employ ruthless
methods that are antithetical to American values.
• The United States is not the only force for peace and a liberal international
order; other states can and should be mobilized.
• Like all hegemons, the United States will eventually decline as a power and
hence must be prepared to cooperate with others as an “ordinary state.”

PP….So….in sum….Realist perspective

Characterization Anarchic
State is primary
Slow change
when the
Possibility of change
balance of
power shifts

PP….Ok….What about Radical theories…
What is the Emphasis on?...... stratification

• Stratification is the uneven distribution of resources among different groups
of states

• Cripples the international system, empowering the strong and disenfranchising the
• Creates resentment in the weak
• Weak need to seek radical change in the international system = instability….
But…there is disagreement among radicals about how radical change will
occur …..Some say revolution....third world ganging up on rich…(Show
Krasner book…He’s a realist and definitely afraid of that)…..Some say
peaceful evolution….
We’ll talk about more when we get to Political Economy

In sum: Radical Theory
Characterization Highly stratified
Capitalist states vs.
developing states
Radical change
Possibility of Change desired but limited by
capitalist structure

PP….Ok….so…benefits to the International system as a level of analysis?

• Language of system theory permits comparisons across systems
• Enables scholars to organize the parts into whole
• Suggests hypotheses about the parts
• Shows how change affects the parts of the system.

• Testing of theories difficult
• Problem of boundaries—what is in and outside of the system

PP…..Which is best way to explain?