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Lecture 2

GOV 312L Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Systems Theory, The Dilemma, Environmental Health

7 pages19 viewsFall 2018

Course Code
GOV 312L

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International Systems and the National Interest
Covers: Modules 1 and 2 and 04 September Live Update
International Systems and Systems Thinking
1. The International System
a. What is it?
i. A complex, global aggregation of people, organizations, ideas, rules, and
the natural world.
b. What are the two primary components of the international system?
i. Actors
: most simply put, people/groups that act; actors are often groups
that share a similar identity. We think of them as goal oriented, and
actions are taken in an attempt to achieve their goals, subject to the
constraints of the system and considering what they anticipate others’
responses/actions to be.
ii. Structure
: the set of properties or arrangements that connect the actors in
the international system
c. What are some examples of prominent actors in the international system and
how are they differentiated/what are their characteristics?
i. Some examples of prominent actors are:
1. Multinational corporations
2. NGOs
3. International corporations
4. Great Powers
5. States
6. Interest groups
7. Prominent individuals
d. What is structure?
i. The set of properties or arrangements that connect and order the actors
in the system
1. Constitutive Affect: changes what you think/how you feel/how you
interact with the world at a very fundamental level.
2. Constraining Affect: one that limits the actions of actors
ii. Four key types of structures:
1. Material and constraining
: A structure in place to constrain the
actions of other states by restraining their material factors (cutting
off their trade/economies, military use, etc.)
a. Example: Distribution of military power constrains states’
decisions to use military force and alters their bargaining
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2. Material and constituting
: A structure where material factors
(resources, capabilities) constitute the characteristics of the actors
and are used as a defining element of actors within a system
a. Example: distribution of wealth in a global capitalist system
constitutes the political and economic interests of rich and
poor states
3. Ideational and constraining
: A structure where ideational factors
(beliefs, ethics, etc.) constrain the actions of actors within a
a. Example: Norms associated with sovereignty constrain
attempts to annex the territories of another state
4. Ideational and constitutin
g: A structure where ideational factors
(beliefs, ethics, etc.) constitute the characteristics of the actors
and are used as a defining element of actors within a system
a. Example: European collective identity constitutes interests
of political elites to strengthen the EU
e. How is the international system structured, and how does this structure influence
behavior and outcomes in the international system?
i. The system is structured by ‘anarchy’, which means there is no
super-national power that overlooks all cooperation and relationships
between countries. Every state has its own self interest- so every state
pursues policies that benefit them. No power can punish a state for
withdrawing from something- for example the United States withdrawing
from the Iran Nuclear Accord.
ii. There is no supranational government to prevent states from acting in a
manner out of keeping with international law, norms, or agreements. This
does not, however, preclude the emergence of cooperation or of
hierarchical order constraining state action. As such, there can be
punishment, but this does not operate in the same way as in a domestic
legal system, where courts can assume that a third party will enforce its
rulings. Enforcement has to emerge between states (as in the Iran
nuclear deal, where the Iranian government has responded to US
withdrawal by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz). Punishment and
enforcement cannot be taken for granted in the international system.
f. Define the collective action problem.
Give an example of one.
Occurs when costs to individual pursuing an action outweigh the benefits;
benefits spread among several actors.
i. e.x. Prisoner’s dilemma: it is hard for independent actors to work together
for a common good because they will inevitably act in their own
self-interest (ie: defecting) especially if there is no authority to ensure
cooperation within the group.
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