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Chapter 1

POLB80 chapter 1

Political Science
Course Code
Francis Wiafe- Amoako

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The Globalization
of International
New York Philharmonic Orchestra and North Korean audience, 2008.
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Globalization, International Relations, and Daily Life
International relations is a fascinating topic because it concerns peoples and cultures
throughout the world. The scope and complexity of the interactions among these
groups make international relations a challenging subject to master. There is always
more to learn. This book is only the beginning of the story.
Narrowly defined, the field of international relations (IR) concerns the relation-
ships among the world’s governments. But these relationships cannot be understood
in isolation. They are closely connected with other actors (such as international
organizations, multinational corporations, and individuals); with other social struc-
tures and processes (including economics, culture, and domestic politics); and with
geographical and historical influences. These elements together power the central
trend in IR today—globalization.
Indeed, two key events of recent years reflect globalization. The terrorists who
plotted and carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks used the Internet to assist in
planning, coordination, and fundraising for the attacks. And the global economic
recession of 2008–2009, which began with a collapse of the U.S. home mortgage
market, spread quickly to other nations. Highly integrated global financial markets
created a ripple effect across the globe that is still being felt today. Thus, two hallmarks
of globalization—expanding communications technology and integrated markets—
facilitated events that directly impacted our daily lives.
Not only large-scale events influence our daily lives. The prospects for getting jobs
after graduation depend on the global economy and international economic competi-
tion. Those jobs also are more likely than ever to entail international travel, sales, or
communication. And the rules of the world trading system affect the goods that
students consume every day, such as electronics, clothes, and gasoline.
Globalization has distinct positive impacts on our daily lives as well. As technology
advances, the world is shrinking year by year. Better communication and transportation
capabilities constantly expand the ordinary person’s contact with people, products, and
ideas from other countries. Globalization is internationalizing us.
In addition to feeling the influence of globalization and international relations on
our daily lives, individual citizens can influence the world as well. Often, international
relations is portrayed as a distant and abstract ritual conducted by a small group of
people such as presidents, generals, and diplomats. Although leaders do play a major
role in international affairs, many other people participate. College students and other
citizens participate in international relations every time they vote in an election or work
on a political campaign, buy a product or service traded on world markets, and watch
the news. The choices we make in our daily lives ultimately affect the world we live in.
Through those choices, every person makes a unique contribution, however small, to
the world of international relations.
The purpose of this book is to introduce the field of IR, to organize what is known
and theorized about IR, and to convey the key concepts used by political scientists to
discuss relations among nations. This first chapter defines IR as a field of study, intro-
duces the actors of interest, and reviews the geographical and historical aspects of glob-
alization within which IR occurs.
Globalization, International
Relations, and Daily Life
Core Principles
IR as a Field of Study
Actors and Influences
State Actors
Nonstate Actors
Levels of Analysis
Global Geography
The Evolving International
The Two World Wars,
The Cold War, 1945–1990
The Post–Cold War Era,
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4Chapter 1 The Globalization of International Relations
Core Principles
The field of IR reflects the
world’s complexity, and IR
scholars use many theories,
concepts, and buzzwords in
trying to describe and explain
it. Underneath this complex-
ity, however, lie a few basic
principles that shape the field.
We will lay out the range of
theories and approaches in
Chapters 2 through 4, but
here we will present the most
central ideas as free from
jargon as possible.
IR revolves around one
key problem: How can a
group—such as two or more
countries—serve its collective
interests when doing so re-
quires its members to forgo
their individual interests? For
example, every country has an
interest in stopping global
warming, a goal that can be
achieved only by many coun-
tries acting together. Yet each
country also has an individ-
ual interest in burning fossil fuels to keep its economy going. Similarly, all members of a
military alliance benefit from the strength of the alliance, but each member separately has
an interest in minimizing its own contributions in troops and money. Individual nations
can advance their own short-term interests by seizing territory militarily, cheating on
trade agreements, and refusing to contribute to international efforts such as peacekeeping
or vaccination campaigns. But if all nations acted this way, they would find themselves
worse off, in a chaotic and vicious environment where mutual gains from cooperating on
issues of security and trade would disappear.
This problem of shared interests versus conflicting interests among members of a group
goes by various names in various contexts—the problem of “collective action,” “free riding,”
“burden sharing,” the “tragedy of the commons,” or the “prisoner’s dilemma.” We will refer to
the general case as the collective goods problem, that is, the problem of how to provide some-
thing that benefits all members of a group regardless of what each member contributes to it.1
In general, collective goods are easier to provide in small groups than in large ones. In
a small group, the cheating (or free riding) of one member is harder to conceal, has a
greater impact on the overall collective good, and is easier to punish. The advantage of
small groups helps explain the importance of the great power system in international secu-
rity affairs and of the G20 (Group of Twenty) industrialized countries in economic matters.2
1 Olson, Mancur. The Logic of Collective Action. Harvard, 1971 [1965].
2At the G20 meeting in 2009, leaders of the major industrial countries announced that the G20 would replace
the G8 as the key group coordinating global financial matters.
IR affects our lives in many ways. This woman’s boyfriend died in Iraq in 2006.
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