Unit 1- Forces of change: populations movements, industrialization, economic change
World Politics studies the relations among states and constellation of states that act together informally or under the roof of international organizations in the world arena to achieve their own goals and to prevent their rivals from achieving ends that they do not approve of. During more recent times, the role of non-governmental organizations, both national and international, have also arisen in influencing these relations. This course will analyze some of major recent developments in world politics and place them in a historical context.
We will begin by analyzing some of the major forces that drive world politics. Economic factors have historically been important as a major factor influencing how actors in the world arena interact with each other. Historically and today, population movements appear to play a critical role in world politics. Technological change in general and the development of specific technologies by different actors such as that of building a nuclear weapon clearly affects world politics. Economic and technological development together have produced a process that we call globalization that is viewed today as a major force that shapes global politics. States are always interested in ensuring their security and pursue measures to achieve it. And finally, what happens today in the world arena constitutes an important input in shaping what happens tomorrow.
The driving forces of change in world politics
Although their status as almost the exclusive actors have eroded considerably, states and groups they form (groupings for short) continue today to be the major actors in world politics. Throughout history, the power of states, individually or in groupings, have risen and fallen. Some states or groupings that have existed in earlier times no longer exist while others are on the rise. The appearance of new forces on the world scene have sometimes enhanced but often constrained the ability of states or groupings to achieve their external aims.
What are the driving forces of change in world politics? We may identify innumerable factors that bring about change, some are more important than others, some are specific to regions or societies, others are of a more general nature. In this course, we will focus on those factors that are of a more general nature.
In the following sections of this lesson, we will be examining several diverse factors that are among the more prominent driving forces of world politics. These include:
- nature- endowment with natural resources, climate, challenge of climate change
- population movements and migration
- economic development, industrialization
- technological developments
- political ideologies
- the drive for achieving security
- the role of political leaders
- path dependence (the influence of the way things are today on what happens tomorrow)
These factors as well as many others that we will not be able to examine here sometimes by themselves, but often simultaneously and interacting with each other bring about change in world politics.
Movement of people affects world polıtıcs
Large movements of populations have been an important aspect of world politics. Suffice it to ask whether the United Sates would have emerged as a world power if large numbers of people from the “old” world had not migrated to North America.
Movement of people from their original habitat to other lands is as old as the human race. In earlier history, people may have moved to seek environments where it was easier to survive. Also today, some move in search of employment or economic opportunity. Others move to escape persecution, wars, authoritarian regimes or pursue a vision to build a new society.
The Huns came from Asia and settled in Eastern Europe. They probably originally moved West where it was easier to survive than in their original habitat, but economic rewards (e.g. acquisition of booty, collecting taxes) also had their share in stimulating their migration. Their leaders, enjoyed accumulating power and ruling other peoples.
A more recent example are the efforts of Eastern Europeans to escape from the authoritarian regimes under which they were forced to live after the Soviet occupation at the end of the WW II. A dramatic example was East Germany where a wall was built to prevent people from defecting to West Germany.
Specific instances of population movements
Let us look at specific instances of population movements and how they have affected world politics. The Turkic peoples came to the Middle East as soldiers to serve as soldiers in the Abbasid Empire about the tenth century. The Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad, not trusting the locally recruited soldiers whose tribal attachment might be strong, chose instead to bring in soldiers of Turkic origin from Central Asia. Called mamluks (slave soldiers), these men soon rendered the ruler so reliant on their services that they became the masters and eventually established their own states. The coming of the soldiers was soon accompanied by the migration of Turkic peoples into the Middle East and Asia Minor. The descendants of these peoples established the Ottoman Empire (1299-1918), a long living world empire extending its domain into the Balkans, much of Russia as well as Eastern Europe, in addition to all of the Middle East and much of North Africa. The Ottoman Empire was an important actor in European politics throughout its life. At different times it was in possession of important areas such as Crimea, Mosul-Kirkuk, Egypt, and the Bosporus and the Dardanelles (Turkish Straits) that control access to the Black Sea.Missing the industrial revolution, the empire gradually receded and was replaced by the Turkish Republic at the end of the First World War and a war of national liberation.
Immigration into Palestine and the Founding of Israel
Israel was founded after WW II by immigrant Jews. Zionist Jews had been trickling into Palestine during the late 19th - early 20th centuries. Major immigration waves came, however, during and after the War mainly from Eastern Europe by Jews escaping persecution or death. In ancient history, Jews had inhabited Judea and Samaria. They were forced to leave their land by the Romans(diaspora). Palestine became inhabited almost exclusively by Arabs. The Jewish nationalist ideology, Zionism, born in the late 19th century in Europe and aiming for a home in Palestine, encouraged Jewish immigration and campaigned with European leaders to persuade them support the idea. With large number of refugees from Europe, parts of Palestine developed sizable Jewish populations. Conflict erupted between Arabs and Jews for land. The UN proposed a plan to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab sections. The Jewish area immediately declared independence and came under attack from the neighboring Arab states who were defeated. An unstable peace, interrupted by wars in 1956, 1967 and 1973 through which Israel has been able to extend its territories, has prevailed since.
The Syrian Refugee Crisis
Population movements continue to affect world politics. There is widespread unauthorized movement of labor across boundaries such as from Mexico to the USA and from North Africa to Italy, France and Spain. The receiving countries have initiated multiple measures to arrest immigrant flows with limited success. Much of the unauthorized movement of labor is motivated by a search for economic opportunity; but many also escape areas where authoritarian governments prevail, there is domestic turmoil or civil war and minorities are harshly treated. The push factors behind illegal immigration are often multifarious and complex. A current example of a refugee crisis is the outflow of people from Syria. Since the beginning of the civil war, almost 5 million people have left Syria, crossing into Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Those in Turkey have reached near 3 million. Many use Turkey as a crossing point to Western Europe. The refugees cause significant dislocations in the host countries. Syrian refugees have caused major tensions between Turkey and the EU but they have also shown that the problem can only be addressed through international cooperation.
For a more in-depth look, read Megahn Luhman and Kaisa Vuoristo, “Framing Migration: Rhetoric and Reality in Europe-An Introduction”
The role of population growth and decline
When analyzing population as a driving force of Word politics, we should also remember the role of population growth and decline. Students of international politics are agreed that countries with large populations are in a better position to influence world politics than those with smaller populations. Growth and decline of populations of countries are thought to change their relative power position. For a long time China and India have been treated as major actors in world politics mainly on account of their sizable populations. There is speculation that Russia’s declining population will undermine its role in world politics. Rapid population growth is also seen as a problem for a country. There has been global efforts to bring population growth rates down through population planning. Propelled, among others, by increased education (especially for women), the spread of economic development, industrialization and urbanization, in addition to the implementation of national programs of family planning, population growth rates in the world have been slowing down. But, they continue to be relatively high in the Middle East, North and Central Africa and Southeast Asia.
Read the article by Nikolas Eberstadt, “Drunken Nation: Russia@s Depopulation Bomb” World Affairs Journal, Spring 2009.
Problems that population growth generates
Some of the problems that population growth generates are the following:
- Degradation of natural resources including water and forests, and air quality generates international concerns about climate change as well as domestic conflict between those whose lifestyle is threatened by the disappearance of forests and decline of water quality;
- The emergence of conflicts among groups who each demand or claim a greater share of the scarce resources. The competition may be between elites and the broader population or among different elite groups;
- Some types of demographic change carry the potential of evolving into violent domestic conflict, sometimes involving the use of arms and repression by the state. These include:
- Rapid growth in the labor force when the economy is slowing down;
- A rapid rise in the number of educated youth who aspire to reach elite positions;
- Differential population growth rates among different ethnic groups; and sometimes the migration of members of an ethnic group into the lands of another,
- Urbanization growth that far exceeds the ability of the economy to generate employment for them;
- Some indicators of population growth that are likely to lead to violence includes the presence of a youth bulge (the expansion of the 15-25 age group to over 40 percent of the population), a rise in infant mortality and a sharp rise in migration.
Population changes create domestic conflict
Population changes create domestic conflict and invite international involvement. Materials and volunteers from ethnic groups cross borders, illicit arms trade expands, third parties engage in efforts to enhance their influence.
An example of differential population growth rates generating domestic and international violence is Lebanon, a mainly Arab country divided along confessional lines of Maronite Catholics, Sunni and Shia Muslims.
- In 1943, Maronite and Sunni leaders agreed to allocate political posts on the basis of one’s religious affiliation.
- The system came under strain as differential growth rates changed the share of each group in the population. Demands for reallocation of positions led to violent conflict.
- Policy differences emerged: Muslims wanted Lebanon join pan-Arab movements, Syria worked to achieve political control of the country; more recently, Iran supported Hizbullah, a militia that defends the Shia population in addition to “fighting Israel.”
The Search for Prosperity
There is no question that the search for achieving economic prosperity has served as a major motivating force of world politics. Historically, to expand their economic means, societies have followed two radically divergent paths. More typically, they have engaged in mutually beneficial activities such as trade, but also not infrequently they have resorted to the use of force and coercion to claim the resources others have developed or to develop economic links that operate in ways that benefit one party more than others.
The silk road operating between Xi’en, China and Europe from 200 b.c. on is an example of mutually beneficial trade and one of banditry, the robbing of caravans. An unintended consequence of insufficient security en route and the search for sea routes was the discovery of the American continent, a development that changed the history of the world.In more recent times, the coming of the industrial revolution has shaped world politics. Led by Great Britain, a number of European countries and colonies in other parts of the world settled by Europeans commenced on a path of industrialization and sustained technological innovation that placed them in a superior position vis a vis other countries.
Read the article by David S. Landes, The Unbound Promotheus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), pp. 1-12
The industrial revolution, replacing human and animal power human with skill and inanimate power brought a shift from handicraft production to manufacture, expanding the productive capacities of societies in such a way that they became capable of dominating those who failed to industrialize. Early industrializers used their already existing colonies or new ones they acquired after industrializing, to ensure markets for their products and the supplies they needed to sustain their economies. Britain is a prime example of this. The late industrializers, such as Germany and Italy, also wanted to acquire colonies. Since many overseas areas had already gone to early colonizers, i.e. Britain, France, Spain and Portugal, they applied the massive economic and military strength to either acquire nearby lands (Italy in Tripoli in 1911-2 and Abyssinia in 1934-5) or try to achieve continental hegemony (Germany during the two World Wars).
The domestic outcomes of industrialization also had implications for world politics. For example, the industrial transformation strengthened the business class, but also produced an urban working class that demanded its share of the material wealth that was created by the industrial productive process. Such conflict incubated rival global ideologies and constituted background to protracted domestic and international turmoil.
Unit 2 - Forces of change: ideologies, individuals, paths, security concerns
Three ideologies whose rise is intimately related with the rise of industrialization are economic liberalism, nationalism and varieties of socialism. Nationalism was connected with urbanization, improved communications, the growth of mass media that led to the evolution of national economic and eventually political communities. Its rise challenged the multi-national empires in Europe and led to the demise of two major multi-ethnic European empires, the Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman.
They were replaced by a multiplicity of nation states, some having territorial claims on others. Nationalism led to the unification of two major European states, Germany (Prussia) and Italy, transforming European politics. Economic liberalism, the idea that market forces possessed the self corrective mechanisms for organizing the productive process without intervention by governments came under challenge on two fronts. The nation states that were not “sufficiently” industrialized wanted the state to lead the way in industrialization. The multiple varieties of socialism, on the other hand, challenged the idea that the market was sufficient in allowing all segments of society to enjoy the material wealth the industrial process generated.
Socialism arose against the liberal economic order that had remained insensitive to the material deprivation of the underclasses, particularly the workers and the unemployed. Two types of socialism, Marxism-Leninism and Social democracy competed with each other until after WW II, when Maoism joined the fray. Socialist thinkers agreed that the interests of the owners of capital and workers were inimical.
Social democrats argued that the clash of interests could be reconciled through democratic politics while the socialists (also called communists) believed that the labor-capital relationship was antagonistic and its contradictions could not be reconciled until labor achieved full victory over capital with the working class seizing the ownership of the means of production.
Socialist ideas had stronger appeal in less industrialized societies where they offered justification for state led industrialization. Also, since these societies were insufficiently industrialized, the leadership of “trained revolutionary cadres” was needed to achieve socialism. In this way, socialism paved the way to the founding of highly authoritarian regimes representing “dictatorship of the proletariat”. The competition between liberalism that had assumed a liberal-democratic character and “totalitarian” communism constituted the basis of the Cold War that dominated world politics from 1945 until 1991.
The socialists identified imperialism as the most problematical aspect of capitalism. Lenin, one of the founding fathers of the Soviet Union, argued that the logic of capitalism dictated that it constantly expand and search for new markets to monopolize and sell its own products.Earlier, capitalist states used force to expand their domain. Colonialism and wars were common. Recent interpretations focus on more sophisticated mechanisms of domination and control such as creating dependencies in host societies, rendering challenging the relationship costly, and creating social groups in societies who serve their interests (e.g. comprador bourgeoisie).
This mode of analysis is not shared by many analysts of world politics, but four observations on the influence of economic factors in world politics may be made.
- a core of states in America and Europe plus Japan have been dominating and have been the main beneficiaries of the world economy for a long time,
- domination has not been absolute, and there are newcomers to the club with highly developed economies (e.g. Korea) while others are on the way (e.g. China),
- there continues to be intense competition for acquiring natural resources and accessing markets,
- some economically weak countries possess significant military capabilities to arrest attempts at their being dominated by others.
Technology and ideology
In discussing the role of economic forces, two additional forces shaping world politics have been identified: technology and ideology. A country’s technological capabilities may put it ahead of others but often only temporarily since technology gets diffused quickly.
The technology for ocean going ships made it possible for the Spanish and the Portuguese to conquer the new world. The steam engine influenced both the world system of trade and the capabilities of warships as did the the airplane. The atom bomb hastened the surrender of Japan WW II.
More recently, the virus Stuxnet paralyzed Iranian nuclear production for months. It appears that countries that dominate the world economically and politically are also those that produce much of the new technologies. Because technology is an important input in economic competition as well as a critical component of military superiority, dominant powers tend to invest more in basic research and technology development, they have more academic, governmental and private research institutions and more experts, better physical facilities and funding to pursue technological development.
The decline of ideologies
Although ideologies are formed within a social-economic-political context and offer solutions to major prevailing problems, they also constitute frameworks that help people interpret what they see and experience, and of offer prescriptions for action. We have already referred to nationalism and socialism as global ideologies that have served as driving forces in world politics. Although the appeal of socialism and nationalism has receded, it is not totally absent.
But other ideologies appear to have assumed a greater role in influencing world politics. On the one hand, we see an effort on the part of liberal democracies to promote their model; on the other hand, we witness the rise of political Islam offering an alternative to western derived “corrupt and materialistic” way of life that liberal democracies have brought about. More recently, there has also been a rise in the number of illiberal democracies, a phenomenon that has come under much criticism among the liberal democracies.
To find out more read Peter Burnell's study: Does Democracy Promotion Work, German Development Institute, Discussion Paper 17/2007.
Many observers have identified globalization as an all encompassing process that exercises profound influence on recent world politics.The basics of globalization, i.e. the the flow of trade, capital, technology and information around the world is not new. Two developments, however, have helped create a framework in which international movement of capital and goods, the diffusion of technology and the circulation of information have all become so voluminous that we have a qualitatively different milieu:
- After the demise of Communism, economic liberalism came to dominate the world. Barriers to trade and investment were removed and state enterprises privatized, often acquired by major corporations.
- Technological advances, in addition to making the worldwide movement of goods and capital easy and fast; owing to immediate circulation of information, has made it possible to for all to think of the world as a single unit. Nowadays, major companies plan their investments not on the basis of a national but a global scale.
- A clear outcome of globalization has been the rise of the power of non-state actors led by global corporations in world politics.
- Some have argued that globalization has helped poor parts of the world to become more prosperous; others have said that the system confines them to permanent second place.
The search for security
One of the major goals all states pursue in world politics is to achieve security. To this end, states try to develop their own military and civilian capabilities.
These capabilities may include:
- the possession of weapons of various degrees of sophistication that may be manufactured locally or acquired from elsewhere,
- it may also include the development of the means of intelligence gathering, so as to be aware of both the capabilities and intentions of rivals as well as friends since sometime friends at one stage may become adversaries at another stage,
- finally, such capabilities may also include the ability to mobilize available resources, for security purposes such as drafting men to the military or converting a civilian production facility into one that produces military ware.
States also form short or long term alliances with other states, to enhance their capabilities to defend themselves or to achieve external aims by resorting to the use of military force. In achieving security, states do not only confine themselves to to defensive action, but sometimes engage in pre-emptive or pro-active actions to avert a security threat that is expected to materialize if not currently addressed.
The role of agents in world politics
In the discussion of world politics, the focus is usually on the presence or emergence of conditions that produce specific outcomes. For example, a war may be explained in terms of competition for territory or for the control of some resource like oil. Such explanations are said to be based on structure.
While structure may be important in the shaping of outcomes, it is to be remembered that conditions, developments, events are given meaning by human beings that observe them and then make decisions to produce responses, make decisions and take actions. Therefore, in addition to structure, it is important to incorporate also the role of agents in the analysis of world politics. One may wonder, for example, whether Germany might have behaved differently in its external relations if Hitler had not come to power in 1933, or whether the fate of the Soviet Union would have been different if first Gorbachev and then Yeltsin had not come to power. While it is also the case that certain conditions pave the way to the emergence of leaders with particular attributes, each leader has his/her own way of doing things.
In the study of social and political phenomena, scholars have referred to the presence of “path dependence.” This is another way of saying that some of the things that are done or happen today, determine what happens tomorrow. The invasion of Crimea by Russia, for example, has produced a strong reaction from the West. Russia is now seen as an expansionist power threatening once again Eastern Europe and particularly the Baltic countries. These countries have asked that NATO increase its presence in the region.
Furthermore, there was a broad consensus after the end of the Cold War that the territorial borders of European states would not be changed. Russia is now seen as having violated this consensus and has raised fears that it will engage in other similar activities possibly in the Caucasus. This has invited greater interest among western states including the United States and Turkey to help Georgia and Azerbaijan to improve their defenses.
You may easily think of other examples of path dependence. Its importance as a driving force of world politics should not be overlooked.
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Risorse della lezione
Indice delle lezioni
- The driving forces of international politics
- The World Order after World War II
- Change in the Post WW II order I: The transformation of Central and Eastern Europe
- Change in the Post WW II order II: The Dissolution of the Soviet Union
- Change in the Post WW II order III: Disorder in the Balkans-dissolution of Yugoslavia
- The short lived american preponderance -The first gulf war, the american occupation of Iraq
- Redressing the balance: the rise of Chinas and the return of Russia (Georgia, Ukraine and Syria)
- The challenge of humanitarian disasters I- western interventions Bosnia, Kosovo
- The challenge of humanitarian disasters II- western interventions in Rwanda and Somalia
- The challenge of terrorism and the war on terror
- Failed aspirations for political change - The Arab Spring and its aftermath
- Perennial Problems and Frozen Conflicts