EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVES ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

 

A conference with this title, organized by William R. Thompson, and the Center for the Study of International Relations, was held at Indiana University, Bloomington Indiana,

December 4-6, 1998. The following are brief summaries, by George Modelski, of thematically grouped papers presented at that conference.

 

Paradigmatic questions

"Evolutionary World Politics" George Modelski, University of Washington

An evolutionary perspective affords a potentially powerful perspective some important questions of world politics. Its characteristics are a systemic, human species approach, that prioritizes time, hence serves to organize history; employs key evolutionary concepts such as selection, and will clarify the relationship of global political evolution to other evolutionary processes. Four varieties of IR evolutionary perspective might be distinguished.

"Evolutionary World Politics: Comments on George Modelski’s work on International Relations Theory and Historical Practice from a Biobehavioral Perspective"

Vincent Falger, University of Utrecht.

Modelski’s project needs to place less emphasis on analogy, and more on biobehavioral influences on social institutions, and on precivilizational history to reconstruct human behavioral antecedents.

"Evolutionary Tendencies in Realist and Liberal IR Theory" Jennifer Starling-Folker, University of Connecticut.

As compared to biological theory, both realism and liberalism contain viable evolutionary theory. Both argue that the international environment encourages adaptation via selection etc., and both discuss institutional change.

 

The Evolution of Global and Regional Politics

"Agenda-setting and Coalition-building in the Present Cycle of Global Politics"

Fulvio Attina, University of Catania.

At the closing of the phase of Agenda-setting, non-state actors, and new state actors such as the European Union, enter global politics and help to transform it. Such that the Macrodecision might be non-violent. The arrangement of relations between the EU and the USA will be a fundamental element of Coalition-building.

"An Expectancy Theory of Strategic Rivalry Deescalation and the Evolution of the Sino-Soviet Case". William R. Thompson, Indiana University.

Why and how do strategic rivalries (those of menacing proportions) deescalate? The question is answered with the help of an events data set on the Sino-Soviet(Russian) relationship 1964-1997. The role of shocks is examined.

"Political Shocks and the Deescalation of Protracted Conflict: The Israeli-Pa;estinian Case" Karen Rasler, Indiana University.

An evolutionary framework offers a viable means of weaving together a variety of seemingly unrelated variables into a coherent framework. Protracted conflicts are evolutionary processes that are subject to change in the face of environmental challenges. They deescalate, as shown in the Israeli-Palestinian case, when adversaries innovate by adopting new sets of expectations.

 

Coevolution of Global Politics and Economics

"Continuity vs. Evolutionary Shift: Global Financial Expansion and the State"

Brian Pollins, Ohio State University.

A comparison of data on the current world-wide expansion of capital markets (1980-1990s) with the Gold Standard era (1873-1914) shows the current expansion to be historic in scope, and qualitatively important. The consequences of this development cannot be understood within a state-centric framework of IR; we need a framework that emphasizes non-state actors, and co-evolving political and economic systems.

"Technological Capacity as Fitness: An Evolutionary Model of Change in the International Political Economy." Jeffrey Hart and Sang-bae Kim, Indiana University.

What explains the resurgence of US competitiveness on the basis of strength in the new leading sectors of information industries? This new mode of technological competition represents the rise if a new industrial paradigm here called Wintelism. The critical factor in its success is the evolutionary ""fit"" between the properties of technology in individual sectors, and national institutional capabilities.

"Egalitarian Social Movements and New World Orders" Craig Murphy, Wellesley College.

Viewed against the background of an evolutionary perspective on industrial history, egalitarian movements play a different role in the "clash" phase as distinct from the next "build" phase. This throws new light on the current period, and raises new questions about the political impact of transnational organizations.

 

 

 

The Evolution of Nation-States

"Evolution and the Units of World Politics: Why we Live in a World of Nation-States? Miles Kahler, University of California, San Diego.

Why, at the end of this millennium, is the world spatially parceled into units of one type -the nation-state? The answer is in three parts: one , establishing a revised Darwinian model, two, considering selection as working on two dimensions, the scale of unit, and unit of a particular type, in three stages (emergence of the territorial state in Europe; the link of territorial state to nation; the expansion of that model across the globe); and three, evaluating the uses of such an evolutionary approach.

"War as a Selective Mechanism of States, Regimes, and Leaders"

Tanisha Fazal and Scott Sagan, Stanford University.

Is there a decline in state "deaths" (by colonization, union with others, and occupation by foreign powers), and a channeling effect of "selection-out" pressures toward regime and political leader changes? Date on state "deaths" and on externally induced regime changes for 1815-1992 show that, particularly since 1945, state "deaths" have been rare, and that a shift is in process toward internal leader change. Explanations include fewer wars, high costs of occupation, and norm pressures.

"Modeling the Democratic Peace as a Kantian Selection Process:

Lars-Erik Cederman, University of California, Los Angeles.

A simulation study of how the "democratic peace" unfolds and takes root as a Kantian process in a "realist" (predator-prey) world. It does so by labeling, alliances, power asymmetries, and crystallization around a major democratic power.

 

The evolution of international norms

"The Selective Retention of International Norms: Choice, Knowledge, Power, and Identity" Stewart Patrick, New York University.

How do new international norms emerge, and why do states accept such new norms? At the microlevel this happens via natural selection, rational choice, learning, social power, and socialization. At the macrolevel, periods of intense crisis may permit punctuated events that institute new international orders.

"Cognitive Evolution" Emanuel Adler, Hebrew University/Harvard University.