#2, States and International Politics (Part I)

States and International Politics, I
1. international politics
2. the nature of the state
3. conclusions
Definition of the state: states are territorially defined
political units that exercise ultimate internal authority
and that recognize no legitimate external authority over
1. international politics
a. the globe constitutes a system, with some extension into
space as well (e.g., satellite transmissions, space shuttles)
i. boundaries exist for interaction
ii. must identify the actors within the world as a political
system – range from individuals through states to
transnational entities
iii. while all of these actors will become relevant at various
stages of the course, the principal emphasis will be on the state
as an actor
iv. this will be conducted with appropriate criticism
because the state is an abstraction and interstate
interactions do not encompass all that is
relevant, politically speaking
v. IGOs (World Bank), INGOs
(Red Cross) and even individuals
vii. Lead singer and front man for U2, Bono uses his
worldwide popularity and influence to draw attention to
the crises of poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa (i.e., Live
8 Concerts and One Campaign).
viii. other international actors?
b. a focus on the state, however, will help to articulate
many of the most pressing questions about international
i. how can states act effectively to control the spread
and possible use of nuclear and chemical weapons?;
What should the international community do
about Iran?
ii. can interstate war be minimized in the future? are
its causes comprehensible?
iii. what are the prospects for collective action by states
regarding environmental problems related to the global
warming, the oceans, Amazon Rainforest and so on?
iv. how is foreign policy, such as that of the US or North
Korea in the controversy over
possible acquisition
of nuclear
weapons, formulated
and implemented?
v. how can states individually and/or collectively cope with
international terrorism? is the approach based on the US
Office of Homeland Security the right way to go?
vi. any interesting question about world politics always will
require use of the state as a concept in developing an answer
vii. LOTR: what are the political units of Middle Earth?
viii. list of Peoples, Ruane and James, p. 12
2. the nature of the state
a. states are territorially defined
political units that
exercise ultimate internal
authority and that
recognize no legitimate
external authority over them
i. we know that states are not
people, but much can be explained
by using the state as “shorthand”
ii. we refine this idea of the ‘state as an actor’ and make
things more complicated, as necessary, in explaining various
iii. basic assumption is that leaders
of states act out of self-interest
iv. i.e., not always what
would be ‘best’ for their state and
that is hard to define anyway
v. “nation-state” definition –
note that very few states
correspond to one primary
nation any more (Japan, Iceland)
vi. anomalies are a function of difficulty in obtaining permanent
b. states have all or most of six characteristics:
sovereignty, territory, population, diplomatic
recognition, internal organization and domestic support
i. all states have these
properties in some minimal
degree, so with six
dimensions, we can
expect plenty of variation
among them
c. sovereignty
i. most important political characteristic of a state
ii. incorporates the idea that the state does not recognize any
higher authority as legitimate
LOTR, The Fellowship of the Ring, p.4-5, sovereignty of the
iii. decline and disintegration of Holy Roman Empire by the 14th
century ended transnational theocracy centered in Vatican
iv. legal independence and equality among states, denoted by the
Treaty of Westphalia at the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648,
becomes the norm
v. war was extremely destructive, especially in central Europe,
and created widespread desire for order and stability
vi. legal equality among states applies in the UN
General Assembly, but there are important de facto differences
and an enormous range to consider
vii. look at San Marino, which lies entirely within Italy and is the
world’s oldest Republic (dating back to the 4th century B.C.) versus
China – both are members of the UN, but they differ in every every
other imaginable way
d. territory
i. physical boundaries, whether contested or
not, are required for status as a state
LOTR, The Fellowship of the Ring, p.5,
second paragraph, Shire, the territory of the
ii. world now has almost 200 states – cartography became a
reborn business when the USSR
broke up!
iii. to be thorough, we mean not just borders when referring to
territory, but also size and location relative to their states (e.g.,
high/low access, due to mountains (Switzerland), or island
status (UK, Australia), other aspects of topography
(agriculture richness of US) and climate (Horn of Africa and
persistent drought)
iv. all of these characteristics of territory can affect
foreign policy
v. states often try to improve on their limitations (e.g.,
Russian pursuit for centuries of a warm water port,
Japanese lack of natural resources created pressure for
expansion) and that is acted out through foreign policy,
sometimes including violent means
vi. maps of Japan and an American state bring this out
- the role of arable land
vii. abnormal situations also occur regarding territory –
Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza Strip and
the role of disputed borders Israel's creation in 1948 – limited selfrule but not statehood for the Palestinian governments
viii. these situations are troubling and the system exerts pressure,
usually led by great powers, toward uniformity of state status
ix. are you
about this
situation as
handled by
e. population
i. people are an obvious requirement of any state
ii. range from less than a thousand inhabitants of the Holy See to
more than one billion in China
iii. size, diversity in ethnic terms, levels of expertise and
productivity, rate of expansion and other characteristics all can
affect a state’s experiences at the international level
iv. persistent US leadership, in spite of various challenges, is due in
large part to virtually uninterrupted lead in productivity of workers
for a full century
v. India’s sheer
size of population and ethnic
diversity create problems in
terms of creating sufficient
infrastructure and preserving
national unity – population is
projected to pass China within
the next two or three decades
and large Islamic minority is
expanding and will want more
vi. due to heightened mobility, citizenship and residence are
becoming more complex with time – Mexican political parties in
1996 reached agreement that Mexicans who emigrate to the US still
can vote in future Mexican presidential elections
vii. what do you think of the border situation?
viii. think about ambiguous representation of borders/others in
Middle Earth
diplomatic recognition
i. if a tree fell in the forest and no one heard it, did it make any
sound? – similar to question of statehood
ii. if a state declares
independence, it is crucial for
recognition to occur among
at least some key actors
iii. China was not recognized by US until many years after its
1949 revolution, but many other states did extend recognition
iv. failed revolutionary movements sometimes go under because
they cannot convince the outside world of their viability (e.g.,
US-supported FNLA in Angola in the 1970s).
v. The Northern Republic of Cyprus (Turkish side), which
separated from the Greek side in 1974, is still recognized only by
g. internal organization
i. states normally must have some
level of political and economic
structure to survive
ii. government is
the legal and motivating force –
voice of the people
iii. form and structure are
important, federal vs. parliamentary
systems, monarchies, autocratic,
military and other forms of
iv. names can be
misleading, e.g., East Germany,
the ‘GDR’, was none of those
things! ?
v. economic system
summed up in national
income or GDP
h. domestic support
i. patriotism is the emotional identification of the populace with its
state, manifested in flags and other national symbols, mythology
(e.g., Bunker Hill in terms of location and outcome) – what do you
know about Bunker Hill?
ii. legitimacy is crucial –
the government cannot punish
everyone all the time for breaking
rules, so it must count on a
naturally high level of compliance
to function
iii. dissolution of Czechoslovakia,
the USSR and other states was rapid and decisive,
but not violent – non-cooperation with the government became
near universal in these cases
iv. even the most oppressive regimes
must rely on some degree of support in
order to carry out desired policies – most
Germans supported Hitler until late in
the war
i. the preceding six characteristics
form the basis for the national interest –
states will seek to maintain
and/or improve them
3. conclusions
a. international politics contains an enormous range of subject
matter, in terms of both cooperation and conflict
b. states are the principal units of the international political
system and the state is a simplifying assumption
c. generic properties of the state, from sovereignty through
domestic support, have been identified
d. ‘big picture’: states are the starting point for explaining
international politics and we add complexity as more actors are
e. now consider all of this after a visual encounter with
Middle-earth – be ready to talk about its states and international
politics next