12. GLOBAL SYSTEM

Recall that lateral pressure theory extends the traditional levels by positing the global system as an overarching concept that encompasses its constitutive features -- the individual, the state, and the international system – embedded in social system and the natural environment and, more recently, in the cyber domain.  The theory also views globalization in overarching terms -- as fundamental transformations in economic and social structures and processes worldwide shaped by the large-scale movements of people, resources, and technologies across boundaries, and all of attendant bi-products.

Such cross border mobility influence the nature of national societies and economies and, under certain circumstances, may even alter them in fundamental ways.  Inevitably, they also shape and reshape international exchanges and interactions. To the extent that these processes are sufficiently pervasive and call for changes in dominant policy thrusts, it is reasonable to argue that the essence of globalization lies in the forging of common and overlapping policy spaces.

The globalization process generally leads to new arenas of interaction. Earlier globalizations, which had created new spaces of interaction due to control or conquest (colonies, the Polar Regions, outer space, for example), provided opportunities for the few and the powerful. Over time the globalization processes became more complex and assumed new properties of unprecedented scale and scope. Later in this essay, we shall turn to the cyber domain, and illustrate the ways in which lateral pressure theory addresses and helps analyze actors and activities in, and of, cyberspace.

Among the many challenges associated with understanding the global system and the globalization process, at least four are especially compelling (Choucri, 1993: 1-40)1. First, the basic biogeochemical characteristics of the global environment are broadly recognized, but uncertainties about feedback effects on both the geophysical and social processes remain daunting. Second, the social, environmental and cyber-based processes operate at unequal and sometimes overlapping time frames, thus complicating notion of temporality and the role of time. Third are the intergenerational impacts of environmental change, whereby future generations incur the environment burden created by the actions of past and present generations, with the challenges associated with long lead times. Fourth are uncertainties due to irreversibility. Patterns of environmental alterations cannot readily be “undone”. Underlying sources are not easily controlled or “eliminated” on short order – if at all.  Needless to say, the construction of cyberspace creates its own pervasive challenges.


  1. Choucri, N. (1993). Introduction: Theoretical, Empirical, and Policy Perspectives. In Choucri, N. (1993). Global accord: Environmental challenges and international responses. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.