Cross Cutting Themes: Knowledge System and 21st Century International Relations

Three cross-cutting research issues provide thematic linkages across the entire ECIR research agenda. These are:

Brief statements on these three issues follow:

Foundations for 21st International Relations Theory: Systems of Interaction.

Given the salience of cyberspace and the natural environment as two new domains of interactions of increasing importance in world politics it is essential to reframe the parameters of theory to accommodate 21st century realities. This framework captures the interconnections among human society, cyberspace and the natural environment -- but does not eliminate the relative autonomy and “power” of each system individually.

Put differently, the nature of the “landscape” and the ecosystem in traditional domain is rendered more complex by the creation and expansion of the cyber-based actors highlighted earlier display the closely coupled systems– the human, environmental, and cyber – illustrated with elements that illustrate critical “spillover” effects.

Interconnected Vulnerabilities. 
Source: Choucri & Clark, (MIT Press)

Recall that the integration of cyberspace and international relations is rendered operational by focusing on the intersection of the layers of the Internet and the levels of analysis in international relations. We now highlight a set of propositions highlighting the new perspective on international relations theory,   central to emergent policy and practice

Key features of 21st International Relations Theory: Elements New Model.

What follows are basic elements of the new model. Our purpose is to show how cyberspace has permeated all levels of international relations – influencing interactions within and across levels – and  thus demonstrates its ubiquity in world politics. We shall proceed from “bottom-to- top”, starting with the individual. The same core logic holds when we proceed from “top-to-the-bottom”.  Indeed, “reversing the Images” is a well-known phrase in international relations.

The state system remains critical, but it no longer the only actor wielding the power and influence.  Proceeding along the lines of the well-known levels of analysis model, we put forth a set of propositions that reflect developments of theory theory consistent with the 21st C realities.

As the most discrete decision-maker, the individual is an energy-using and information- processing entity, a distinct is also embedded in diverse situational, organizational and institutional contexts, notably those pertaining to the social order, the natural environment, and the cyber arena.
All individuals and entities generate demands of various sorts and are endowed with capabilities. Jointly these are essential requisites for engaging in activity of any type
The state, increasingly encumbered by increasing demands and  constrained capabilities, no longer dominates the international landscape.
Non-state entities for profit and not for profit have become major, even defining, actors in world politics.
Civil society, a cross-level social construct, is an aggregation of individuals with demands and capabilities that is distinct, even separate, from the state or organized non-state actors.
Dominating the cyber domain and its management, is the private sector ;that assumes unprecedented importance in the modern era.
As late-comer to the cyber domain, the state system is increasingly seeking to reassert a degree of control over its sovereign domain.
International relations consists of the actions and interactions among all of the major entities operating across state boundaries private and public as well as all organizations composed of these respective actors.
The permeability of influences across the levels of analysis conditions and behaviors at one level can influence, directly or indirectly, structure and process within and across other levels.
Increasingly, the increasing interconnections among the cyber, social, and natural domains due to human activity create new complexities for policy and practice, the full nature of which is
Differential rates of change in capabilities – growth and development of actors, private and public-- alter the power distribution internationally well as the salience of levels and the politicization of the domains,
The power of generativity at all levels and contexts – due to interactions of people, resources, and technology --  can create new configurations of social interactions  and power relations
All entities, systems, structures and processes -- social, cyber, and natural – are  embedded in an  overarching global system (a fourth level of analysis.
The basic premises of world political remain namely the pursuit of power and the pursuit of wealth but the actors, entities, instruments and tools are increasingly diverse and complex.
The entire system “hangs together” through the (a) the institution of sovereignty, (b) the dynamics of feedback; (c) the power of generativity; and (d) the promise and uncertainty of technological change.

Any one of these propositions is a departure from traditional theory in international relations; jointly they contribute to forging new directions for theory, policy and analysis. It is with this set of “lenses” that we can begin to frame international relations in the cyber age. Each of these features can also be considered as “tools” to explore particular linkages of the cyber and the traditional domains, and may well create greater mutual sensitivity and interdependence among actors – the old and the new.

Connecting Cyberspace and International Relations: Levels and Layers.

The foundations are shown in Figure early on. For a detailed analysis, see Clarke (MIT Press)