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Building blocks of a new paradigm for

studying world politics




Cast in terms of the conference and panel for which this chapter was written,
it is not difficult to presume the existence of new international realities that
call for a new paradigm. In my judgment the so-called war on terror is not
Among the new realities. Terrorist activities have long been a part of the
International scene. The attacks of September 11, 2001, have certainly added
to the salience of terrorism, but they are neither the vanguard of new
realities nor the foundations of a new paradigm. Any paradigm is a
jail because its coherence derives from a structure that provides an answer to
any developments that might nullify its validity.
For the structure of world politics has undergonen
enormous changes in recent decades, changes that
continue to unfold and become increasingly
discrepant with our conventional paradigms. A
plethora of other dynamics are now at work that
raise serious doubts about the viability of states and
the conditions under which their actions are
relevant to the course of events.
A post-international perspective

Noted briefly in the previous chapter, four conceptual
dynamics the skill revolution, the organizational
explosion, the pervasive disaggregation of authority, and
the bifurcation of world politics are especially relevant
inasmuch as they anticipated the new complexities and
can serve as key foundations for a new paradigm. The
dynamics are so thoroughly interrelated, with each
serving as a building block for the others, that the
ensuing presentation should not be interpreted as a
ranking of their importance.

The skill revolution

For a host of reasons, some derived from the Internet, global television, and other
new technologies, some from diverse forms and sources of travel, some from the
need to cope with ever-greater complexity, and some from the other dynamics
noted below, people the world over have evolved new capacities to render distant
events proximate through enhanced analytic, emotional, and imaginative talents. Put
differently, increasingly people at all levels of community and in every part of the
world have undergone empowerment, a sense that they know when, where, and
how to engage in collective action and thus contribute to the course of events.
This is not to say that all individuals are becoming equally skilled and empowered. Far from it: those
connected to the Internet are doubtless more skillful in relating to world affairs than the vast majority
who do not have a connection. On the contrary, people remain ensconced in the values of their cultures
even as their greater skills extend their understanding of these values and their relevance to issues.

The organizational explosion

Due in good measure to the skill revolution and the more empowered people it is
generating as well as swollen by the networking capacities fostered by the Internet,
but also because of the salience of environmental and human rights issues and a
widespread felt need in an ever more complex world to reach out to like-minded
others, organizations are being formed at every level of community and throughout
the world. Trend lines descriptive of this phenomenon are difficult to compile
because many organizations do not report to record-keeping centers, but such data as
have been collected as well as numerous anecdotal materials all point to a continuing
growth pattern. Although the pattern may be less pronounced in the United States,
the organizational explosion is so intense that it needs to be treated as the basis for
key parameters of any paradigm designed to account for the new international
realities.

The disaggregation of authority

The skill revolution and the organizational explosion are major
building blocks for one parameter of any new paradigm
designed to analyze the emergent world scene, namely, the
continuing and extensive process whereby authority is
undergoing disaggregation at every level of community, in
every walk of life, and in all parts of the world. Even some
individuals now can act authoritatively under certain
circumstances. As a consequence, the global stage is ever
more crowded with diverse authorities that sometimes
cooperate, often conflict, and endlessly interact.

The bifurcation of world politics

The bifurcation of global structures is a central foundation on which a jailbreak from existing paradigms
must rest. But in this case a jailbreak is especially difficult precisely because the concept of a bifurcated
world necessitates a downgrading of the importance of states as actors not a dismissal of them by any
means, but simply a downgrading that allows for recognition of the centrality of the numerous
collectivities in the multi-centric world . The difficulties of negotiating a jailbreak in this respect are
somewhat eased by the fact that the bifurcation of world politics has become institutionalized.
Since the summer of 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, when the state-centric world convened to address
environmental problems and more than 3,000 organizations of the multicentric world gathered nearby
to debate the issues and submit resolutions and recommendations to the state-centric delegates.
In effect, the institutionalization of bifurcated global structures has facilitated the emergence of left-
and right-wings in the multi-centric world.

The challenge of analyzing the multi-centric world

Multiple challenges confront analysts seeking to comprehend the role the multicentric
world plays in shaping and sustaining the new international realities.
Here four challenges are confronted and, hopefully, clarified. To anticipate the core
problems inheren in each of the four challenges, one is the need to break free of the
premise that the state-centric world is the predominant structure through which
world affairs unfold, a conceptual jailbreak that in turn involves recasting our
understanding of the nature of states, their capacities, and the roles they play on the
world stage. The second involves the definitional need for clarity on the characteristics
of the actors that comprise the multi-centric world. The third focuses on the internal
structure of the multi centric world, its coherence, conflicts, and potentials. The fourth
challenge concerns the need to comprehend the conflicts that can occur within the
multi-centric world as well as those that ensue between it and the statecentric world.

The conceptual challenge

Two related problems confront any effort to conceptualize the nature and role of the multi-centric
world in a global bifurcated structure. One has already been implied, namely, that of rethinking the
nature of the state and recognizing that it is no longer the predominant actor in world politics. Most
states no longer control the flow of money, goods, pollution, drugs,crime, and people across their
borders to the same extent as they did in the past. Perhaps even more difficult is a second conceptual
challenge: that of assessing and delineating the structures of the multi centric world, composed as it is
of myriad organizations with myriad purposes, interests, and capabilities that are undergoing a
continuing disaggregation of authority. By retaining the notion of the overall global structure as
bifurcated, the centrality of states is not underestimate even as the concept of bifurcation makes clear
that they are now faced with formidable foes as well as assessed by helpful partners in the multi-centric
world. By maintaining the concept of bifurcation the emergence of new global structures is highlighted
even as the relevance of states in acknowledged.

Comprehending the range of conflict within the multi-centric world

It goes without saying that the multi-centric world is marked by intense competition
among the actors within its various issue areas. What is perhaps less fully recognized,
however, is the competition and rivalry that unfolds within NGOs as well as between
them. Many of them sustain large bureaucracies that are marked by internal
squabbles that can have significant repercussions.
A good, troubling case in point is that of Save the Children, a humanitarian
organization that has done its share of good work in the past but that recently was
wracked by a conflict between its branches in the United States and the United
Kingdom. Given the nature of bureaucracies, it is hardly surprising that such squabbles
are not infrequent in Save the Children and, presumably, in a number of other
transnational NGOs.

A brief summing up

Conceiving of a bifurcated world marked by a continuing
skill revolution and organizational explosion facilitates an
understanding of the large degree to which global affairs
have become marked by complexity. Such a formulation
(dare I say paradigm) highlights the messiness of the
world scene and the degree to which it is prone to
ambiguity and contradiction even as it offers building
blocks for a paradigm that serves cogent analysis.