System Theory

Morton Kaplan after 1955 explain the theory in more systematic manner

In simpler words, a system refers to a set of elements interacting with each other.

This theory assumes that there is a system in international relations and the states are its components. In the international system, states interact with one another, and are dependent on one another.

States are involved in constant interaction with ‘the whole’ or the international environment which is in the form of world politics.

The system is used as a tool of analysis and focus is upon arrangement of actors, interaction of actors or recurring pattern of the behavior of the actors.

International system is a pattern of relations between the basic units of world politics which is characterized by the scope of the objectives pursued by these units and of the tasks performed among them.

A system is an integrated one where all elements work to make the system survive. In the international system, the nation‐states,
knowingly or unknowingly, help the system to survive and progress.

Despite crises, the international system has survived and progressed. Systems theory of IR strongly sends the message that by adapting itself to changes, the international system would become an efficient system where the nations‐states would be more engaged in cooperation and mutual development.

Nations or states are the main actors in the international politics and the role of the state changes with the change of international system.

In the study of International Relations the System Theory is the established as one of the important theory. First the scholar David Easton developed this theory in the field of national politics and scholar Morton A. Kaplan in the field of international politics and relation. Beside that among those who developed the System theory for analyzing international relations, the contributions of Karl Deutsch, Raymond Aron as well as scholar Charles McClelland are significant.

A system is a group of parts that interact according to some kind of process. Systems are often visualized or modeled as blocks of different component with some kind of drawn connections. In the study of IR a “system” is a collection of events or effect which has relationships among all the actors of international Relations. Of course all three: things and relationships and the whole system have to be imagined by us, and tested against ‘reality’, to serve our purposes to understand the international Relation.

All systems have the same common characteristics. These common characteristics are summarized below:

  1. All systems have some basic structure.
  2. All systems are generalizations of reality.
  3. They all function in the same way.
  4. There are functional as well as structural relationships between the units of a system.
  5. Function implies the flow and transfer of some material (events or Effect in IR). Systems exchange data and matter internally and with their surrounding environment through various processes of input and output.
  6. Function requires the presence of some driving force, i.e. World Politics in IR.
  7. All systems show some degree of incorporation between its parts as a whole.

The systems approach distinguishes itself from the more traditional analytic approach by emphasizing the interactions and connectedness of the different components of a system. Although the systems approach in principle considers all types of systems, it in practices focuses on the more complex, adaptive, self-regulating systems

System theory can also be define as, a set of concepts and models which can be used to understand relationships and moreover, simultaneous, transient and shifting relationships.

System is particular method of the data obtaining, measuring, analyzing and taking feedback from the environment of world politics. System is the concept that refers both to a complex of interdependencies between states, government and their relation, that involves distinct regularities and to a similar type of interdependency between such a complex and its surrounding environments.

System theory allow us to focus upon the actions of nation as the components of the system; upon the structure and functioning of the system which results from the interaction of nations; or upon the environmental factors which stipulate both actions of nations and operational environment of the system.

Under this theory the nations of the world (politics) are consider to be in contact and association in a complicated framework of relationship, which is formed through the process of interaction. As per the scholar Richard Little, the system theory is definitely particular design of relationships which can found in the international relations. It is assumed that, despite the complexity and confusion displayed by the mixture of interactions of the actors (state, organization etc) of the international relation, there are a set of structures which, describe the international system and explain the behaviour of the individual states or other actors.

Prof. Morton Kaplan presented a number of real and hypothetical models of global political organization. His six well known models were (i) balance of power system, (ii) loose bipolar system, (iii) tight bipolar system, (iv)universal actor system, (v) hierarchical system/’Unipolar World Model’., and (vi) unit veto system. The first two are historical realities; the remaining four are hypothetical models.

a) Balance of Power system -:- Within this system the nation will act as a international actors. As per this system the country makes balance of power between them and avoid the possibility of war to maintain the world peace. This system has six different rules for the balance of power:

  1. Every nation actors has to gain power from negotiation and diplomatic relation, but not from the war.
  2. First of all nation actors responsible to protect their interest and if there is no other way to protect their interest they have to go through risk of war to protect their interest.
  3. To end the war is respectable, than to end other nation actor.
  4. Nation actor has to make voice against building alliance of nations, which may cause supremacy of power among actors.
  5. Nation actor has to prevent other actors to achieve supremacy in power relationship.
  6. Nation actor has to give opportunity for the war-losing actor to interact in the international system as an actor friend in relation.

b. Loose bipolar system :- In a situation where too many actors influence intentional relations, it becomes difficult to strike a perfect balance of power position and loose bipolar system develops. This is a system where the two superpowers are in balance because of the relationship of surrounding nation actors. These surrounding actors may be neutral state or small states alliance. It affect not only the policy of the superpower also make affect on the arms conflict of superpowers.

c. Tight bipolar System :- Tight bipolar system, deals with only the two superpower and other neutral and alliance nation actors have no role to do in international relations. Two superpowers direct involved maintaining their relations and politics. And because of absence of the fair third party supranational actor the tight bipolar system maintain the international relations.

d. Universal actor system :- The universal international system grows when the universal actor, like the UN, take over many of functions of powerful units in a loose bipolar system. In such a system the universal actor becomes powerful enough to prevent war among nations, but national actors retain their individuality.

e. Hierarchical system :- In the hierarchical international system, the universal actor becomes too powerful and the international community becomes a pattern of world-state. Nation actors interact on non-directive way with the most and powerful role of universal actor (United Nation), which makes hierarchical system in international relations.

f. Unit Veto system :- The veto system is a result of weapons develop-capacity, they create a system of one-level actors, each of whom possesses assort of veto power by high merit of his destructive capacity. In a loose bipolar system, a few nations possess such destructive weapons; in a tight bipolar system only two nations possess such destructive weapons combined with extensive economic power. The non-aligned nations virtually vanish in such a situation.

The System theory has its weaknesses. For instance, it makes the things too mechanistic by using the terms ‘input’, ‘output’, ‘feedback’, ‘environment’ and like. Scholar Stanley Hoffman has criticized the System theory effectively. What is worse in that their approach is selective as only those problems relevant to the systems are considered and others are ignored? Most of the model situations only exist in theory. The System theory dose not predict what will actually happen, but it only forecasts what would happen if certain conditions develop, which rarely, if ever develop exactly as imagined.

Top comments (0)