Strategically Situated Actors

At the same time, however, such changes also give rise to adaptive as well as transformational modes of behaviour. Therefore the particular shape a transformed international system is likely to take will be determined primarily by whether particular sets of groups—in particular, those competing groups led by ‘institutional entrepreneurs’ or ‘change masters’ (Kanter 1985)—are best able, either strategically or accidentally, to exploit the manifest and latent structural resources or political opportunity structures available to them most effectively in a period of flux. A key variable in explaining group-led change is thus the presence of strategically situated groups in a flawed and/or fluid structural context. Their presence constitutes a necessary—but not sufficient—condition of structural change.

This question is at the forefront of public consciousness at the time of writing, when a range of poorly coordinated national responses to the recent (and still current) global financial crisis raises fundamental questions about the capacity of either states or ‘global governance’ to cope with the most pressing issues of the day. Key sets of groups that have in the past been closely bound up with the territorial nation-state are increasingly experimenting with new forms of quasi-private regulation of their activities, especially in the context of neoliberal ideology and approaches to governance. And state actors themselves, once said to be ‘captured’ by large, well-organized domestic constituencies, are increasingly captured instead by transnationally linked sectors. These actors not only set state agencies and international regimes against each other—a process sometimes called ‘venue shopping’ (or ‘forum shopping’) or ‘regulatory arbitrage’—in the desire to ‘level the playing field’ for their domestic clients in the wider world, on the one hand, but they also cause them simultaneously to try to network in an increasingly dense fashion with their peers in other states, on the other. Among the major losers are trade unions and other groups with few transnational linkages, although they are sometimes still in a position to demand and obtain compensatory side payments from national governments.

Alongside these economic developments has come a range of meso- and micro-social and political developments. Major social movements and cause groups are increasingly focused on transnational issues, such as the environment, human rights, women’s issues, the international banning of landmines, opposition to the holding of political prisoners, promoting

‘sustainable development’, eliminating poor countries’ international debts and the like. Growing pressures for migration, along with new possibilities for international communication, have not only led to the growth of active diasporas as well as of ‘global tribes’ (Kotkin 1992) but of major movements of refugees and asylum seekers attempting to escape the civil wars and unrest of the current decade.

And, finally, those alternative outcomes—or ‘multiple equilibria’— which may exist in theory and in the minds of key actors may prove either too ambitious, on the one hand, or too amorphous and fragmented, on the other, to form an effective foundation for those groups’ strategic or tactical calculations and for their pursuit of specific, coherent outcomes. As specific actors continually probe the potential for new ways to pursue their interests, the key driving force in this transformation and reconstruction will consist of transnationally-linked group political actors engaging in crosscutting competition and coalition-building behaviour, exploiting the growing institutional loopholes of global politics, constructing new power games, creating new networks and changing people’s perceptions of how world politics works—changing the parameters and dynamics of who gets—and should get—what, when, and how.

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