Evolutionary systems theory: concepts and schools in international relations

Abstract

This paper looks at the impact of digital technologies and other major technological innovations in recent years on possible major shifts in the development of and control over the world system. The pace of the most inner process in the world system developmental process, captured in the successive development of clusters of technological innovations and organizational change (K-waves), is determined by two biological control parameters: the cognitive (i.e., collective learning rate), driving the rate of exchanging and processing information at the microlevel, and the generational (i.e., the development of successive human cohorts), that constrain the rate of transfer of knowledge (i.e., information integrated into a context) between successive generations at the macrolevel. World system development has not been a linear progress, but rather a process marked by periods of sharp accelerations, in the amount of information that people had access to and in the creation of information systems to deal with it. On a material level, however, the global world system (as a ‘web of webs’) is made up of a variety of complex intraorganizational and interorganizational networks (or ‘webs’) intersecting with geographical networks structured particularly around linked clusters of socio-economy activity. These networks are at once characterized by their path-dependencies, as well as the major transformation these networks undergo as a result of major technological innovations, especially in transportation and communication technologies. In recent centuries, states were able to exert an important level of control over the development of the world system. The current transformations that mark the development of the world system, resemble past patterns. We therefore expect, at least for the foreseeable future a continuation of the leading role of states in terms of control over and structuring of the world system as a global socio-economic web of webs.

Publication
In R. A. Denemark & R. Marlin-Bennett (Eds.), The International Studies Encyclopedia. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell
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