www.diploweb.com/english/1.htm Geopolitics


Revisiting Complex Interdependence,  

Pierre Cyril Cyrus Teymour Pahlavi, McGill University


It is fitting to ask ourselves what distinguishes cultural norms from other categories of norms. How are cultural norms effects different from those norms regulating economic or security affairs ? Is it possible that the influence of cultural norms extends beyond simple economic or military regulatory rules because they affect not merely the interests of governments but also the perceptions, preferences, tastes and opinion of their populations ? In this case, would it be possible that the propagation of cultural norms carries more profound influence than that carried by rules governing economic affairs or military non-proliferation ?

It seems plausible that in being able to modify the perception of a foreign public and in making certain values ‘legitimate in their eyes’, it is easier to engage partner governments and less likely to provoke resistance to a state’s wishes.  Will culture then become a source of power comparable to military or economic might ?

Key words: pierre cyril cirus teymour pahlavi, complex interdependence, normpolitik, kulturpolitik, soft power, hard power, influence, norm entrepreneurship, security, political economy, environment, strategic interdependence, economic interdependence, ecological and bacteriological interdependence (SARS), cultural interdependence, international relations, world order, new communication and information technologies (NCIT), mass media, culture, transnational flows and exchanges, public opinion, mass diplomacy, public diplomacy, cyber-diplomacy, united states, european union, terrorism, multilateralism. 


In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations

- K. Marx and F. Engels, The Communist Manifesto, (1848)


Increasingly intricate international interdependency has resulted in a profound shift in the contemporary paradigms that govern the exercise of power; classic ‘hard-power’ political strategies such as coercion have given way to normpolitik, a ‘softer’, more indirect mode of  political influence derived from the control of international norms. The pertinent question to ask, then, is why a phenomenon that has played a significant but secondary role throughout history is suddenly being propelled to the forefront of international relations. The fundamental cause of this change can primarily be traced to the modern phenomenon of the complex interdependence of nations and the constraints that the interconnectedness of national societies impose on the exercise of power. Growing interdependence renders states increasingly mutually dependent in economic, strategic and cultural terms and thus less free to act independently and exercise power in traditional ways. In this new environment, it is both increasingly costly to resort exclusively to the use of brute force and increasingly rewarding to exercise brute force in combination with ‘softer’ alternatives, such as the indirect or veiled influence of norms and international institutions. This major transformation of the parameters of power is accompanied by a profound shift in the logic that governs international political interaction. In an age where nations are increasingly vulnerable to transnational networks of dependency, states can influence each other by establishing norms affecting their respective societies and populations. It is evident that Normpolitik (as distinct from military or economic pressure) is an efficient means of achieving goals within the complex mechanism of interdependence. Acting as a norm entrepreneur permits one not only to define the rules of the game and its pay-off matrix but also to get partners to co-operate without having to resort to threat or coercion. This chapter attempts to come to grips with this changing international affairs context: to examine its effect on the nature of power as well as on the inherent logic of international interaction while paying particular attention to cultural matters.    


1. The Implications of Complex Interdependence

a. Complex Interdependence: An Unavoidable Factor

The growing density of transnational flows and the amplification of channels of communication increase the interdependence of states by linking their domestic spheres ever more and by serving as interfaces of interaction between nations. These close connections render them reciprocally vulnerable to influence as much in terms of material needs as in ideological aspirations (Keohane & Nye 1989, 8). Throughout history, the interdependence of states has never ceased to expand and to become more complex, progressively becoming an unavoidable phenomenon. The Renaissance saw early if marginal examples of interdependence in certain parts of the world such as the Mediterranean world of Philippe II (Braudel 1949). But it was not until the escalation of interaction made possible by the dazzling technological advances of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that interdependence truly made its influence felt. In 1848, K. Marx and F. Engels noted in the Manifesto that “in place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations” (Marx & Engels 1848). We have moved progressively away from a binary interdependence essentially based on economic and military interaction towards a complex and multifaceted interdependence that now includes such matters as cultural and environmental interaction. Interdependence is today a parameter that states can no longer ignore.  In 1999, Bill Clinton declared that “everything, from the strength of our economy to the safety of our cities, to the health of our people, depends on events not only within our borders, but half a world away. […] We must see the opportunities and the dangers of the interdependent world in which we are clearly fated to live” (Clinton 1999). Today, Dominique de Villepin describes international interdependence as a major characteristic of the international system:


This new system […] responds to only one law: that of interdependence. Commercial interaction is increasingly free flowing and widespread, innovation disseminates rapidly, information and ideas circulate with fewer barriers. […]  In the same way that the beating of a butterfly’s wings in Asia can, according to mathematicians, be the cause of a storm in the Irish Sea, an unnoticed event can produce a devastating effect tens of thousands of kilometres away.  Local crises have global repercussions. […] Henceforth, the world affects the world. Underground tremors shake vast tectonic plates that tremble and crack on their periphery.  Causes of events are more obscure, more indirect and more distant.  Local crises can be the first step towards global disorder. The global network of increasingly dense interconnections can create surprising contractions in space and time (France - Villepin 2002)


b.  The Four Major Elements of Complex Interdependence

The phenomenon of complex interdependence is comprised of four major elements of transnational exchange and interaction: security, economics, culture and environment. These four elements are constantly at work inextricably entwining national societies

· Economic interaction is one of the primary conduits of social interpenetration and as such has often been confused with the general phenomenon of interdependence of which it is but one part. In the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the development of free trade practices led European nations to specialise their manufacturing in terms of their relative factor endowment. This specialisation led nations to become more and more interdependent in economic as well as social and political terms. This trend accelerated during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with the growth of European empires, the industrial revolution and technological progress in communication and manufacturing. In the twentieth century, the integration of national economies has reached such a point that any change affecting one economy also affects all the others, both directly and indirectly.  The 1929 Wall Street crash and the bankruptcy of the Anstallt Bank in Vienna, OPEC’s decision to raise the barrel price of raw petroleum in 1971 and 1978 or, more recently, the 1997 Asian financial crisis are all examples of local events with global repercussions. These examples illustrate to what point economic interdependence directly links the socio-economic destiny of nations and indeed the planet as a whole. Today, nation states are inexorably linked by the deep interpenetration of investment capital and ‘market’ links. The apex of this is represented by the links between member states of the EU (See Van der Ploeg 2002).

Economic interdependence affects states not only externally but also internally by modifying the condition of a society as well as its consumer habits. Governments must increasingly adjust their political strategies to respond to domestic demand induced by global supply. With the globalisation of mass consumption, tastes, habits and public attitudes respond increasingly to manufacturing and external economic trends.


· Strategic security and military links are an important element of the complex interdependence of states. While these links influence governments, they also increasingly sway populations. Since the Renaissance, there have been a number of revolutions in the conduct of war. Changes such the advent of artillery, the evolution of military strategy, mass conscription and more technologically advanced transport have had the effect of increasing the range of war as well as the frequency and violence of conflicts; thus deeply interlacing the fate of nations. In June 1914, for example, the network of strategic interdependence had become so comprehensive that a local crisis had the potential of affecting the entire world. A further step has been taken with the revolutionary advent of nuclear weaponry and the consequent possibility of Mutually Assured Destruction - MAD (Jervis 1989). Faced with the danger of total annihilation, populations and governments the world over are implicated in the consequences of any disruptive interaction between any two nuclear states (the U.S. and the U.S.S.R during the Cold War or India and Pakistan today) or within any one of them (one can think of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 or General Musharaf’s military coup in 1999).

The socio-political interweaving generated by military interdependence is equally reinforced by the propensity of modern conflicts to increasingly implicate civilian populations either in the form of  collateral damage such as in the Second World War or as involuntary battle ground participants during conflicts such as national wars of independence or terrorist conflicts. National security is more and more conditional on the activities of sub-national networks operating within national civilian societies (Nye 2002, 83). The chronic protrusion of the effects of the multifaceted Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the affairs of neighbouring states is an example of this.  The ‘War on Terrorism’ conducted by the United States against terrorist groups based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines and Europe is one other good illustration of  the privatisation of war.


· Though the natural world is the oldest by-way of transnational interaction and interdependence, environmental issues are becoming prominent today at a greater rate than any of the other issues that shape complex interdependence. For instance, biological particles carried by living beings and their attendant consequences for affected populations have since time immemorial been an important facet of transnational interaction. What were harmless bacteria for the Spanish Conquistadors decimated eighty million Native Americans in the sixteenth century.  In the twenty-first century, British foot and mouth disease or the SARS disease originating in Hong Kong cause fear the world over precisely because of bacteriological interdependence and the speed at which the diseases propagate. Ecological interdependence is only now taking on its current importance as a result of the major upheavals in technology, manufacturing, transportation and mass consumption during the course of the twentieth century. One result of these qualitative changes is that any alteration in a local environment can have both major ecological and political repercussions on a global scale. Therefore, the use of CFC gases, a catastrophe such as Chernobyl or even common industrial pollution no longer limits itself to one country but instead affects numerous others in the guise of transnational phenomena such as the greenhouse effect, radioactive clouds or acid rain.  For example, the deforestation of the Amazon jungle has had fallout as far away as Italy and Japan as well as more locally in Brazil. As a result of phenomena such as this, environmental interdependence is having increasing political impact on national societies.  Populations are increasingly aware of how environmental interdependence can affect them. The election of German Chancellor Schroeder at the centre of a coalition government including the German Green Party in 2002 illustrates the impact of this public awareness on the political scene and thus of phenomenon itself.   

G. Schroeder. Crédits: Ministère des Affaires étrangères (France), F. de la Mure 

· Finally, thanks to unprecedented progress in recent years in the fields of information and communications technology, culture has begun to take its place as another major mode of  inter-societal interaction and intergovernmental influence. Cultural exchange has certainly always existed within history’s great empires and as early as 1972, R. Keohane and J. Nye ranked cultural exchange as a major source for transnational interaction (Keohane & Nye 1972). However, it wasn’t until the explosion of new communication and information technologies (NCIT) that cultural exchange truly became one of the cornerstones of the phenomena of  complex interdependence. These new technologies constitute a planet-wide web that binds societies together, linking them with a vast network of wire, fibre optic cables and satellite and wireless transmissions. In shrinking time and space and in mixing cultural flows at blinding speed and across enormous distances, they definitely inscribe the phenomenon of complex interdependence in the era of immediacy. As German decision makers emphasise, “in today's communications-dominated world international relations evolve faster and the extent of countries' interdependence is greater than ever before” (Germany 2000). The rise of virtual interfaces between countries allows increasingly unimpeded transmission of culture across national borders. This is echoed by the DFAIT’s White Book: “Thanks to technological innovations, (…) borders have become more porous to the flow of ideas, people and capital. This has diminished the ability of states to act independently since they can no longer isolate themselves from the world (…)” (Canada 1995).  Satellites, radio, television and the Internet bridge the divide between different societies, binding them ineluctably, one to the other, both culturally and ideologically. This aspect of interdependence can no more be ignored.


These revolutionary technologies and the resulting growth in cultural interdependence creates new modes of interpenetration, greatly increasing the influence of one government and society upon another. State behaviour is ever more dependent on the way in which the free transnational flow of foreign values and norms affects public opinions and the way of life of populations (both domestically and abroad). State behaviour also depends to a great extent on the image portrayed by the media to the public and the way in which this public influences its government. While some countries are more vulnerable than others in this respect, all, without exception, are linked and constrained by cultural and ideological trends arising sometimes from the other side of the globe. We have only to remember the way in which governments of the Communist bloc were overtaken at the end of the 1980’s by popular sentiment springing from the Russian youth’s exposure to American pop culture and media such as MTV (Kubalkova 2001). As recently stated by a U.S. representative, despite decades of enormous effort on the part of the United States aimed at undermining the threat posed by the Communist bloc, it was only with the advent of democracy and western-type civil society in Russia and the other nations of the ‘Soviet prison house’ that it was finally destroyed (U.S. - Hyde 2002). We can also refer in this regard to the concern Western governments display for the stability of their Muslim communities in the face of exposure to Islamic fundamentalism through Arab media. In response to foreign cultural influence, certain countries such as China, Iran or Saudi Arabia have tried to erect ‘virtual barriers’ in order to isolate their populations. For instance, Beijing has often threatened to truncate western influence by building a large ‘wall of iron and steel’ (see Djalili 1994).  These attempts seem invariably destined to failure, at least as long as the effects of cultural interdependence lie beyond the scope of classic governance. The intensification of cultural exchange and the revolution in communication has woven a complex web of virtual links between the  communities of the world that superimpose themselves upon traditional territorially-based allegiances.


c. The Growing Significance of Public Opinion

By increasing the porous nature of national borders, interdependence renders states more vulnerable to influence within the domestic sphere. There was once a time when great empires such as that of Alexander, the Qings or the Mayas coexisted in isolation without having any real impact upon each other. For centuries, countries have been almost hermitically sealed entities, interacting and influencing each other like billiard balls:  brutally but superficially. Except in the case of military conquest, the links between distinct civilian societies were kept to a strict minimum. This fact explains to a large extent the persistence of extensive socio-cultural diversity. But this is no more the case. With the acceleration and growing complexity of interdependence though, the cloistering of domestic affairs from  states’ foreign affairs became an issue for serious consideration. The French foreign ministry remarked in this regard that “the borders between the outside and the inside are growing thin in the same way that the distinction between foreign and domestic politics is evaporating” (France - Villepin 2002). States are evolving into porous bodies without any real control over the daily transnational exchanges that occur within their borders. They are more and more susceptible to profound influence not only by the international actions of other states, but also by the evolution of their respective civilian societies. As stated by Canadian foreign policy makers, in this new environment, "domestic policy is foreign policy...foreign policy is domestic policy" (Canada - 1995).

In this context, national public opinion is becoming an increasingly important player on the international scene. On one hand, it applies mounting pressure on the governments of foreign countries while on the other hand, it is a vehicle for interpenetration by which the influence of foreign countries plays upon governments from within. 

In pursuing their international objectives, states must now take into account their inescapable integration as well as the growing constraints imposed on each others by their respective bodies of public opinion. Since the mutual transfer of values and ideology made possible by new media and communication technology binds national societies together, interdependence renders them vulnerable in the face of foreign social influence. This mutual dependence in regards to domestic populations compels states to seek multilateral solutions in situations where once they would have acted alone.

State won’t necessarily disappear but they certainly will have to adapt. British decision makers admit that multilateralism and internationalism logically stems from an adaptation to the interdependence of today's world (U.K. 2003). Despite its superpower status, even the United States needs not only the support of allied governments but also the sympathy of their populations (Nye 2002). An adviser to the American government recently declared that: “our objectives require a multi-lateral approach, and that depends on positive public opinion in those countries on which we depend for support” (U.S. Pachios 2002). Over the course of the 2003 Iraq crisis, we have seen to what point Washington’s freedom of action has been constrained by the necessity of garnering the support of the international community and the good will of international public opinion. 

In addition it is increasingly tempting to act upon the behaviour of one’s partners by exploiting the vulnerability of their societies to outside influences. In other terms, governments will seize the growing exposure of populations to outside influences as an opportunity to extend their reach and impact (Noble & Leonard 2001). Yet states are not equally vulnerable to the constraints imposed by interdependence. Countries that are more vulnerable experience this external influence in a passive manner and must adjust by putting in place costly modifications to their socio-economic structure. Less vulnerable countries are able to absorb the impact of outside influence with only minor internal alterations (Nye 1993). The later are able to profit from this inequality to persuade the former to cooperate by influencing them indirectly through their civil society and public opinion. Transnational cultural exchange can thus serve as a means of penetration and influence. This is especially true in that multilateral cooperation and communication will prove increasingly feasible and effective with the progresses in the domain of telecommunications. In this new environment, states are therefore stimulated to structure politics in a different way, with different means (Keohane & Nye 1998).  Yes, but how? The answer lies in knowing in what ways increasing interdependence alters the parameters of power.


2. Complex Interdependence and the Power Revolution

In an era of complex interdependence, the once common exercise of direct or ‘hard’  power is losing some of its prominence in favour of more indirect or intangible methods of influence. Defined as the ability to achieve goals by making others follow your will, the exercise of power has been and will certainly remain a fixture in international politics. However, the resources with which its exercise have been associated have constantly changed throughout history with the evolving nature of the international order. A new power revolution is taking place today.

For millennia, a large and well-equipped army was all that was required to make one’s voice heard and power felt on the international scene. As technologies evolved, however,  the possession of a powerful economy and the threat of retaliation have proved as effective, if not more effective than  the brandishing of weapons and the threat of war. Today, with the growing complexity of interdependence, fewer and fewer goals are achieved by relying exclusively on military threats but also on raw economic incentives. The utility of hard power methods has in general shrunk, as it is less likely than in the past to produce the desired outcomes (Nye 2002, 4-9; 40; 176 footnote 31).


In times past, physical force reigned supreme. With it, one could conquer peoples, control territory, seize resources and impose order. The Delphic Oracle bowed before Alexander as the Pope gave way to Napoleon. The empires of the New World fell to the conquistador’s onslaughts as Rome before them had once submitted to the sword of Alaric.  But today, the use of pure physical force seems often to be in vain.  In a complex environment in which all is bound together, where everything interacts, where states are no longer alone, in open societies, the ambition of total control increasingly seems to be a costly and dangerous illusion. Hence, power is now conveyed by the means of influence rather than authority.  In fact, there is a veritable revolution in the nature of power happening before us (France - Villepin 2002).


With the growing density of interdependence, a new stage is taking place in the process of the complexification of power. As means of exchange intensify and nations become inextricably entangled, there is increasing need to combine direct force with alternative means and to search for more subtle ways of persuasion.


a. The Decline of Military Power

When related to security concerns, interdependence contributes directly to the waning use of brute strength. The mutual effects of violent interaction are dramatically increased  within an environment which all are affected by each others’ behaviour. States are effectively constrained, coexisting like crabs in a fisherman’s basket (Keohane & Nye 1989, chapters 1-3). The affairs of nations are now so intimately interwoven that it is impossible for governments to employ military means against their rivals without running the risk of harming themselves. The strategic interdependence engendered by the creation of new military technology such as intercontinental missiles is such that it is increasingly difficult to unilaterally expand one’s military capacity, even with no aggressive intentions, without creating security problems. To do so would be to become a potential threat for one’s partners and thus risk a dangerously spiralling arms race that would put a state’s own security in jeopardy (Jervis 1978). The fear of mutual vulnerability increased tenfold with the advent of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Their potentially catastrophic effects in the long term, including possible annihilation, for all parties involved in conflict, including the victorious party, are such that they have the effect of raising ‘the cost of warfare and aggressive behaviour to almost prohibitive levels’ (Mastanundo 1999, 22). Even though weapons of mass destruction have not put an end to the use of military might, specialists agree that since their introduction they have greatly helped to dissuade the major powers from engaging in military altercations (Paul 1998, 19-45). Today, the terrorist menace and the privatisation of war reinforces the fear of domestic vulnerability and encourages states to adopt a more subtle approach to security matters.


Economic and cultural interdependence also contribute to the decline of traditional paradigms governing power politics. As Norman Angell, Nobel Peace Prize winner, stressed in The Great Illusion, the new complex financial and commercial network linking states to each other is making war useless and less likely in the modern era (Angell 1933). The use of force for securing economic or territorial objectives is of diminishing utility for states (Paul 1998, 32; Mastanundo 1999, 22). The complexity of financial ties and the decentralisation of manufacturing are such that in the eventuality of war, belligerents risk destroying not only their own economies but also any common system of exchange as well as any financial or industrial interests that they might have in the enemy camp. It is now hardly possible to strike against one’s economic partners without incurring an equal blow against one’s own economy - except maybe in the case of very isolated countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan.


The same logic prevails more and more in regard to socio-cultural interdependence. The prevalence of ideological and human interaction that unites nations as well as the controls they impose upon their governments are becoming sizeable obstacles inhibiting the use of military might. In 1917, for example, the United States hesitated before declaring war on Prussia because of the large German-American community and their ties to the former country. In 2003, France was reluctant to enter into a war in the Middle East because of reasons of national interest but also out of solidarity with their North-African minority population and their sympathy for Arab or Islamic peoples. And so, governments must increasingly contend with an international public opinion set squarely against war and the use of violence. War as a social institution is becoming increasingly obsolete because of a growing aversion developed by nations across the globe (Mueller 1989). In a pervasive socio-cultural evolution,  pacifist values shared by a growing number of peoples as well as a decreasing willingness to suffer is at the root of this common ‘presumption against the use of force’ (Holsti 1992, 6). Thus, it is more the willingness rather than the ability to make war that is blunted today.


With the rise of interdependence, military power is no longer the only everyday currency of international politics.  It is no longer as fungible as it once was.  It has lost the ability to be converted into effective influence within other spheres of interaction. Gunboat diplomacy can no longer be systematically used to obtain concessions in the political, economic or cultural spheres (Paul 1998). In the non-conflicting environment created by the complex interdependence, power backed by force is dramatically less fungible than in the conflictual zero-sum logic that characterised world politics throughout history.  As early as 1911, Kaiser Wilhelm met with failure when he sent his battleship Panther to the coast of Agadir to enforce German designs over the Moroccan protectorate. European powers categorically refused to acknowledge German aspirations due to insufficient grounds. In today’s context of deepened interdependence, military power’s relative utility has further declined. The use of force to foster alliances and mutual trust is increasingly questioned: “Does instilling confidence still require the fixed stationing of large combat forces on the soil of secure allies?  The United States has no such presence in the United Kingdom, Israel, or Canada, yet in British, Israeli, or Canadian minds, the durability of their special relationships is unquestioned. Why does this not apply to Germany and Japan, where the largest concentrations of U.S. forces abroad are found?” (Institute for National Strategic Studies 1998). The desire for the creation of alliances with foreign populations competes with that of the desire to form alliances with governments. People will increasingly represent salient but potentially allies for foreign governments.


The exclusive use of military might can not only no longer serve as an adequate foundation for diplomacy, but it is also even becoming harmful to good relations abroad. In this way, the public image of the United States has declined significantly since the beginning of the decade because of the perception that its foreign policy relies on the standing threat of its military power (Chambraud 2002; Le Monde dec. 2002). As Charles Kupchan said, "when you combine as much military power as America has with a statement of blustery leadership, then countries begin to fear you more than they respect you” (Kupchan 2002). It appears therefore that national security is increasingly dependent on the security of others. At the same time, the use of military force or even the threat of its use has increasingly undesirable side effects and is no longer something states can do as automatically or easily as before (Nye & Owens 1996). Brute military strength remains a vital resource but it is no longer the only basis for national power.


In the modern era, when the imperialist Great Powers were competing with each other, massive military force held major sway over diplomatic relations, but in the increasingly integrated international community since the end of the Cold War, foreign policy is shaped by not only military force but also a number of other factors, including economic, technological and cultural strength. While the reality of international politics today is that military force undoubtedly continues to play a certain role as a final resort in maintaining and restoring order, for diplomacy to produce national profit, it is becoming increasingly important for countries to enhance their international influence through a variety of strengths outside the purely military (Japan 1999).   


b. Towards a more Complex and Intangible Conception of Power

While military strength will continue to be vital to achieving national security goals, it proves less than adequate when dealing with transnational social, economic and cultural issues, or when confronting the constraints and opportunities related to the growing significance of public opinion in the international arena. The question becomes therefore to determine what alternative resources can be drawn on to palliate the relative depreciation of military power.

While at first glance the use of economic influence seems most likely, many other less tangible options seem to better respond to the new realties of international relations.  Despite appearances, economic influence is neither the only nor the best alternative to military power. Of course, it is undeniable that, in a context of deepened interdependence, it may be easier to maximise national interests through trade rather than through violent interactions (Rosencrance 1986). The Canadian Diplomatic Book states “[w]hile military capacities and might will remain important factors in the international system of the future, international affairs will be rooted increasingly in economic and trade relations between countries and regions” (Canada 1995). That said, the use of economic incentives the same as the use of military threats are subject to the same constraints that weigh upon the sources of hard material power. Military sticks or economic carrots are both means of coercing others to produce desired outcomes through the application of physical force. There is a difference of degree not of nature. In any case, whether power is exercised through sanctions or more subtle incentives, the efficiency of economics as weapons is reduced within the context of complex interdependence. It is particularly difficult to affect the economic behaviour of partners through sanctions or protectionist measures without damaging one’s own economy. This situation of economic interweaving is particularly prevalent within partnerships such as the EU or more informally between the United States and Japan (U.S. - Foley 1999). In addition, perceived as a more or less aggressive form of imperialism, ‘dollar diplomacy’ can, depending on the economic situation, create a positive-sum, negative sum or zero-sum situation, but it is more and more difficult to anticipate the results (Nye 1993 162). Thus, the fact that the United States was the primary investor in Afghanistan between 1999 and 2001 did nothing to protect the country from the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.  Nor does America’s role as Saudi Arabia’s main ally stop it from being increasingly unpopular amongst the Saudi population. Isn’t it ironic that anti-American sentiment in the Arab world is at its highest in Egypt according to recent US surveys, while this country receives more American aid money than any other country in the world, second only to Israel? (Abdelhadi 2003). In many regards, ‘dollar diplomacy’ doesn’t do better than brutal ‘gunboat diplomacy’. 


Complex interdependence is a crucible in which a new form of power is being created. It is a power more complex, intangible and more suited to today’s world politics. As military and economic strength lose prominence as sources of hard power, other sources of power, more fungible, less coercive and less tangible, come to palliate their relative depreciation. Brute force is “of diminishing utility as knowledge resources overtake natural resources as the principal stimulant to national wealth and power” (Mastanundo 1999, 22). What gains relative momentum is soft power in which legitimacy and attraction derive from norms in general. The key to soft power is the capacity to wield norms and convert them into effective sources of persuasion (Nye 1990, 189).

That said, this doesn’t mean that military and economic power are today obsolete or that they have lost their importance. Hard power resources are and will remain vital resources, but they are no more the sole foundations for national power. As stated by J. Nye, “in such a variegated world, all three sources of power - military, economic and soft - are relevant, although to different degrees in different relationships” (Nye 2002, 12). What is being brought about before our eyes is a complexification of the components and nature of power. In the new environment, bases for indirect influence, persuasion and attractiveness are assuming increasing significance in the mix of power resources. That Japanese reaffirm this reality when they state that “the sources of national power underpinning relations with other countries, or foreign policy, have become diverse in today's international community […]” (Japan 1999). We can even think that the use of soft power through norms can enhance the effectiveness of raw military and economic power (Nye & Owens 1996). The challenge for states is to draw on this hybrid form of power combining hard and soft power resources and to adopt an integrated approach to deal with complex interdependence.  


3. A New Mode of Interaction

a.        The Attractions of Normpolitik

The nature of the international system, as well as the constraints that it imposes and the new opportunities work together to transform states into ‘norm entrepreneurs’. Complex interdependence has the double effect of increasing the cost of hard politics and diminishing the barrier impeding strategies of indirect persuasion consisting of influencing other states through their public opinion by establishing norms affecting both government and civil societies. With the shrinking of distances between countries, the intertwining of their modes of exchange and the entanglement of their civil societies, it is increasingly difficult and unwise to pursue goals unilaterally by relying exclusively on one’s brute strength. The challenge becomes for states to further their goals while renouncing the direct and systematic use of brute strength (U.S. Haass 2002). States come to realise that in an age of close interconnection between societies, it is more and more productive to shape the preferences of others indirectly by manipulating their domestic agenda rather than through the threat or use of military or economic coercion. As noted Japanese policy makers, “in the formation of a new international order looking ahead to the 21st century, the ability to conceptualise, design and persuade will be vital in drawing the international community in a direction to the national advantage” (Japan 1999).


For that to happen, states must learn to adapt themselves to the complex workings of interdependence, developing understanding of the paradigm’s inner workings and learning to transform its restrictions into advantages, allowing states to increase their influence: “manipulating the asymmetries of interdependence becomes a source of power in international politics” (Nye 1993, 166).  It is increasingly profitable to take advantage of the growing vulnerability of one’s partners through the increasing porousness of their borders and their shrinking ability to control transnational interchanges and to use these weaknesses to influence their populations, and through them, their governments. It appears indeed that “in an age where societies are closely connected through transnational associations and networks of dependency, many purposes can only be achieved or defended by manipulating, sustaining, or altering conditions in other countries” (Holsti 1992, 116).  This new model of behaviour is becoming increasingly prevalent on the international scene.


For many states, whether big or small, prospering or declining, norm entrepreneurship becomes a means of playing a greater role on the multilateral scene. In this era of deepened interdependence, there is a growing payoff for influencing partners indirectly in fixing the norms affecting the economic, social and cultural behaviour of their civil society. Due to the complex interconnection of societies and the institutionalisation of international norms today, being able to fix the rules of the game and the value structure of its pay-off matrix matters as much as being able to use force to obtain desired results. This approach allows a state to secure the cooperation of partners by co-opting their populations. This approach is gaining greater momentum today, in the particular context of interdependence, as it allows shaping the interests of others without resorting to costly demonstration of brute force. As notes K. J. Holsti, “norms are not based on force, compulsion, or deterrence, but have widespread legitimacy and hence authority and effectiveness. That states behave with these norms on a daily basis is further evidence of their importance” (Holsti 1999, 284). Shared norms, willingly accepted by governments, permit states to foster co-operation amongst partners without the use of coercive power or the threat of punishment. In fact, the use of violent force to enforce these norms is rarely required specially when their influence is not limited to government but is deeply embedded within civil societies (U.S. Institute for National Strategic Studies 1998).


This line of analysis suggests that norms can play an important role in facilitating or constraining state behaviour. They have the power to influence international affairs even though they may conflict with the initial interests of states (Klotz 1995). Their authority rests on their capacity to make their government adopt patterned, norm-governed behaviour either directly or indirectly by penetrating national borders and socialising their population to prefer what you prefer. They act as inter-subjective standards of conduct around which expectations progressively converge (Ruggie 1983). States that have the capacity to institutionalise international norms acquire ‘structural power’ - the ability to control the normative structure in which their partners evolve and to fix what is preferable, rational and indeed doable (Strange 1988; Holsti 1989, 1992; Paul 1998, 2000). In that regard, norm setting provides states with a considerable amount of durable legitimacy: it justifies their actions, their international status as well as the politico-military and economic distribution of power on which this status rests (Bull 1977; Hall & Paul 1999). In short, it provides them with what Henry Kissinger called the ‘right to rule’ (Kissinger 1957/73).


b. A Norm-Governed World Order

Many countries adopt a ‘norm entrepreneur’ stance to shape the international system to their advantage as, in today’s interdependent world society, norms’ soft power constitutes the principal currency of everyday interactions. Antonio Gramsci had grasped the importance of norms in the domestic sphere; the same logic prevails henceforth more and more on the scale of international society. As observed a Canadian foreign policy advisor, “on a day-to-day basis and leaving out the need to project hard power during crises the contemporary foreign policy agenda…runs on soft power” (Potter 2002). Norms govern almost all areas of international activities and states comply with them on a daily basis. Many states of different levels of power rely increasingly on norms to sustain their position and acquire more leverage in political and economic domains.

Yet it appears for the moment that the international normative structure is created by and serves the most powerful countries, demonstrating that hard and soft power mutually reinforce each other Finnemore 1996). The United States (Strange 1987, 1988; Holsti 1992; Mastanundo 1999) and European countries (Paul 1998; Holsti 1992) indeed accord a growing importance to norm entrepreneurship:

· Far from being strictly limited to purely physical strength, U.S. global leadership has a significant normative dimension. It is sufficient to consider the following list of questions to be fully convinced of that fact: “Whose agenda is discussed? Which set of rules is in place? Who set those rules? Who decides if the playing field is fair ? Who chooses the judges? Whose norms are dominant? Which language is used for debate and negotiation?” (Holsti 1992, 30). For the United States, normpolitik has become a crucial element of its world leadership, assuring the U.S. a central role in the complex networks of interdependence and indirect control on international politics as ‘the hub controls the spokes’ (Nye 2002). For a long time now, this method has permitted the US to keep order in the world and retard its decline despite a relative dissipation or weakening of its material dominance (Keohane 1985). However, America is hardly the only norm entrepreneur in international society.

· Other ‘core states’ do not doubt that norms have today become the touchstone of legitimacy and an essential political instrument in the politics of the twenty-first century. It has been emphasised that “the core democracies observe and champion a set of norms that flow from their ideals and buttress their interests” (U.S. Institute for National Strategic Studies 1998). Norms promoted by them not only reflect their ideals but also support their leadership. Like other middle powers, Canada has used norm’s soft power and moral suasion to impose itself as a leader in the domain of international humanitarian law but also to remain a significant player on the multilateral scene (Knight 2001).  According to French leaders too, “you need much more than the use of force to dominate the world today…true power is now what creates order and understanding (France - Villepin 2002). With the growing number of partners and increasing interaction brought about by interdependence,  it seems as though the old powers of the centre depend on the authority and influence that procure them these dominant norms to educate, socialise and co-opt younger nations on the periphery, as they once did in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the cases of the United States and Japan. Since September 11th, 2001, the necessity of establishing a rule-based world order agreed upon by all is of pressing urgency (Leonard 2002).

·   The rising powers, for their part, have decided to question anew the established normative order. The Arab or Islamic states, China, and even Russia consider that the present system is to their disadvantage. They have resolved to promote their own norms in order to gain a better foothold on the international scene.  


b. Classes of Norms and the Special Role of Culture

Four major categories of norms affect the international security environment: security, economic, cultural and, to a lesser extend, environmental. These broadly shared normative rules not only reflect the interests of those states that have institutionalised them initially but are also ‘substantially made for them’ (Bull 1984, 217).

· Amongst the most influential norms are those that govern the functioning of the international economy: freedom of commerce, law of the sea, access to resources, environmental protection, the terms of open multilateral trading, and cooperation in addressing transnational problems (U.S. Institute for National Strategic Studies 1998, chapter I). Together they form the liberal economic system sustained by powerful institutions such as GATT-WTO, IMF or IBRD-World Bank. They provide considerable control over outcomes to the core states that have institutionalised them - without necessarily working against the economies of peripheral nations as has been suggested by the ‘dependancia’ school of thought (Wallerstein 1988; Amin 1974; Chase-Dunn 1981). We have too often tendency “to think of interdependence only in terms of joint gains, that is, positive-sum situations in which everyone benefits and everyone is better off. Failure to pay attention to the inequality of benefits and the conflicts that arise over the distribution of relative gains causes such analysts to miss the political aspects of interdependence” (Nye 1993, 162). By employing these norms and these institutions, economic leaders such as the United States or Europe successfully maintain their influence over the economic world order without resorting to military power and this in an era in which these nations have suffered a relative decline in their power in real terms (Keohane 1985).

· No less important is the set of norms governing the international security system: non-aggression, the right of collective self-defence, the laws of war, arms control, peaceful settlement of disputes, antiterrorism covenants, respect for the authority of the UN Security Council, and respect for other instruments and institutions that affect directly whether and how conflicts occur (U.S. Institute for National Strategic Studies 1998). The security system presently in place offers another good example, to the profit of the states who originated the system, of governance without the use of force. This system permits especially the group of nuclear states to maintain their advantage by limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons with the help of a number of institutions and discriminatory norms such as the NPT, the CTBT or the IAEA. For instance, the ‘perpetual’ article IX of the CTBT discriminates in favour of the NWS by restraining horizontal proliferation while allowing vertical proliferation for states which had manufactured and exploded a device prior to Jan 1 1967. These norms constitute a source of moral legitimacy that provide justification before the eyes of the international community and public opinion for sanctions or direct intervention such as that in 2003 in Iraq.  While they are not always observed - Iraq, Iran, Korea but also United States are suspected of avoiding them regularly - these norms are well-entrenched and increasingly honoured (U.S. Institute for National Strategic Studies 1998).

· Progressively more important are the cultural norms that affect international relations in an indirect way by determining the social organization of nations. Examples include: democracy, human rights, the rights of women and children, individual liberties, the free flow of information, hygiene and health standards, educational curricula , minority linguistic rights, freedom of the press, mass consumption models, openness and cultural exchange, leisure activities and other tenets of modern - some would say western - civil societies.  These norms depend on a certain number of western principles and values around which state expectations increasingly converge around the globe. S. Chubin notes in this regards that these values, and the norms that have been derived from them, are largely, ‘ritualistically admired or accepted’ in different societies (Chubin 1993, 90). It is notable that the universal propagation of these values and norms and their near-universal acceptance have been greatly accelerated by the development of global telecommunications themselves regulated by institutions such as INTELSAT largely dominated by western countries. What we have called the system of new telecommunication and information technology (NTIC) carries to a great degree  the dominant system of cultural values and norms (Krasner 1991).  It is precisely for this reason that southern nations are increasingly demanding participation in the establishment of a New Info Order.



In conclusion, it is fitting to ask ourselves what distinguishes cultural norms from other categories of norms. How are cultural norms effects different from those norms regulating economic or security affairs? Is it possible that the influence of cultural norms extends beyond simple economic or military regulatory rules because they affect not merely the interests of governments but also the perceptions, preferences, tastes and opinion of their populations? In this case, would it be possible that the propagation of cultural norms carries more profound influence than that carried by rules governing economic affairs or military non-proliferation? It seems plausible that in being able to modify the perception of a foreign public and in making certain values ‘legitimate in their eyes’, it is easier to engage partner governments and less likely to provoke resistance to a state’s wishes (Nye, 1990, 33).  Will culture then become a source of power comparable to military or economic might? In any case, everything seems to suggest that the days are past when leaders could manage economic, security and cultural policies one at a time; one of the biggest changes in world politics over the last few years has been the necessity of dealing with them simultaneously with an increasing place devoted to cultural factors (U.S. Grossman 2002). With deepened interdependence, “there are no more simple solutions for managing increasing complexity; time rushes on;  space is fragmenting and distance collapsing, while territories, strategic, economic and cultural, are superimposed one upon another without  obscuring those beneath” (France - Villepin 2002). Nevertheless, the theory of interdependence does not provide a particularly conclusive explanation of the status of cultural norms. The idea of normpolitik is worthwhile but does not offer possibility of distinguishing between different classes of norms. The theory remains overly general. At the most, theories of interdependence and normpolitik suggest that culture, unlike economic of military power, generates not only interconnection but also convergence, affecting nations at their hearts, in their very identities. To know more, we must investigate the notion of cultural globalisation that extends that of interdependence and kulturpolitik as a particular form of normpolitik.

It is also important to say that global interdependence paves the way for the development of a new type of foreign policy: mass diplomacy. Also known as public diplomacy, cyber-diplomacy or cultural diplomacy, mass diplomacy can be defined as a method of promoting national interests, not through traditional state- to- state diplomacy, but by educating and informing foreign populations and thereby influencing their governments. This soft diplomacy based on cultural norms, information and communication is bound to play a crucial role in tomorrow’s international relations. It certainly constitutes one of the most relevant to turn the complex machinery of interdependence into profit.    


Pierre Cyril Cyrus Teymour Pahlavi, McGill University pierre.pahlavi@mail.mcgill.ca

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