What are state actors in international politics

World society?

Michael Zürn

To person

Dr. rer. soc., born 1959; Director of the Transnational Conflicts and International Institutions Department at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), Reichpietschufer 50, 10785 Berlin. [email protected]

Governance beyond the nation state raises a number of fundamental questions: Have the international institutions acquired a supranational character? What role do non-state actors play?


Anyone who asks about the most urgent political problems of our time will receive a list on which climate change, the financial crisis, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or the fight against terrorism are high. Their solution, however, is not expected from national states, but from international organizations: 54.9 percent of the German population expressed the opinion in 2005 that problems resulting from globalization could best be overcome at the international level. [1] The majority of the population ascribes international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the G8 or G20 or the United Nations (UN) even more real-political influence in world politics than the German government. From the importance that is now attached to governance beyond the nation state, a number of questions can be derived that aim at fundamental characteristics of the political order at the international level: Have the international organizations and institutions changed fundamentally in the course of globalization and a supranational one? Acquired character? And what role do non-state actors play in these processes?

Before the development of international relations after the Second World War can be traced in broad outline, some conceptual clarifications are required: International institutions refer to norms, rules, programs and the associated network of actors who influence the repertoire of action by states or non-state actors because they prohibit, enable or require something. In this use, the term institution includes both formal organizations with actor quality and norm-based, stabilized patterns of action. In contrast, the term organization refers exclusively to the quality of an institution's actors. Both international institutions and international organizations can be divided into two basic types: Interstate Institutions (such as the world trade regime) and organizations (such as the World Trade Organization) are established by states; transnational Institutions (such as the lex mercatoria) and organizations (e.g. Amnesty International), on the other hand, are supported by social actors and are referred to as transnational regimes or transnational non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Of all these international institutions, the process is social Denationalization (or globalization), which describes the surge in cross-border activities in areas as diverse as economy, environment, culture and science.

International relations after the Second World War were shaped by the Bretton Woods institutions and the prohibition of the use of force between states by the UN Charter as an institutional framework. The Bretton Woods institutions established under US leadership (the international trade regime GATT and the regimes regulating monetary and financial affairs) supported growth in the western industrialized nations and promoted the integration of the world economy for almost thirty years. These international institutions are based on the principle of embedded liberalism Underlying: It describes a free trade and border-opening basic orientation, which is, however, firmly embedded in national political systems, which can cushion the shocks and inequalities caused by the world market. [2] However, as a result of a surge of denationalization caused by deepening liberalization and accelerated technological development, national policies were less and less able to achieve the desired social results through national market interventions and social protection programs. The obvious paradox of post-war liberalism, then, is that it attacked its own institutional cushioning mechanisms.

In the security sector, the UN Charter for the first time stipulated a complete ban on the use of force between states in 1945. The only exceptions to this prohibition should be individual or collective self-defense in the event of an attack and the use of force for the purpose of safeguarding international peace by resolution of the UN Security Council. With the resolution of 1991 and the successful driving back of Iraq from Kuwait during the Second Gulf War in 1990/91, the prohibition of violence and intervention in international politics seemed to have finally been established and institutionally secured. In the course of a process of the Denationalization of security threats However, the importance of classic interstate wars, but also of internal civil wars, is decreasing relative to those that are often referred to as "new wars". This brings security threats to the fore, in which the boundaries between civil war, terrorism, state terror and crime and which have a decidedly transnational character come to the fore. [3] At the same time, a normative dynamic has developed, as a result of which human rights are now largely universal and there is increased pressure to act in the face of massive human rights violations for the established western political systems. [4] However, the logic of the interstate ban on violence, which is based on the status quo, hinders intervention in such new wars and the alleviation of the drastic human rights violations that are often associated with them. The ending of new wars from outside often requires the violation of the prohibition of intervention. Although these international institutions created after the Second World War aimed to protect the status quo and national sovereignty, the denationalization of security threats and the normative dynamics described above led to the undermining of post-war international institutions.