January 12, 2016
What is an international actor? The question was considered as trivial when the states were the only actors of the international system. But we are now in a new world in which states are no more the unique actors and even probably are not dominant actors we have to take into account non state actors.
The question could be: What is an actor? An actor is one who is acting on the international system, but also an actor is expected to act on the international arena. We have to take into account what is expected on the international arena. Now many kinds of actors are expected on the international arena. I mean of course multinational corporations, but also NGOs, but also transnational medias, and also all the individuals who are constituting the world by now, that’s to say about 7 billion people around the world. All of us we are international actors because we are consuming, because we are watching international TV, because we are travelling, because we are surfing on Internet and so one.
So we have to understand what is at stake when we are acting as international actors on the arena. We are probably, creating several billions of interactions on the international arena, and in social science it’s very difficult to analysis and to understand all these new kinds of actions which are not promoted by states but by individuals. That’s why, with these new kinds of actors, we have to take into account four levels of analysis. The first one would be an international civil society which is more and more taking place, that’s to say all these exchanges which are initiated both by individual actors but also by organized actors, but organized non state actors. The second will be an international public space. If I take the word which has been coined by Habermas, the famous German philosopher. That’s to say more and more there is a kind of international debate which takes place with an emerging international public opinion with an emerging debate which is gathering all the kinds of actors playing in the international arena. The third level will be the criminalization of the international arena.
The more actors are diversified the more criminalization takes place as one of the major flows on the international relations. And there is a kind of interplaying between international political actors and mafia and all the criminal networks which are playing on this international arena. This interplaying is something probably new and more and more important, it is at stake now when we consider the main events on the political sphere of international relations. And the fourth one will be ethnicization of the world. If now states have no more the exclusivity of international affairs, it means that identity entrepreneurs play a very important role on the international arena interplaying with the other actors and giving to the ethnic issue an important role in structuring the political debate, the international debate.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, what does it mean non state actors? I will propose a definition, I rarely do that, but I think that this concept is so important now that you have to agree on a very clear definition. I will say that non state actors are all kinds of actors who deliberately or not are active inside the international arena by overcoming or even ignoring nation state sovereignty, border lines, and who try to be free of any kinds of control, and especially of political control. That’s to say that, we are facing a new dynamic in international arena. Why a new dynamic? Because these non state actors are overcoming distance, that’s to say that territory is less and less meaningful, is less and less constraining.
And with the increasing mass communication, interplaying between non state actors is more and more emancipated from the territorial support, and remember that territorial support was one of the main components of the traditional nation-state and is a condition, a clear condition, of national sovereignty. So we have to put in perspective these two trends, in one hand this abolition of distance and territory, in the second hand this new kind of interaction between these more and more numerous non state actors. The second change is something very important, it’s what Karl Deutsch coined as social mobilisation. That’s to say social mobilisation is the process by which individuals get emancipated from the traditional communities. Urbanization, education but also increasing influences of media are creating this social mobilization. You understand that this social mobilization is more and more transnational as it is supported by media, international transnational medias and also by these new agents like NGOs. And the third consequence is probably a decreasing capacity of states, that’s why probably politics is now in crisis with this new order in which non state actors have deprived states from its monopoly of legitimate violence. That’s to say that there is a new kind of international violence which is no more a legitimate violence but which is jeopardizing the international stability and the international peace.
These are transnational actors. We will say that these transnational actors have relations between each other, that’s why we will coin this new concept of transnational relations. And you understand that transnational relation is different from international relation. That’s why I would even suggest to move to inter social relation which is getting more and more important and which is marginalizing the concept of international and interstate relations. The second concept, that has been coined and especially by James Rosenau, is the concept of transnational flows. That’s to say when these relations are permanent, when it’s reproducing itself, it means that there are flows and these flows are shaping, structuring the new world order much more than the interstate power competition.
And, at last, these transformations result in coining this very important concept of transnational network, transnational network shed the light on the informal dimension of these transnational relations. What is a network? A network is the strengths of weak ties. The formula has been coined by Mark Granovetter, the famous sociologist Granovetter, who has put the finger on something very important, that’s to say we are now in a world in which weak ties, informal ties, are much more important than institutional, and formal and visible ties. We can find many examples of these transnational networks, of this invisible interactions between actors. The most famous will be for instance alumni of great universities. If you take into account for example the MIT network, you will observe that the main economic actors around the world are coming from MIT and they were there interplaying and they are still now interplaying. And they are also socialised by the main culture, by the main training, by the main professors, and sometimes these professors are getting a new job in the economic affairs in the world. Of course, you won’t find among this elite actors of African or even Latin American states. So, these transnational networks are shaping, structuring, giving sense to this new world much more than the traditional powers or the military powers. Now you have two kinds of transnational actors.
The first would be what I will call aggregated actors that to say individuals who are aggregated for creating a transnational flows as we defined it. For instance, investors but also migrants are considered as aggregated transnational actors, non-organized but the social reality is resulting from their individual initiatives. And I will discriminate between these aggregated transnational actors and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are then defined according to the Weberian vision as an organized group which is directed with very precise goals and with a clear strategy. Among these entrepreneurs we can find of course multinational corporations but also NGOs but also some religious actors. The Roman Catholic Church is an entrepreneur according to the Weberian definition, but also we can consider that transnational media are transnational entrepreneurs. So this is the global vision of transnational actors. Now we will move to the description of some of them.Carolina García Hervás