Systemic Boundaries

Systemic Boundaries

International Studies Association Workshop, March 5, 2016

Location: University of California-Riverside

Workshop Theme:

The proposed workshop will gather experts and students together to produce a new comprehensive specification of the spatial and temporal boundaries of international systems since the Bronze Age. This will produce a definitive understanding of the spatio-temporal boundaries of integration based on political/military interaction and on trade (globalization). It will also make it possible to compare whole systems in order to better answer questions about their similarities and differences and about the causes of long-term increases in the scale of cities and states. Growing awareness of Eurocentrism suggests the need to systematically compare the state system that emerged in Europe with international systems that existed in other regions and in the more distant past in order to test explanations of the causes of systemic changes and continuities. This requires the development of a set of consensual decision rules that will enable specification of the spatial and temporal boundaries of international systems in world regions since the early Bronze Age. What is needed is a systematic method for separating largely independent cases that can be the basis of comparative analysis and for determining when and where regional systems merged with one another to become the global system that we have today. Defining international systems as networks of polities that make war and alliances with one another, this workshop will formulate explicit decision rules for specifying the spatial and temporal extent of these important interaction networks starting from regions in which large cities first appeared. We will examine methods of determining both political/military interactions and trade interactions. Our workshop will produce an interdisciplinary consensual inventory of political/military networks and will develop a comparative method for accurately specifying degrees of interaction that constitute political/military and trade connectedness. We will also identify problematic cases in which spatial and temporal boundaries are in dispute and will consult with relevant area experts to help reduce uncertainties regarding bounding decisions in these cases.
         The project will study all those interstate systems that had at least one city with a population size of at least 20,000 residents. From these starting points the spatial boundaries of trade and warfare interaction networks will be estimated, thus producing a new list of warfare and trade networks that will serve as comparable cases for studies of whole international systems.
        This project will provide a systematic basis for sorting out the similarities and the differences across international systems in comparative perspective and will have important implications for the long-standing debates about East/West comparisons in the past and in the present. A better scientific comprehension of international systems in general will also have implications for understanding the evolution of geopolitical institutions and will have important implications for comprehending the emergent possibilities of a more multipolar global structure of authority in the twenty-first century.




Paper Abstracts

Useful Information


Project Summary: IROWS Working Paper # 100

Organizers of the Workshop:

 Christopher Chase-Dunn

 David Wilkinson

 Eugene.N. Anderson

 Hiroko Inoue

 Robert Denemark