World affairs in three dimensions

06.04.2016 |

by Ralph Pettman


In this lesson, you’ll learn how there are three dimensions to world affairsstrategic, economic, and civicand what these involve. However, first of all, you might ask, “Where’s politics in all this?” Politics is about getting your own way, either individually or socially. As such, there’s politicking in families, firms, and states (and between them). Politics is part of all three of the dimensions I just described. This means (to give the three aspects their full labels) that world affairs have politico-strategic, politico-economic, and politico-civic dimensions.

The strategic dimension is where you find the world’s diplomatic and military affairs. It’s the state-making dimensionthe one represented by nearly every map of the world that hangs on the classroom wall. It’s the one that shows 200 or so countries with their clearly-defined borders, capital cities, and other main towns. It’s the map of the global military balance, consular relations, international laws and organizations, and all forms of global governance (like the regional alliances that politicians make).

The economic dimension is to some extent hidden by the strategic one. It’s the market-making dimension. It’s situated behind the dimension containing the world’s countries. It’s also unusual to see it publicly displayed. It’s a map of global production chains and consumption patterns, the world’s main trade routes, and investment networks. It’s a map of ports, financial centers, and the links between them. It’s just as important as the strategic aspect of world affairs, but for historical reasons, it doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.

The civic dimension is even harder to see, since it’s hidden by both the economic and strategic areas. It’s the self-making dimensiona map of the world’s ethnic identities or nations (there’s about 7,000 of these). It’s also a map of the world’s seven billion or so separate individuals. And finally, it’s a map of the nearly 10,000 international social movements whose members try to help others worldwide. The civic dimension is just as important as the others, but for historical reasons, it too is not so well known.

Highlighting three dimensions doesn’t mean world affairs falls into these categories in an orderly way. Creating conceptual boxes like these and plonking them down onto such a complex subject is like stuffing jellyfish into pigeonholes. They’re a start, though, since they reveal aspects that tend to be overlooked.

In the next lesson, you’ll learn about the significance of assumptions about human naturehow people are seen as either bad, calculating, or good.


Recommended book

“World Order” by Henry Kissinger


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