The article is devoted to tendencies of transnational actors development in the XXI century. The author shows that their activity has intensified, they have involved a large number of people and covered all areas. Non-state actors have begun to form various types of partnerships: with states and with each other. Also the resource base of transnational actors has been expanded. They actively use information and analytical resources. In the analysis of contemporary issues of world politics one must take into account the attitudes, interests etc. of various transnational actors.
More than 40 years have passed since R. Cohen and J. Nye presented the idea of transnational non-governmental actors (TNA) operating on the global scene. They focused attention of researchers on the very thesis of significance of non-governmental actors for international politics. Some argued that business transactions stretched outside national borders throughout the history, and the role of cities has been known since the ancient times, suffice it to recall the Hanseatic League or the medieval Venice or Genoa. But in the late 20th - early 21st century the scope of operations of non-governmental actors and, chiefly, qualitative enhancement of the political element of their work acquired paramount importance. Besides, in the words of Th. Risse, the concept of transnational relations itself implies that the world system consists of nation states and societal actors inside them, which makes practically senseless the argument about transnational actors of the imperial or medieval periods of history.
Later on R. Cohen and J. Nye with their idea of non-governmental actors activity prompted many researchers to begin a direct analysis of their international operations.
It is important to note that we always imply a generalized character and define an actor of international politics as a subject reflecting its political role and actively and tangibly influencing international political processes and trends of global political development. Yet far from all states perform this function in spite of the fact that a state is doubtlessly the leading actor in the contemporary global political system. Besides, international political activity of a state is not preset once and for all but may change throughout the history. This is well proven by a number of history studies. One may state the same about transnational non-governmental actors:
- far from all international non-governmental organizations or transnational non-governmental actors enjoy political influence or establish themselves as actors of international politics;
- the degree of their influence, resources and other features of a concrete actor may vary along its development.
The problem that immediately emerges, when R. Cohen and J. Nye reviewed non-governmental entities as actors, is their definition. First of all, the governmental or non-governmental belonging of a particular actor is not obvious. Various transnational non-governmental actors may have close bonds with governments: receive financial support via grants, have governmental representatives in their bodies and so on. "Hybrids", structures of both governmental and non-governmental nature, have been frequently formed. The question of belonging of interstate organizations to the category of governmental entities also causes plenty of debate. For instance, Ch. Kegley and W. Wittkopf define them as governmental actors without any reservations. Other authors suggest they should be attributed to the category of non-governmental entities. C. Archer cites the following argument to support this standpoint:
- Some interstate organizations admit non-sovereign territories as their members (e.g. the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) or the World Meteorological Organization (WMO);
- Some interstate organizations have structures incompatible with non-governmental organizations;
- Interstate organizations are established by the decision of executive authorities. Other power branches take no part in that.
The question if global cities or intrastate regions are governmental entities has not been widely discussed. At the same time, the answer is not that obvious. For example, leading researcher of global cities S. Sassen believes they act as a sort of mediators between business and nation states. At the same time, global cities and intrastate regions are a part of a nation state no matter how "cosmopolitan" they might be. Anyway, it is a common thing that all intergovernmental organizations, "clubs" of states (G8 or G20), intrastate regions and global cities:
- either represent a part of a state (intrastate regions, global cities); or
- are formed by a state (intergovernmental organizations, "clubs"). They obviously have a state element or aspect.
Secondly, it is not apparent who may be attributed to the category of actors. If actors are defined as entities that have active influence on international political processes, their range appears to be very broad. Besides, the degree of their influence is always far from being obvious. Therefore, some authors limit the category of non-governmental actors to the traditional list (non-governmental organizations, transnational non-governmental actors), while others suggest a longer list. The second approach seems to be more expedient, because it gives a more flexible view of the changeable reality and the international entities that have just started to acquire significant influence on world politics, i.e. strive to become actors.
Another problem is the vast diversity of non-governmental actors. No matter how much states may differ from each other, they still have "the common denominator" - their sovereignty - but non-governmental actors have none. The lack of "a common denominator" for contemporary transnational actors does not mean they are beyond comparison in the capacity of international politics actors. However, this comparison may have several parameters. An attempt to compare non-governmental actors by various parameters has been made by Th. Risse. He put resources of influence on international politics on top of the list and indicated that states possessed political resources, in the first turn, while transnational non-governmental actors possessed economic and financial resources.
Resources of states are splitting in the contemporary world. Not only military might but also economic and socio-humanitarian dimensions linked with "soft force" are becoming significant. The same is happening to resources of other actors in the 21st century. In fact, there are two opposite trends. Splitting resources lead to specialization of actors, but, simultaneously, transnational non-governmental actors are trying to minimize risks from their possible loss of resource specialization with resource diversification and influence on others through a variety of forms and mechanisms. This is why transnational non-governmental actors are careful about their image, render financial support to non-governmental organizations and establish relationships with state entities, etc.
On the whole, economic and financial parameters remain the chief resource for business entities. At the same time, the resource of many non-governmental organizations is the "field" information or certain knowledge or skills (such as the International Committee of Red Cross and Doctors without Borders possess medical knowledge and skills, which are extremely useful in a conflict zone), as well as confidence of the population.
Interestingly, information resource from "non-professionals" has become important to the media over the recent years. The media used to broaden the network of its correspondents in the past, now it actively uses reports of not only professional journalists but also eyewitnesses that record an event with their cell phones, bloggers, comments from registered users on a website and so on.
There is another example of use of information and analytical resources of non-governmental actors. Goldman & Saсhs analyst G. O`Neil distinguished a group of rapidly developing economies - Brazil, Russia, China and India (BRIC) - in 2001. At that time, those countries did not regard themselves as a group. Coordination of their activity began later and the group took an organizational and political shape. It held meetings and invited South Africa to join in. It is hard to predict further development of BRICS or its future but the very fact of influence of a non-governmental actor on political processes is significant. The non-governmental commercial entity, Goldman & Saсhs, actually acted like a political actor and "created" an interstate union. In this sense rating agencies may be dubbed a new, emerging actor of international politics. Interestingly, the business entity used an information and analytical resource rather than economic or financial.
The resource of intrastate regions and global cities derives, to a large degree, from the global spread of industrial, educational, scientific, financial and other entities and resources and, at the same time, their overlapping on small territories. In this connection S. Sassen stressed that global cities displayed the significance of organizational and managerial resource for the contemporary world.
In turn, O.E. Andersson and his colleagues pointed that economic specialization and inter-branch economic hubs opened up new vistas for territories and became kind of "gateways" to a globalized world. These territories are developing very dynamically. While joining the globalized world, cities and intrastate regions frequently wish to "single out" themselves, make themselves more attractive and obtain competitive advantages.
Finally, speaking of resources, it must be noted that some non-governmental actors have been actively using mobilization resources. A good example is the movement of anti-globalists and alter-globalists. The mobilization resource of non-governmental actors was particularly obvious in social network in the period of Arab revolutions of 2011-2012. True, mobilization took place on the national and regional levels rather than global. But still, the events in the Arab world showed that transnational non-governmental actors possessed mobilization resources and knew how to use them.
Goals of non-governmental actors may vary substantially. Primary objectives may be economic and financial (in the case of business entities), humanitarian (in the case of certain non-governmental organizations), comprehensive (in the case of intrastate regions) and so on.
States regularly act on the premise of their "eternal existence" (i.e. they have no time limit), but other actors may preset their "existence timeframe". For instance, this is possible for projects of business entities or non-governmental organizations.
The internal structure of non-governmental actors is another parameter to compare. It is important to understand the decision making process or, actually, the behavior of particular actors on the global scene. The so-called "power vertical" and horizontal relations are always characteristic of states, to some degree. Th. Risse notes that non-governmental actors have both types of relations - vertical and horizontal. Some business entities may have predominantly vertical structure, while others may be structured predominantly horizontally. The same is applicable to non-governmental organizations. Dominance of vertical relations speeds up the making and implementation of decisions, but these decisions are prone to a substantial degree of subjectivity. Horizontal relations require lengthy coordination but take a better account of diverse interests. This means the decisions will be better understood and executed by the participants.
An interest in network entities with minimal vertical relations grew in the 21st century. It was mainly rooted in Al Qaeda terror attacks. First U.S. and then Russian researchers presented works on network organizations. Network organizations themselves are neither new nor more "progressive" international phenomenon, no matter what is claimed. Insurgent movements have often used the network organization principle. The surge in communication and information technologies gave a fresh impetus to network organizations and essentially new possibilities for their development, and the special significance and influence were gained by the so-called SPIN-structures (segmented, polycentric, ideologically integrated network). These are kinds of cell structures with numerous leaders. Groups (but far from all of them) may unite to accomplish particular missions and then disunite again. Next time unification is possible between other groups and so on. As a result, the organization itself becomes a resource used by actors.
Generally, there are a number of new and important aspects in the development of transnational actors in the 21st century. Not only a variety of non-governmental actors have come to the world scene, as J. Nye and R. Cohen indicated in the 1970s, but also the range of actors, who tangibly influence international politics and determine trends of its development, has broadened. Alongside transnational business entities and non-governmental organizations, it includes media outlets, religious organizations and terrorist organizations, primarily Al Qaeda.
The scale of trans-nationalization is enormous. There has been over 77,000 transnational corporations in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. Not only big business is trans-nationalizing itself.
At present, approximately a third of small and medium companies in the United States and every seventh small and medium company in Japan operate on the transnational levels. They are sufficiently flexible entities, network structures to a degree, and they are well adjusted to local conditions. Whenever we speak about mounting trans-nationalization of business, we should consider an important regional factor. A number of African states with GDP per capita less than $100 simply have nothing to offer not only outside the national borders but also outside of particular towns. But this is the proof to another trend: splitting in states and, often, in regions.
Meanwhile, transnational actors, first of all, continue to intensify their global operations and spread into all regions and all spheres of international politics - security, the economy and socio-humanitarian affairs. Secondly, the earlier trend of operation of actors from regions of "global North" towards regions of "global South" is sometimes reversed nowadays (e.g. the Al-Jazeera television channel, which has been broadcasting its programs in English, in addition to Arabic, since 2003 and nowadays acts as a globally oriented media outlet).
International non-governmental organizations are developing; their numbers in the contemporary world are estimated from 6,000 to 30, 000. Different estimates result from the complexity of international operations of non-governmental organizations and use of various estimate criteria. Same as business, non-governmental organizations involve huge numbers of people in international operations. As a result, there are other examples of trans-nationalization, such as mobility of the population, free movement across national borders, engagement of practically all countries and regions in transnational relations and so on. Trans-nationalization leads to mutual dependence through "links" between various centers and complex network structures of interaction.
The process of trans-nationalization is being accompanied with further hybridization of actors. Partnerships of various kinds are being formed, such as between governments and business, non-governmental organizations and governments, business and non-governmental organizations, etc. Simultaneously, functions of actors become less specific. Many private defense companies have been actively engaged into the security sphere. For instance, during the U.S. military campaign in Iraq in 2003, each tenth U.S. participant was a representative of private security companies. They handled logistics, personnel training and other matters.
At the same time, the government sometimes not just regulates the economy but also becomes an actor. This path was taken by Iceland, which had been buying European companies and accumulating debts before the crisis of 2008. As a result the country found itself on the brink of a default. As regard to private companies, there are mechanisms restricting the risky conduct, but it is difficult to apply such mechanisms automatically to states.
There is another example. Involvement of business in the social sphere is growing, and that is happening not only to the company personnel (such practices have a long history) but also on the global scale. The proof is a global treaty under the UN aegis, under which business undertakes a number of social commitments in fighting corruption, preserving the environment, etc.
On the whole, trans-nationalization processes related to the broadening and intensification of activity of transnational non-governmental actors have rocketed lately. To a large extent, that happened because of the emergence of new information and communication technologies, which simplify and speed up the interaction. A brand new stage of the scientific and technological revolution had an enormous effect on the political development of the world, similar with the effects of the industrial revolution in Europe that fostered the shift from the predominantly agrarian economy to the industrial type of development and, in the long run, strengthened capitalism.
The modern scientific and technological surge has not only essentially broadened the interaction between transnational actors and elevated them to the global level on a totally different scale but also made a strong to be a weak from the point of view of a possibility to inflict significant damage on others. The world encountered a situation in which a non-governmental actor can challenge a state and the world political system as a whole.
Thereby, transnational actors not only intensified their global operations in the beginning of the 21st century but also drastically complicated mechanisms and forms of their operations and broadened the area of their involvement. An analysis and account of their activity become obligatory to understand world political processes, foreign political projecting and elaboration of global governance issues.
Actors of Contemporary World Politics: Trends of Development.
Summary: The article is devoted to tendencies of transnational actors development in the XXI century. The author shows that their activity has intensified, they have involved a large number of people and covered all areas. Non-state actors have begun to form various types of partnerships: with states and with each other. Also the resource base of transnational actors has been expanded. They actively use information and analytical resources. In the analysis of contemporary issues of world politics one must take into account the attitudes, interests etc. of various transnational actors.
 Marina Mikhailovna Lebedeva - Dr. of Political Science, Prof., Head Department of World Political Processes of the MGIMO (U) of the MFA of Russia. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The article has been written within the research on the topic Global Transformation: Non-Governmental Actors in World Politics undertaken within the Federal Target Program Scientific and Pedagogical Personnel of Innovative Russia for 2009-2013 (Agreement No 8813 of November 15, 2012).
World politics, transnational actors, resources of influence, international organizations, global cities, TNC, rating agencies
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