System and Process in International Politics

System and Process in International Politics

System and Process in International Politics

System and Process in International Politics


First published in 1957, System and Process combines systems, game, and cybernetic concepts in its theoretical formulations. Since its publication, serious research in international relations has needed to respond to the bold hypotheses that matched equilibrial rules with type of system. Kaplan's life-long interest in finding an objective basis for moral judgments had its scholarly origins in an appendix of this classical book, which incorporated his understanding of philosophy and, in particular, the philosophy of science. A second appendix on 'The Mechanisms of Regulation' explored the cybernetic and recursive nature of knowing.


Within the scholarly fraternity the student of international politics has had to endure in the last generation a variety of indignities. He has been told variously that he is an unscholarly peddler of current events, a panderer to the short-run requirements of a harassed bureaucracy, and the purveyor of a miscellany of data about world affairs which is unformed by any accepted body of international political theory. It is the last of these characterisations which makes him most uncomfortable. There is no consensus as to the nature of the theory which is said to be in short supply, but there is a chorus of unanimity that we need more of it. Professor Kaplan's book will help to make clearer what it is that we are said to need so much, whether this clarification arises from agreement or disagreement with his formulation of a theory of international politics.

Outside the universities the social scientist concerned with problems of war and peace has a different problem. Perhaps too much is expected of him. Occasionally one hears a call for a Manhattan Project for peace, in which the social scientist would be given funds and asked to utilise his intellectual resources on a scale comparable to that of the physical scientist in World War II. Of course, nothing that happened at Los Alamos or Alamogordo proves anything at all about the social scientist's capacity to achieve results of comparable significance.

It was more than three decades after Albert Einstein's speculations about the relation of mass to energy led him to formulate the equation E = MC that the awesome application of this insight was demonstrated to the world at Hiroshima. In the social sciences, too, theoretical insights and empirical testing of those insights must precede practical application. Certainly, not every social scientist ought to be working directly on such momentous problems of public policy as are posed by the prospect of two-way thermonuclear war, the implacable hostility of the superpowers in the era of the cold war, and the unfulfilled demands of the newly awakened peoples of Asia and Africa. The cure for the disease is not always to be found at the site of the epidemic. It is this type of consideration which provides justification, if any is needed, for System and Process in International Politics.

Social scientists have, with the generous support of our great American foundations, almost automatically responded to the new situation created by America's compulsory participation in a world-wide state system by extending their research . . .

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