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Inter-Nation Influence: A Formal Model*

  • J. David Singer (a1)

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Students of international politics often state that power is to us what money is to the economist: the medium via which transactions are observed and measured. Further, there seems to be a solid consensus that power is a useful concept only in its relative sense; such objective measures as military manpower, technological level, and gross national product are viewed as helpful, but incomplete, indices. The concept does not come to life except as it is observed in action, and that action can be found only when national power is brought into play by nations engaged in the process of influencing one another. Until that occurs, we have no operational indices of power, defined here as the capacity to influence. In this paper, then, my purpose is to seek a clarification of the concept of power by the presentation of a formal, analytic model of bilateral inter-nation influence.

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This paper was originally prepared for the International Studies Division of the Institute for Defense Analyses, and is now released for publication. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Institute, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, or the Department of Defense. The author wishes to thank Caxton C. Foster for his assistance both at the conceptual and the graphic level, and Lloyd Jensen for help in surveying the literature on social power.

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1 The worlds of the diplomatic past and the experimental present may both be called analogous to that of the diplomatic present in that neither is an exact replication, yet each has a number of important similarities to it. In some respects, one might even find that the small group experiment provides a closer replication of the present international system than does the international system of the 18th or 19th centuries. See Singer, J. David, “The Relevance of the Behavioral Sciences to the Study of International Relations,” Behavioral Science, Vol. 6 (10 1961), pp. 324-35.

2 Throughout this paper, we will often use the singular personal pronoun to denote a nation, but it will always be understood that the nation is not a person and is not capable of perceiving, predicting, and preferring in the literal psychological sense. Thus all designations will, unless otherwise specified, refer to those who act for and on behalf of, the nation: the foreign policy decision makers. We are not, however, accepting the proposition of the “methodological individualists,” who deny the empirical existence or conceptual legitimacy of the group or nation. Their point of view is articulated in Allport, Floyd H., Social Psychology (Boston, 1924), while two persuasive refutations are Nagel, Ernest, The Structure of Science (New York, 1961) and Warriner, Charles K., “Groups are Real: A Reaffirmation,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 21 (10 1956), pp. 549-54.

On the choice of the nation-as-actor, see Wolfers, Arnold, “The Actors in International Politics,” in Fox, W. T. R. (ed.) Theoretical Aspects of International Relations (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1959) and Singer, J. David, “The Level of Analysis Problem in International Relations,” World Politics Vol. 14 (10 1961), pp. 7792.

3 This definition is tentatively employed in Dahl, Robert A., “The Concept of Power,” Behavioral Science, Vol. II (07 1957) pp. 201-15; Dahl tends to use “power” and “influence” interchangeably. The emphasis on change or modification is also retained by French, John R. P. and Raven, Bertram, “The Bases of Social Power,” in Cartwright, Dorwin (ed.) Studies in Social Power (Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, 1959) pp. 150-67.

4 We will use this word in its generic sense, rather than in the various specialized ways found in such psychological theories as conditioning, learning, and S-R.

5 “Power” may be measured in a multitude of ways: relative or absolute, perceived or objective, potential or present; and many criteria may be used in making such measurements. Furthermore, the distinction between “fate control” and “behavior control” made by Thibaut, John W. and Kelley, Harold H. in The Social Psychology of Groups (New York, 1959) is quite relevant here. Thus, the U. S. certainly has the power to decide the ultimate fate of Cuba, for example, but lacks the power to exercise effective and continuing control over Cuba's day-to-day behavior.

6 See Waltz, Kenneth N., Man, the State, and War (New York, Columbia University Press, 1959) and the review article based on it: Singer, J. David, “International Conflict: Three Levels of Analysis,” World Politics, Vol. 12 (04 1960), pp. 453-61.

7 See Edwards, Ward, “Utility and Subjective Probability: Their Interaction and Variance Preferences,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 6 (03 1962), pp. 4251.

8 Among the outcomes to be considered are those which might impinge on the domestic setting or upon one's allies or any Nth powers.

9 One quite successful attempt has been made to draw an analytic distinction between punishment and denial, but it seems less relevant here. In Deterrence by Denial and Punishment (Princeton, Center of International Studies, 1959) and in Deterrence and Defense (Princeton University Press, 1961) Glenn Snyder refers to retaliation as punishment, while denial refers to the costs inflicted upon B (the deterree who was not deterred) while trying to gain his military objective.

10 Some suggestive versions of such a technique are advocated in Snyder, Richard C. and Robinson, James A., National and International Decision-Making (New York: Institute for International Order, 1960), pp. 3034.

11 Comfort, Alex, Authority and Delinquency in the Modern State (London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1950), p. 74.

12 Smock, Charles D., “The Relationship Between Test Anxiety, Threat-Expectancy, and Recognition Thresholds for Words,” Journal of Personality, Vol. 25 (1956), pp. 191201.

13 Pally, Sidney, “Cognitive Rigidity as a Function of Threat,” Journal of Personality, Vol. 23 (1955), pp. 346-55.

14 Murphy, Robert E., “Effects of Threat of Shock, Distraction and Task Design on Performance,” Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol. 58 (1959), pp. 134141.

15 Landfield, Alvin, “Self-predictive Orientation and the Movement Interpretation of Threat,” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol. 51 (1955), pp. 434-38.

16 French, John R. P. and Raven, Bertram, “The Bases of Social Power,” in Cartwright, Dorwin (ed.), Studies in Social Power (Ann Arbor, Institute for Social Research, 1959).

17 Lanzetta, John T., “Group Behavior Under Stress,” Human Relations, Vol. 8 (1955), pp. 2952.

18 For example, Pepitone, Albert and Kleiner, Robert, “The Effects of Threat and Frustration on Group Cohesiveness,” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol. 54 (1957), pp. 192-99.

19 Katz, Daniel, “The Functional Approach to the Study of Attitudes,” Public Opinion Quarterly Vol. 24 (1960), pp. 163204. Note that this does not preclude the use of influence by ambiguity; it calls for clarity regarding A's preferences but permits ambiguity regarding A's behavior if B does not comply. Highly suggestive in this regard is Schelling, Thomas C., “The Threat That Leaves Something to Chance,” in The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1960).

* This paper was originally prepared for the International Studies Division of the Institute for Defense Analyses, and is now released for publication. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Institute, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, or the Department of Defense. The author wishes to thank Caxton C. Foster for his assistance both at the conceptual and the graphic level, and Lloyd Jensen for help in surveying the literature on social power.

Inter-Nation Influence: A Formal Model*

  • J. David Singer (a1)

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