How is Globalization Affecting the Key Actors in the International System?


How Is Globalization Affecting the Key Actors in the International System?


Globalization basically has no precise definition. In actual fact, globalization is in danger of becoming the truism of the modern era. Even so, the word globalization encompasses aspects of an extensive perception that there is a widening, deepening and accelerating of global interconnectedness in virtually every aspect of life (Rourke & Boyer, 2000).

At the core of globalization is a global shift; meaning, the globe being shaped by technological and economic forces, into a collective political and economic arena. The three main perspectives with regard to globalization include transformationalist, the sceptical, and the hyperglobalist viewpoints (Verma & Singh, 2010).

Hyperglobalists: those who hold this viewpoint maintain the world today is a more and more global world wherein countries are being subject to immense political as well as economic processes of transformation. These processes serve to erode and fragment countries and reduce the power of political leaders. In circumstances such as these ones, countries are becoming gradually more the ‘decision- takers’ rather than the ‘decision-makers’ (D’Anieri, 2011). The sceptical: those with this viewpoint strongly oppose the perspective of hyperglobalists and maintain that present-day global circumstances are not unprecedented.

According to them, although there has been an increase in social and international activity in the past few years, this has served to reinforce and enhance the powers of state in a number of domains (D’Anieri, 2011). Transformationalists: those who have this view maintain that globalization is producing novel economic, political as well as social situations that are actually altering powers of the state and the context wherein countries operate. Transformationalists do not try to envisage the outcome (Popa, 2014). They maintain that it is uncertain – but assert that politics is not just rooted in nation-states.


Globalization can suitably be seen as a process which exemplifies a change in the spatial organization of social transactions as well as relations, resulting in interregional or transcontinental flows and networks of activities, interaction as well as power (Kilic, 2015). Globalization is typified by the following: integration of international/global economic decision-making, integration of international economic decision-making, exponential growth in global fiscal transactions, increases in global Non-Governmental Organizations and Activities (NGOs), and strengthened political International Governmental Organizations (IGOs) (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2006).

Furthermore, globalization is typified by 4 kinds of change:

(i) globalization entails a stretching of economic, political and social activities across political regions, frontiers, and countries.

(ii) Globalization involves the intensification of interconnectedness as well as flows of migration, finance, investment, and trade.

(iii) The increasing intensity and extensity of international interconnectedness could be associated with an increase of international processes and interactions, as the development of global communication and transport systems increases the rate of the dissemination of information, capital, people, goods and ideas (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2006).

(iv) The rising intensity, extensity and rate of international interactions can be linked to their increasing impact such that the effects of distant occurrences could be very considerable in other places.

In fact, the most local events and occurrences could have considerable international implications. As such, the boundaries between international affairs and domestic matters can become more and more blurred. On the whole, globalization could be described as the broadening, increasing, accelerating and rising impact of international interconnectedness (Nederveen & Dasgupta, 2009). When globalization is thought of in this manner, then patterns of international relations and connections could be empirically mapped in all major domains of human activity.

Principal actors in international system

In the international system, the key actors include country government, international organizations, non-government organizations, multinational enterprises, inter-governmental organizations, and transnational corporations.

State Actors

On the modern world stage, the state is certainly one of the oldest and universally recognized actors. A State refers to a political unit which has sovereignty over a territory and the citizens in that territory (Gaur, 2015). Examples of states include sovereign country governments such as Italy, Canada, USA, UK, and Egypt among other countries.

Intergovernmental Organizations

Even as States are still the leading and main actors on the global stage, other important actors also exist such as intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). These are created by states, often through a treaty. The common IGOs are International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, International Criminal Police Organizations, and the World Bank Group. IGOs mainly do not have a way of enforcing state compliance with their decisions, perhaps except with the assistance of powerful nations (Kegley Jr. & Wittkopf, 2004).

Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)

Not every actor on the world’s stage has governmental roles. NGOs are essentially not-for-profit voluntary organizations which support public good or pursue it. These organizations are by and large involved in such things as economic development, issues pertaining to human rights, social welfare, as well as humanitarian assistance. Common non-governmental organizations are Greenpeace, the Amnesty International, Oxfam, and the Red Cross (Nederveen, & Dasgupta, 2009).

Multinational Enterprises

Theother significant grouping of actors comprises multinational enterprises (MNEs). These are for-profit organizations with presence in more than 1 country. It is notable that some multinational enterprises such as Sony, General Electric, General Motors, and Wal-mart have very large amounts of monetary resources that equal or exceed the resources of smaller nations like Burundi, Fiji and Somalia. It is notable that an MNE’s interests do not essentially coincide with those of the countries wherein they do business, or even the MNE’s home country (Seitan, 2014).

Sub-state actors or domestic actors

These comprise groups of persons who have the same interests not beyond the countries which can affect the foreign policy of the State. Examples include tobacco sector and automobile sector in USA. These sectors, in essence, have interests in the country’s foreign fiscal policy so that they may sell automobiles or cigarette products overseas and decrease importations of competing products produced overseas. They can influence the decisions made with regard to their country’s laws with the aim of protecting the rights of workers (Antonelli, & Fassio, 2016).

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 Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs)

These are organizations whose members comprise at least 3 countries. These organizations are formed by countries to resolve common problems that give them authority of making collective decisions to deal with various problems and issues on the international agenda (Francioni, Musso & Vardiabasis, 2013). In IGOs, the representatives of country governments assemble to talk about issues which are of shared interests to member countries. There are 2 major kinds of Intergovernmental Organizations: the global Intergovernmental Organizations and the regional Intergovernmental Organizations.

Global Intergovernmental Organizations are organizations with universal or nearly universal membership; this means that each country is a member such as the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, and the United Nations. Regional Intergovernmental Organizations are essentially a subset of countries as members basing upon a certain interest or region, for instance the European Union and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Kegley Jr. & Wittkopf, 2004).  

            There are several reasons that cause countries to create or join Intergovernmental Organization. As per liberal institutionalism, states form Intergovernmental Organizations since it is in their best interest to form. With Intergovernmental Organizations, some problems or issues could be resolved easily and cheaper than without them. In particular, liberal institutionalism is focused on collective problems, for instance the security dilemma, the appeal to execute competitive tariffs, as well as the difficulty in agreeing to protect the environment (Art & Jervis, 2011).

Countries should correspond with one another and oversee other countries in order to ensure that they are actually sticking to their commitments to acknowledge many of the problems. For instance, in the case of free trade, the World Trade Organization was created to coordinate the negotiation of tariffs and offer a mechanism for dispute resolution. Some of these tasks may be more complex and costly to implement without the Intergovernmental Organizations (Taylor et al., 2014).

There are times in which Intergovernmental Organizations are not only formed to resolve problems but also to offer a platform for discussing crucial issues (Art & Jervis, 2011). The United Nations General Assembly has no predetermined agenda but offers a forum for countries to talk about and debate matters that come up. Likewise, one of the goals of the World Trade Organization is to organize meetings at which countries would negotiate to resolve major issues (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2006).

Common Intergovernmental organizations and their functions

The United Nations: This is in charge of maintaining international peace and security. It also develops friendly relations amongst countries. It also seeks to accomplish international cooperation in resolving global problems. Furthermore, it functions as a center for harmonizing the actions of states. World Trade Organization: this organization manages disputes that arise from trading partners.

It also monitors trade in agriculture and manufacture commodities. ASEAN: this organization promotes regional economic, social and culture cooperation amongst the nations situated in the Southeast Asia region (Vadlamannati, 2015). NATO: this organization is a system of joint defense in which the member countries agree to collective defense in response to a military attack by a country that is not a NATO member state.

 Transnational Actors

These are actors which function below the state level. However, they function across the state borders. The 2 sorts of transnational actors include nongovernmental organizations and multinational/transnational corporations. Multinational/Transnational Corporations: Multinational corporations are firms which have headquarters in one country but do business extensively in other countries. Such companies are based in one country but have divisions that operate in other nations (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2006). Put simply, such a firm is a big organization operating globally in different nations at the same time, with fixed facilities and staff members in state. 

Types of multinational companies 

Industrial corporations manufacture their products in production facilities in different states and sell them to businesses and clients located in different states. The biggest multinational companies operate in the automobile, oil and electronic industries. Virtually every multinational corporation has its headquarters in the Group of Seven countries. Examples of these firms include Sony, Honda, Toyota, BP, BMW, General Motors, Wal-Mart, Total and Apple. Financial institutions like banks: these do business globally but have more restrictions compared to industrial corporations (Mehrabanfar, 2015). Examples include international airlines like Asiana Airlines, Virgin Atlantic; Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Sheraton; and services like McDonald’s fast-food chain.

Multinational corporations are becoming more and more powerful as autonomous actors. A lot of the industrial multinational corporations, Wal-Mart for instance, have yearly revenues of tens of billions of dollars annually. Multinational corporations can match most global companies in monetary resources as well as size. The biggest intergovernmental organizations, which is the United Nations, has an estimated two billion dollars annual revenue, which is really small in comparison to over 250 billion dollars for the largest multinational corporations.

The biggest country economically, USA, has government revenues of over $2 trillion annually. This clearly demonstrates that the power of multinational corporations does not rival the biggest countries but in fact surpasses a lot of poorer countries (Francioni, Musso & Vardiabasis, 2013). Multinational corporations are viewed as citizens of the world and they are beholden to not any government.

Head of Dow Chemicals Company once envisioned to purchase an island to construct the company’s head office. In such view, multinational corporations act internationally in the interests of their global stockholders. In actual fact, they do not owe loyalty to any country. Multinational corporations are motivated by the need to maximize profitability (Nederveen, & Dasgupta, 2009).

The operations of multinational corporations support an international business infrastructure linking a global community of businesspersons. For instance, an American manager who arrives in Tokyo Japan does not find a confusing and puzzling scene of strange customs, locations, as well as languages. Instead, this manager would be able to move through a known series of faxes and telephone calls, multinational hotels, airport lounges, business conference facilities, and international news broadcasts – most likely hearing the English language spoken in all of these (Mehrabanfar, 2015).

Moreover, multinational corporations contribute to the development of their host country. As transnational companies operate in other countries, they create job opportunities for the locals in that country and in so doing help to stabilize the economy in that particular country.

  Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)

In the contemporary world, a lot of people find that by joining nongovernmental organizations, they may be able take part in the global system and lobby to influence international organizations. Most have joined as members of one or more nongovernmental organizations, which have roughly 30,000 members worldwide. Nongovernmental organizations are private global actors whose members are not countries, but rather volunteers from populations of 2 or more countries that have formed organizations to foster their common interests and ideals for the purpose of influencing the policies of intergovernmental organizations and country governments.

Nongovernmental organizations handle many international issues and seek changes in the world for various causes like human rights, environmental protection and disarmament, among others (Nederveen & Dasgupta, 2009). Many nongovernmental organizations pursue objectives that are very much respected and positive, hence do not result in any controversies or a lot of resistance.

NGOs interact with multinational companies, nation-states, and sub-state actors, plus other NGOs. NGOs are increasingly becoming recognized in the UN and other forums, as real actors together with countries but are not equal to them. Some of the groups have a political purpose, some a humanitarian purpose, while others have an economic purpose.

There are times in which nongovernmental organizations mix efforts by means of transnational advocacy networks (Antonelli & Fassio, 2016). By joining nongovernmental organizations, a lot of people learn that they may take part in the global system and lobby to influence multinational organizations.

Examples of nongovernmental organizations

 A nongovernmental organization that particularly fights for human rights is the Amnesty International; a global movement of individuals campaigning for globally acknowledged human rights for everyone. They carry out research and generate actions aimed at preventing or ending serious human rights abuses and demanding justice for people whose human rights have been infringed.

The main issues which have been campaigned include freedom of the press, welfare of children, protection of civilians during armed conflicts, rights of women, disability rights, rights of people with AIDS, human impact of pollution and environmental degradation among others (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2006). The other sort of nongovernmental organizations is the religious movement.

They are a politically active organization rooted in strong religious beliefs. Even though religious movements had a powerful influence in politics in the past decades for instance being able to cause a war between communities with different religious beliefs, religious movements these days are in fact peace makers between conflicting countries.

 Political Groups that Advocate Violence: Terrorists

Political factions which support violence or terrorism may really not refer to themselves nongovernmental organizations, but they operate in more or less the same fashion which is by interacting with countries and with relevant populations or institutions by means of violence and terrorist attacks. These groups have great power. They influence the international relations between different countries. One group that is currently active is the Islamic State group.

 International Criminal Groups

These actors are that are seen as transnational actors but they act in an illicit fashion. Most of these them have a great capacity of monetary resources which gives them the ability to influence the policies of the state (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2006). Some international criminal groups can even threaten the security of the country. They are mainly operated secretly making it not easy for the authorities and the police to find them.

These groups are largely involved in various crimes including human trafficking, drugs, prostitution, as well as firearms. Examples of international criminal groups include the Sicilian Mafia in Italy, Yakuza in Japan, and also Triads in Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong, Macau (Art & Jervis, 2011).

Impacts of Globalization

There are several effects that emerge from globalization which impacts different economies of the world. The production of goods and services is affected by different elements of globalization. This has also seen the development of different approaches of production such as capital and other inputs and labor that are primarily dependent on the levels of globalization.

Additionally, competitiveness as seen in producing a good or service has resulted in the diffusion of technology that has resulted in the initiation of nations to other developed cities (Gaur, 2015). Having considered this, globalization is therefore ascribed as the force behind the efficiencies that have been experienced in affecting investment opportunities of different organizations within different nations and markets.

Investments are known to play a central role in technological transfer, formation of global investment and in industrial restructuring which have an effect in the national level (Luković, 2015). New technological advancements in different economies additionally remain an essential factor in globalization that stimulate competition and enhances the diffusion of nations through foreign direct investments.

Perception in world politics

Facts do not speak for themselves. Facts are organized by concepts, structured by theories, interpreted by worldviews and assessed in the light of individual and subjective value systems. Realism:  this view depicts the world’s political system as a disordered chaotic struggle for security and power amongst competing nation-states. There is no higher authority besides these countries (Verma & Singh, 2010).

As such, countries individually, or alongside other countries, provide for their own defense. In essence, the only effectual way of assuring security is power. Idealism-Liberal Internationalism: this view maintains that there is reason to believe that the leading global role of countries may in fact be declining (Art & Jervis, 2011). Therefore, the world should be described not just in terms of country interactions, but also in terms of growing community. 


In conclusion, even though countries remain as the most significant actors in the global system in today’s world, non-state actors have a growing power and influence in globalization. One of the biggest multinational enterprises has annual revenues which actually exceed some of the gross domestic product of poorer countries and this demonstrates their growing influences. As the world keeps globalizing, it would really not be easy to different between multinationals, states and other actors in a period of collapsing states and reemerging countries.


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