Action and Reaction in the World System
376 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Jul 2013
Release Date:22 Jan 2013
Release Date:25 Jan 2013

Action and Reaction in the World System

The Dynamics of Economic and Political Power

UBC Press

Action and Reaction in the World System occupies the same niche as Raymond Aron’s 1962 classic, Peace and War: A Theory of International Relations. While Aron wrote during the Cold War, Thierry de Montbrial writes about the post-Soviet international system, a system that is multipolar, ideologically heterogeneous, and therefore highly unstable.

In this book, de Montbrial lays the foundation for a praxeology, or a “science of action,” to facilitate a better understanding of the dynamics of international problems and a more systematic approach to policy making.  A key concept is the “active unit,” essentially any human group that is comprised of both a common culture and an organizational structure (e.g., state, corporation, NGO, or religious entity). He develops a model to analyze different types of international problems that arise from interactions between different units; he then applies this model to a range of current and historical problems.

A major contribution to international relations theory and winner of the 2002 Georges Pompidou Prize in its original French edition, this book offers the necessary keys to decrypt the international system in the twenty-first century. It has been published internationally in seven languages.

This book will be of interest to scholars and students of international relations and globalization studies.


  • , Commended - The Hill Times List of Top 100 Best Books for 2013
This is a serious and ambitious work. Thierry de Montbrial ranges over a host of scholarly disciplines to offer an intriguing synthesis about “global governance.” De Montbrial explains the dynamic of sovereign states facing the new realities of globalization – through both theory and practice. Robert B. Zoellick, former President of the World Bank Group, US Trade Representative, and US Deputy Secretary of State
Thierry de Montbrial has presented a great contribution in the universalist tradition of European thought, combining the methods and insights of various disciplines to provide a masterly analysis of our contemporary world and guidelines to deal with its problems. Karl Kaiser, Adjunct Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Director of the Program on Transatlantic Relations, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs
An outstanding and timeless book that will serve as an invaluable reference for scholars, a helpful companion for practitioners, and a precious education tool for students. Thierry de Montbrial’s ability to merge disciplines, transcend time, and bridge space is impressive. Simon Serfaty, Zbignew Brzezinski Chair (Emeritus) in Global Security & Geostrategy, Center for Strategic & International Studies, and Professor of International Politics, Old Dominion University
Thierry de Montbrial, long recognized as a leading French thinker and practitioner in international and global relations, describes the dangers of structural instability and the efficiency-legitimacy dilemma in today’s international system. He correctly warns that good global governance is a survival issue and achieving it is a race against time. Joseph S. Nye, University Distinguished Service Professor, Harvard Kennedy School
De Montbrial is not afraid to challenge his readers to think in an impressively holistic way, truly following in the footsteps of Raymond Aron. At the same time he convincingly connects theory to current events in the world. Gordon Smith, Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and former Canadian Deputy Foreign Minister
A masterful new book ... a meditation that considers some of the most profound questions of contemporary international order. It may well become a standard by which other works on global governance are measured. Henry A. Kissinger

Thierry de Montbrial is the president and founder of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) and of the World Policy Conference (WPC). This is the first English edition of his award-winning book, which has already been published in seven languages.

Preface to the English Edition

Part 1: Theory

1 Active Units and Praxeological Problems: An Introduction

2 Potency

3 Conflicts and Their Resolution

4 The Concept of Strategy

5 The Stability of Systems of Active Units

6 International Relations Theory

7 The Object and Nature of Economics

Part 2: Aspects of Praxeology

8 Perspectives on the International System

9 Globalization, Market Economy, and Unemployment

10 Ideology, Culture, and Action

11 Ethics and Politics

12 State Sovereignty and the International Community

13 The Engineer and the Economist

14 Strategy, Forecasting, and Chance




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