1st Edition

Binary Role Theory and the Dynamics of World Politics Thinking Small

By Stephen Walker Copyright 2025
    408 Pages 81 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    408 Pages 81 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book develops a binary role theory of world politics extending from the micro-analysis of foreign policy to the macro-analysis of world politics. The effort employs analytical tools outside of role theory to extend role concepts from agents spatially to finitely generated systems and temporally to different phases and sequences of social interaction between pairs of agents as ego and alter. There is an initial emphasis on “thinking small” about the interactions of agents as the building blocks of world politics and then tracing the processes of aggregation that generate the emergence and evolution of larger patterns of international relations over time.

    Empirical case studies from different historical eras and geographical regions illustrate the application of binary role theory models to problems of conflict management, alliance formation, diplomatic engagement, and transitions in world order. The analysis employs complex adaptive systems analysis (cas) to go beyond the study of political science in building bridges to the natural sciences by using concepts and models from the Standard Model in physics and the Modern Synthesis in biology. This book will interest an audience of foreign policy scholars and international relations theorists as well as students of quantum and computational models of world politics.

    Preface Part 1: Role Theory and World Politics 1. Binary Role Theory and Thinking Small 2. Particle Politics and Political Cosmology 3. Operational Code Analysis as Quantum Mechanics 4. Binary Role Theory and Quantum Politics Part 2: Role Theory and Role Location Mechanisms 5. Adaptive Rationality and Mechanisms of Role Location 6. Predominant Leaders and Mechanisms of Role Strain 7. Single Groups and Mechanisms of Role Contestation 8. Coalitions and Mechanisms of Role Competition and Conflict Part 3: Role Theory and the Science of the Artificial 9. Binary Role Theory as a Scientific Artifact 10. Role Adaptation and Role Transition. 11. Role Selection and Role Enactment 12. Roles and Rules in World Politics Part 4: Role Theory and World Order 13. Parts and Wholes in World Politics 14. Programming the Political Universe Appendix


    Stephen G. Walker is Professor Emeritus of Political Science in the School of Politics and Global Studies and Affiliated Faculty in the Future Security Initiative program at Arizona State University. He has published Role Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis (1987), Beliefs and Leadership in World Politics (2006) Rethinking Foreign Policy Analysis (2011), U.S. Presidents and Foreign Policy Mistakes (2011), Role Theory and the Cognitive Architecture of British Appeasement Decisions (2013), Role Theory and Role Conflict in U.S.-Iran Relations (2017), Operational Code Analysis and Foreign Policy Roles (2021) plus articles in several journals, including World Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research, International Studies Quarterly, International Interactions, Foreign Policy Analysis, and Political Psychology. The National Science Foundation (1982-1983) funded his research on the belief systems and conflict management strategies of political leaders. He served as a co-editor of International Studies Quarterly (1985) and as a vice-president of the International Society of Political Psychology (1997-1999) and the International Studies Association (2003-2004). He received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Foreign Policy Section of the International Studies Association in 2003. His recent public service includes serving at the National Academies of Science in 2013-2014 on the National Research Council’s Committee on U.S. Air Force Strategic Deterrence Military Capabilities in the 21st Century Security Environment.

    “In Binary Role Theory and the Dynamics of World Politics, role theory is applied to account for the dynamics of world politics across levels of aggregation. This book is essential reading for international relations scholars and anyone interested in the creation and application of rigorous theory in the social sciences.”

    Patrick James, Dornsife Dean's Professor Emeritus of International Relations, University of Southern California


    “Influenced by quantum mechanics and evolutionary biology, Binary Role Theory brilliantly demonstrates how complex adaptive systems emerge from microlevel interactions. The dynamic interaction of individuals thus explains international systemic outcomes. This deeply learned book is must reading for scholars interested in game theory, binary role interaction, and international relations theory.”

    Hendrik Spruyt, Norman Dwight Harris Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Northwestern University.


    “This book elaborates binary role theory in detail through case studies as a way of linking foreign policy analysis to the study of international relations. This theory explains how leaders, groups, organizations, and states become dyads at regional and global levels of aggregation in addressing problems of war and peace.”

    Margaret G. Hermann, Gerald B. and Daphna Cramer Professor Emerita of Global Affairs, Syracuse University


    “Stephen G. Walker offers binary role theory as an innovative solution to the age-old question of how to unite micro- and macro-level analyses—in this case, foreign policy and world politics, respectively. This well-argued approach combined with empirical applications make for a compelling read for all scholars of International Relations.”

    Cameron G. Thies, MSU Foundation Professor and Dean, James Madison College, Michigan State University