Rationalized cultural contexts of functional differentiation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Globalization is the nominalization of our time, and both popular and scholarly views are that it is comprised essentially of increased interconnections and faster and more interdependent exchanges, all driven by new technologies. Globalization gives rise to power and resource inequalities, whether in terms of powerful states and corporations or a more structural core–periphery hierarchy. Greater complexities require actors, even powerful states and corporations, to adapt. States, like individuals and firms, must adapt to complexity and uncertainty, and, it is further reasoned, those most able to quickly implement objectively effective responses will flourish and those who do not will decline or be left behind. International Relations (IR) as a field is marked by this view: according to prevalent IR theory, functionally differentiated global governance institutions are responses by states to increased political and economic complexity. System theories such as modern systems theory bring substantial light to the field by suggesting that we examine globalization as functional differentiation within the world as a whole-world society. Not reducible to actors’ responses, functional differentiation increases in world society as an adaptation to complexity. When considering other forms of differentiation, systems theory has shared assumptions with most sociological and IR theories: functional differentiation dominates because it is an objective response to complexity. Now there is increased attention to, and a rethinking of, the other forms of differentiation, as evidenced by this volume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBringing Sociology to International Relations
Subtitle of host publicationWorld Politics as Differentiation Theory
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781139856041
ISBN (Print)9781107039001
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Rationalized cultural contexts of functional differentiation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this