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The Theory of Lateral Pressure Highlights of Quantification & Empirical Analysis

31 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2016  

Nazli Choucri

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Gaurav Agarwal

Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Explorations in Cyber International Relations

Date Written: November 11, 2016

Abstract

Lateral Pressure refers to any tendency (or propensity) of individuals and societies to expand their activities and exert influence and control beyond their established boundaries, whether for economic, political, military, scientific, religious, or other purposes. Framed by Robert C. North and Nazli Choucri, the theory addresses the sources and consequences of such a tendency.

Lateral Pressure theory seeks to explain the relationships between state characteristics and patterns of international behavior. The theory addresses the sources and consequences of transformation and change in international relations and provides a basis for analyzing potential feedback dynamics. The causal logic runs from the internal drivers, the master variables that shape the profiles of states – through the intervening effects of socially aggregated and articulated demands and institutional capabilities – toward modes of external behavior designed to meet demands given the capabilities at hand. To the extent that states expand their activities outside territorial boundaries – driven by a wide range of capabilities and motivations – they are likely to encounter other states similarly engaged. The intersection among spheres of influence is the first step in complex dynamics leading hostilities, escalation, and eventually to conflict and violence. These processes are contingent on the actors’ intents, capabilities, and activities.

This paper proceeds as follows: First we highlight the basic features of lateral pressure theory, its core components, and their interconnections. Some aspects are more readily quantifiable than others. Some are more consistent with conventional theory in international relations. Others are based on assumptions that depart from tradition by adopting a multidisciplinary perspective, thus drawing on insights and evidence from other areas of knowledge. Second, we summarize the phases of empirical investigations and the evolution of theory over time. Third, we return to basics and focus on the refinements of metrics and quantification of the core concepts. All of this pertains to the world, as we have known it prior to the construction of the Internet, the core of cyberspace. Fourth, we then review briefly the work to date on lateral pressure in the cyber domain. The Endnote highlights some emerging imperatives.

Keywords: Lateral Pressure Theory, Cyber and Real Space, Cyber Challenges to the State

Suggested Citation

Choucri, Nazli and Agarwal, Gaurav, The Theory of Lateral Pressure Highlights of Quantification & Empirical Analysis (November 11, 2016). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2016-35. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2859712 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2859712

Nazli Choucri (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Gaurav Agarwal

Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Explorations in Cyber International Relations ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

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