One of the defining characteristics of state-centric international relations has been to draw a clear distinction between ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ politics. When the volume of transactions that crossed state boundaries grew ever larger in the 1960s and 70s, a subsidiary distinction became common, between ‘high politics’ – the traditional interstate agenda of war and peace – and ‘low politics’ – the projection of essentially domestic concerns onto the international agenda. The assumption of realist, especially structural realist, thinking was that whatever ‘global governance’ might emerge, it would be in this latter sphere rather than the former, and the essentially anarchic nature of ‘high’ politics would remain unchanged. In one sense, this assumption has turned out to be accurate. As established in Chapter 7, attempts to introduce collective management of security problems have not been markedly successful, and the great increase in the number of international institutions has come about because of other kinds of needs, other kinds of problems. Where, however, the realist position falls is at the outset, in the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ politics – a distinction that collapses in the face of the ‘high political’ importance of what was once seen as the characteristically ‘low political’ activity of international economic relations. The world economy and attempts to manage and regulate it are now at the heart of international relations in a way that would have been difficult to believe a century ago and very surprising even as recently as the 1970s.
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