Accompanied by powerful strategic and environmental changes, the current globalization process is creating major shifts in international relations and new challenges for policy and decision. The central proposition of this research is that different patterns of growth and development of groups and states generate different patterns of socio-economic and political behavior, and different forms of environmental damages. While this proposition is intuitively obvious, the details are less clear. We seek to develop robust ways of characterizing these patterns, understanding conditions under which socio-economic as well as environmental pressures lead to ‘system breaks’, conflict or violence. The detailed specifications are articulated in the Theory of Lateral Pressure.
The core part of the research generating the Theory of Lateral Pressure examines a quantitatively constructed "global" system, where processes and structures are reduced to three "master variables", namely Population, Technology and (natural) Resources - from which, interactively, all ‘intervening’ and 'dependent’ variables derive. For states and empires in a global context, differential and successive levels and rates of change in the master variables play central role in shaping ”profiles” of growth and development. These differentials affect the derivative processes and structures in international relations, as well as the position of each country within the system relative to other countries; the linkages with other countries; and the potentials for impact upon both natural and social environments. The specific challenge is to identify the nature of the intervening processes as well as the conditions under which different outcomes prevail, and the various ‘paths’ connecting ‘causes’ to ‘consequences’ – and how interacting processes within and among states in the system alter the entirety (whole) of the system and its (individual) parts.
Much of the background work leading to GSSD emerged from applications of the theory of lateral pressure to the dynamics to conflict and warfare. See, for example, N. Choucri and Robert C. North, Nations in Conflict (1975), R.C. North War, Peace, Survival (1990), N. Choucri, R.C. North, and S. Yamakage, The Challenge of Japan Before World War II and After (1990). These studies were all empirically based and anchored in longitudinal and cross national quantitative data. Subsequent studies showed the transitions from international and inter-state analysis to emergent global interactions and globalization processes.