Dimensions & relationships

Updated: 2 March 2015



Dimensions of global dominance

Analytic diagram developed by GKH.

The diagram above illustrates the ten basic dimensions of our analysis and some of the relationships we will discuss in detail. For each of these dimensions and relationships we will use empirical evidence to compare China, Europe and the United States of America. The main objective of this holistic analysis is to assess what country or region will become the dominating power of the 21st century. Please note that there are three types of dimensions (see corresponding colors in the diagram):

Inputs (green): These are resources and conditions that governments and countries can "utilize" to prosper and dominate. A sufficiently large, well educated and healthy population, rich natural resources, and advantageous geographical conditions are examples. Analytically we distinguish the three input-dimensions: "Human development", "Natural resources" and "Environment".

Actions (red)
: These are fundamental human activities in a society which are necessary for a country or region to prosper and dominate. The most important group of activities is everything that makes the "Economy" strong. The second group of activities is what Talcot Parsons once called "Goal Attainment". These are activities necessary for efficient and strong political leadership. A most fundamental human activity is scientific research, which generates the technical innovations that are a basis of economic growth and political strength.

Structures & Capacities (yellow): The third type of analytical dimensions encompasses those social structures, organizations, and facilities which are necessary to project power ("Military"), efficiently run the economy ("Infrastructure"), avoid costly social conflicts ("Institutions & Law") and integrate and motivate the population towards higher goals ("Culture & Values").


Relationships (red or black): The diagram also highlights important relationships between key dimensions. These connections may be material flows, decisions and plans, or flows of information and knowledge and, most of all, the flow of money.

For instance, the political system (in particular, the government) decides what infrastructure should be built. Such decisions may be good or bad, guided by foresight or corruption, made democratically or authoritarian. But whatever decision is made, a country's infrastructure is primarily the result of political action. The quality of infrastructure is not a God-given condition. For example, the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the world do not have any kind of toilet is the direct fault of (local) leaders and governments. The failure to build latrines is not an economic problem, but a problem of leadership and insight into basic principles of hygiene. India's lousy infrastructure in almost all fields is not caused by a shortage of funds, but is the direct result of incompetence, corruption, and lack of insight among the country's leaders. India's crumbling and overloaded railway system was better maintained and more efficient under British rule. While China has invested massively into its (high-speed) rail network and has now world-class rail transportation, India has failed miserably. Under previous presidents, the United States have built the most modern and efficient highway system with thousands of bridges and tunnels. Current leaders, absorbed by ideological battles, have ignored crumbling roads and bridges - with the result that the US now has a poorly maintained and often inadequate transportation infrastructure. These examples should only highlight the argument, that infrastructure is greatly affected by the strategic vision of political leaders.

Sometimes relationships in the diagram above are material flows, such as the natural resources that are consumed by the economy, and the flow of waste and pollution that economic activities dump into natural systems.

Information and knowledge transfer is essential for a modern society. One of these flows is the transfer of knowledge between scientific and technological research and the economy. Europe seems to have a problem in this regard. While the continent still has some of the best basic research, it lacks behind the United States in the implementation of knowledge into marketable products. Europe's ivory tower of research is poorly connected with the economy - despite efforts to establish "incubators" and "start-up" centers in many universities and research centers.

Most relationships are flows of money, which explains why the majority of connections in the diagram begins or ends in the economic system. Without a prosperous economy no country or region can achieve global dominance (as the Russian Federation had to learn in recent decades). Economic growth fuels a country's tax income and provides the financial resources to build and maintain a strong military and functioning infrastructure or fund scientific research and technological development, which are all key dimensions for global dominance.


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Parsons - The Social System Etzioni - Complex Organizations Etzioni - The Active Society Bertalanffy - General System Theory

Talcott Parsons (2012)
The Social System. First published in 1977.
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Amitai Etzioni (1975)
Comparative Analysis of Complex Organizations. Rev. Ed. Free Press

Amitai Etzioni (1968)
The Active Society. A theory of societal and political processes. Free Press

Ludwig von Bertalanffy (2015) General System Theory. Foundations, development, applications. George Braziller Inc. First published in 1969.

These books may be forgotten - but they are essential to understand global change, political relations, economic globalization or geo-strategic competition. They provide thinking tools that allow researchers to systematically analyze large-scale problems and convoluted relationships. Many of these "systems" concepts were introduced into everyday reasoning and are now used without a clear understanding of their original intentions. The books selected here provide the best introduction into "systems thinking" by the original developers of these concepts (GKH).

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Creative Commons License "China-Europe-USA - Human Development: Demography" by Gerhard K. Heilig is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Published: 2004; Revised: 2015