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Chapter 7

Sociocultural Space-Time*

By R.J. Rummel

...each international organization, national government, association, individual, or other "system of action, " or "decision-maker " may be located in a multidimensional field. Such a field may be defined by coordinates, each of which measures a political, economic, psychological, sociological, ethical, or other continuum influencing choices, decisions, and actions important for international relations.
---- Wright, 1955: 543

Volume 4

Expanded Contents | Figures | Tables


1. Perspective And Summary
2. International Relations
3. The International Actors
4. International Behavior Space-Time
5. International Expectations And Dispositions
6. International Actor And Situation
8. Interests, Capabilities, And Wills
9. The Social Field Of International Relations
10. Latent International Conflict
11. International Conflict: Trigger, Will, And Preparations
12. The Balancing Of Power
13. Comparative Dynamics Of International Conflict
14. Introduction To Propositions And Evidence On International Conflict
15. Empirical Dynamics Of International Conflict
16. Causes And Conditions Of International Conflict And War
17. Ending Conflict And War: The Balance Of Powers
18. The International Conflict Helix
19. Theoretical And Empirical Conclusions On Conflict And War
20. Principles Of Peace And Conflict


15A. Phasing Propositions and Their Evidence on International Conflict
16A. On Causes of International Conflict
16B. Propositions and Their Evidence on the Causes and Conditions of International Conflict Behavior
16C. Evidence on the Causes and Conditions of International Conflict Behavior
17A. Propositions and Evidence on the Causes and Conditions of Ending International Conflict Behavior
18A. Descriptive Propositions on International Conflict
19A. Overall Evidence on 54 Social Field Propositions on International Conflict
19B. Primary Propositions on Social Conflict
I. Unpublished Research and Results on International Relations
II. Event Data: Bases of Empirical Conflict Analysis
III. Characteristics of Published Quantitative International Relations Studies

Other Volumes

Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field
Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 5: The Just Peace

Other Related Work

Conflict And Violence page

Democratic Peace page


Structures of expectations and conflict processes are seated in the meanings, values, and norms of each actor and his status and class. Actors differ in religion, philosophy, language, science, fine arts, ethics, and law; in wealth, power and prestige; in being superordinate or subordinate. Each new contact, event, or relationship may therefore involve a clash of different perspectives, of diverse situational expectations and dispositions, and thus may require a process of working out common expectations--a conflict process.1

Foreign policy objectives are shaped within the whole political idea-system, which in turn is a part of cultural idea-system and of the whole culture. It is hardly possible to understand foreign policy objectives without this cultural perspective and, therefore, they should be analyzed within the context to a society and culture.
---- Gross, 1954: 63

International behavior therefore takes place within a sociocultural framework, a space-time spanned by components (dimensions, factors, elements) mutually locating actors. These components are the reference points for action; the space bounds and defines the potentiality for conflict.

These components are the main ingredients of theoretical and applied analysis: nations are usually characterized and compared as to their economic development, economic growth, and modernization; their political development, type of government, and ideology; their race, religion, and language; their ethnicity, national character, and culture; their area, people, and climate. And, of course, as to their power, prestige and predominance.

In summing up his comprehensive overview of international relations, The Study of International Relations (1955: 543ff), Quincy Wright tried to define analytically components that would locate states, nations, governments, and people in an international space.2 He distinguished six capability components: rate of economic progress (flexibility versus rigidity), rate of political decentralization (lethargy versus energy), degree of power (strength versus weakness), rate of development of international trade and communication (isolation versus cooperation), rate of technological development (technological advancement versus backwardness), and resources (resource poverty versus abundance), and six additional value components: evaluation (objective versus subjective), perception (concrete versus abstract), action (manipulative versus contemplative), relations (restrictive versus liberal), orientation (self-orientation versus situation orientation), and expectations (affirmation versus negation).3

In essence, Wright's six capability components define the wealth, power and politics of actors (if we ignore the behavioral component of trade and communications, which is similar to transactions as described in the previous Chapter 6); in essence, his six value components reflect the philosophy and religion, ethics and law, fine arts, science, and language of actors. In short, Wright has distinguished the social and cultural components of status, class, meanings, values and norms. The purpose of Wright's components was to define the analytical space of international actors within which their position and motion could be envisioned. For Wright saw that the distances between actors in this space4 and their relative movements implied cooperation or conflict, peace or war.5

He determined the components by an intuitive factor analysis of national attributes:

What continua can most usefully be employed as coordinates for defining this analytical field? The problem is similar to that of determining the factors which account for mental performance, studied by psychologists. C. E. Spearman assumed a single factor, L. L. Thurstone devised methods for determining the minimum number of factors necessary to account for the results of numerous tests of mental ability. He found that factors concerning the use of words, numbers, and visual images were sufficient to account for the results of certain tests. Application of similar methods to a limited body of data suggested that the psychic relations among certain states could be accounted for by four factors--opinions concerning change, ideology, war, and form of government. No such analysis is attempted here. A dozen factors are postulated and relations among them suggested from some familiarity with the field, in the hope that eventually measurement of these factors may permit of correlations to determine the degree of their sufficiency, redundancy, and applicability.
----1955: 545-546

At the time Wright wrote, such first empirical measurements had already been done in the factor analyses of nations by Cattell (1949, 1950) and colleagues (Cattell, Bruel, and Hartman, 1951).6 The Dimensionality of Nations Project, which began in 1962 and which I directed from 1963 until it ended in 1975, initially focused on replicating the components Cattell found and better empirically defining Wright's "analytical" space of nations. Data were collected on hundreds of economic, political, demographic, social, cultural, and geographic attributes for all nations; dozens of factor analyses were done; and results were systematically compared with those of Cattell. and others doing similar analyses.7

The results were described in Chapter 34 of Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix. The purposes there were to define the sociocultural space of state-societies; measure the structures of expectations within states; and test the hypothesis that theoretical exchange, authoritative, and coercive types were society's major empirical forms.

The common components described in Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix, and in detail in my Dimensions of Nations (1972) and National Attributes and Behavior (1979) are shown in Table 7.1. They delineate international sociocultural space-time; they locate individuals, groups, and states relative to each other in this space-time; and they enable relative movement and distances to be measured.

I have discussed these components in detail elsewhere.8 Because of their particular importance in international relations, however, a few details on the wealth, power, totalitarianism and authoritarianism components are warranted.

Wealth has consistently appeared in all empirical analyses as the major component of nations.9 The range of attributes delineated by this component is shown in Table 7.2. Wealth involves a highly intercorrelated cluster of agriculture, cultural, communication, demographic, economic, education, health, scientific and technological, social, transportation, and value-type attributes. It obviously reflects the sociocultural meanings, values, and norms of individual actors. And it reflects their international status.

Next in empirical scope has consistently appeared the power component, which is given in Table 7.3. This measures the bases of a state's coercive and exchange power, and is identical to "national power" as usually defined in the literature. The elements or factors of national power generally isolated in the literature are correlated with it,10 including the major indices of power suggested by scholars: size and population (Strausz-Hupé and Possony, 1950); national income (Organski, 1958); and energy production X population (Wright, 1955).11

And then there are the two political components shown in Table 7.4. One measures the totalitarian versus liberal democratic component of state politics; the other the authoritarian versus liberal democratic. That liberal democracies are a common end to both components empirically reflects the ideological triangle existing in a two-dimensional political space-time.12 The three points of the triangle are the pure political types: libertarian, totalitarian, and authoritarian (or dynastic). Incidentally, while independent (distinct), the totalitarianism and authoritarianism components are correlated.13 Thus, some political attributes are correlated with both components, as shown in Table 7.4.

Wealth, power, totalitarianism, and authoritarianism are the primary components of nations. They, plus the other, smaller components shown in Table 7.1 span the sociocultural space. They locate and differentiate international actors. The meanings, values and norms of actors are reflected in the wealth, Catholic culture, diversity, density, totalitarianism, and authoritarianism components; and their statuses14 and class are mirrored by the wealth, power, size, and import dependency components.

These components do dual service. They delineate the international space-time of actors. And they reflect the various structures of, expectations within each state through which actors understand and perceive other actors.15 As should be the case, therefore, there is also an independent social conflict component (the domestic counterpart of the international conflict components discussed in Chapter 6) which delineates the conflict process in the formation and disruption of these structures.


Actors are located in a common international space-time by the components mentioned. As individuals come from rich or poor, Catholic or non-Catholic, and dense or sparsely populated nations they will have different sociocultural positions; as groups are of rich or poor, homogeneous or diverse states, they will have different sociocultural locations; and as governmental elite are of weak or powerful, of liberal democratic, authoritarian or totalitarian states, they also will be differently placed in the international, sociocultural space-time.

And as actors have different meanings, values, norms, status and class, they will be disposed to behave towards each other in different ways. Their interests, capabilities, and expectations will diverge. Structures of expectations win evolve with more or less difficulty. The tendency will be towards either cooperation or conflict. All this is to say that sociocultural distances comprise potential social forces on behavior.16

As in Quincy Wright's analyses of war (1942) and international relations (1955), the concept of distance has been basic to my work.17 I have elaborated it psychologically and sociologically in Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field, Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix, and Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective; and mathematically (especially in reference to international relations) in my Field Theory Evolving (1977). This ground need not be covered again. I should, however, clarify the relationship between distances on different components and the three types of international actors.

Although common components are salient to particular actors, as power is to the elite and wealth to individuals and groups, all actors are part of the same international space-time. Actors therefore will be influenced by and perceive others in relation to all the components. A foreign minister will interact with his counterpart as his interests and capability relate to the power and political perspective of the other, but the other's culture and nation's wealth will also play a role. The cultural matrix (Chapters 7 and 11 of Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field) through which each sees the other, their attitudes and diverse interests, their ability to communicate, will depend on their overall location in international, sociocultural space-time. But nonetheless, certain components will dominate their relationship, and these will be of wealth, power and politics.18

To the observer, distances between actors are the indicators of possible agreement or disagreement, predictable behavior or uncertainty. To the actor distances are perceived.19 They are potential forces toward behavior. What is also perceived by an actor is the situation, the context within which he relates to others. For interests and capabilities are activated and take on different flavor and meaning depending on the perceived context. Sociocultural distances are therefore weighted by the perceived situation within which actors are interacting. Economic, political, and power distances will reflect different combinations of interests of the U.S. foreign policy elite toward the Soviet Union, for example, as the perceived situation is a UN General Assembly debate on racism, a concern for the U.S.-USSR military balance at the global level, or Soviet violations of a 200-mile U.S. fishing zone.

My concern here is, however, not with specific, nonrecurring situations, but with the general contextual frameworks within which an actor behaves, such as the Cold War or the international market. Regarding such general situations, we can assume that those interests and capabilities (distances) salient for one actor will not be for another in the same situation; that different actors will not perceive situations similarly.20

Figure 7.1 shows an actual 1960 relationship between the perceived situations for the U.S. and distances between the United States and China in a common space of the two international space-time components of power and totalitarianism. Within this space the United States was located as a vector with projections shown by the dotted lines on both components; China also had a location and projections as shown. The distances between the United States and China were then vectors dUS-China,2 and dUS-China,3 lying along the components. These vectors were then potential social forces affecting the behavior of American actors towards China. In other words, these differences in power and political systems reflected particular American attitudes and potential capabilities towards China, and therefore a behavioral disposition of American actors.

These potential forces were activated by the perceived situation g represented by the vector g,US which was related to power and totalitarianism as shown by the dotted projections. The situation was of a particular pattern (type g) 21 perceived by Americans as salient to relative U.S. power, but seen as largely independent (as shown by the small projection on totalitarianism) of this difference in political systems. In this perceived power dominating situation, particular American interests were activated and disposed American actors to behave towards China in a certain way. That is, the perceived situation activated American interests and capabilities, and the combination of situation, interests, and relative capabilities was then a force towards behavior:

1960: dispositiong,USChina g,US,2dUS-China,2 + g,US,3dUS-China,3.

The left-pointed arrow in the above is simply to indicate a force towards behavior.22

Clearly, this behavioral disposition in a situation is a link to the analyses of the previous chapters. There we saw that our actor's behavior was a resultant of situational expectations and dispositions. Now, we have dispositions as a resultant of distances in a situation. But before we draw what appears the obvious conclusion that an actor's behavior is then a function of expectations and distances, some additional discussion is required, especially to bring in the actor's will.


The common international sociocultural space-time is defined by independent, empirical components reflecting the meanings, values, norms, status and class of international actors. Such major components are wealth, power, totalitarianism, authoritarianism, and size, among others.

The interests and capabilities of actors are reflected in these components, and distances between actors in this space-time mirror their attitudes toward each other and their potential, relative capabilities. These potentials are transformed into actual interests and capabilities by an actor's perception of a situation. And this perception then energizes a disposition to behave towards another in a certain way.


* Scanned from Chapter 7 in R.J. Rummel, War, Power, Peace, 1979. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. All this was developed in Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix. See therein Chapter 13 on meanings, values and norms, Chapters 17 and 18 on status, Chapters 19 and 20 on power, Chapters 24 and 25 on class, and Chapter 29 on the process of conflict.

2. See Note 27 Chapter 3.

3. In postulating value components Wright was much influenced by Talcott Parson's analysis, especially as described in the working papers on his theory (Parsons and Shins, 1951). The value components defining evaluations, perceptions, relations, and orientations correspond to Parson's four pattern variables: achievement-ascription, particularism-universalism, specificity-generality, and self-orientation-collective orientation. Parsons analysis was built on that of Pitirim Sorokin, and lost clarity and insight in translation. For a close comparison of the two "systems," see Sorokin (1966). In previous volumes I have clearly preferred Sorokin's work. For a comparison of my perspective to Sorokin's, see Volume 3 (1977: especially Chapter 6 and Section 8.1).

4. Wright used field to refer to the totality--the space--of interdependent and reciprocal relationships. I call his whole conception a relational field theory. For my analysis of physical, social, and psychological field theories, see Part I of Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field. Section 4.6 of Chapter 4 in that book specifically deals with Wright's theory.

5. Wright had elsewhere analyzed the consequences of changing distances, particularly in his major work, A Study of War (1942: 1240ff, 1254, 1433ff, 1471). Wright then used a calculus model to interrelate diverse distances. Over a decade later he incorporated this model into a linear (algebraic) and spatial view of international relations (the differential terms in his equation are theoretical components of the space).

By contrast, I moved directly to a linear algebraic perspective in the mid-1960s and allowed the components to reflect (as latent functions) any linear term, whether differentials or otherwise. See my Field Theory Evolving (1977), particularly Chapter 10 which tests Wright's distance hypotheses, among others. See also Appendix 9A.

6. As evidenced by his major works on war (1942) and international relations (1955), Wright was a thorough scholar, widely read in many disciplines, and open to diverse approaches and methods. It is not a commentary on the man but on the difficulties of any scholar keeping up with relevant contemporary work in other fields that he should be unaware of Cattell's work (published in psychological and sociological journals) which followed the path of Thurstone and did precisely what Wright saw needed. On factor analysis, the method used, see "Understanding Factor Analysis".

7. A description and critical evaluations of the Dimensionality of Nations Project are given in Hoole and Zinnes (1976). For monographs on the project, see Hilton (1973) and Seidelmann (1973). For an autobiographical essay on the project's role in the evolution of the perspective presented here, see my "Roots of Faith" (1976b) [and "Roots of Faith II, 1989]. The major quantitative results of the project are given in Rummel (1972, 1977, and 1979); the basic methodology in Rummel (1970, and summarized in "Understanding Factor Analysis").

8. My Dimensions of Nations (1972) presents the components for 236 variables for 82 nations in 1955, and a systematic comparison with the components found by others. Moreover, the sources of error in the results are systematically assessed. See also my Applied Factor Analysis (1970) for the use of such components and related results to exemplify the application of factor analysis. In my Field Theory Evolving (1977) the components are discussed and used to predict dyadic behavior. And in my National Attributes and Behavior (1978) the technical details and research design surrounding the delineation of the specific components in Table 7.1 are given, as well as the data. Appendix 9A brings all these results together with regard to international behavior.

9. See the systematic comparisons of the economic development component in Rummel (1972: Chapter 10). In light of the subsequent results in Rummel (1979), I changed the name of the component to wealth. The idea of affluence and abundance versus poverty better conceptualizes the diverse cluster of attributes delineated by this component.

10. To be clear about a possible source of confusion, the representative correlated attributes were not determined by correlating the component with a mass of variables and selecting out the higher correlations. Nor was the component formed by selecting and scaling the indicated attributes. Rather, hundreds of attributes were factor-analyzed together and power was one of the independent components uncovered in this mass of data. In other words, in cross-national data there is a distinct, independent, empirical pattern of attributes that reflect national power, and some of those attributes are shown in Table 7.3.

11. Alcock (1970: 3 39) found that: "The power of nations as perceived by Canadian subjects is best explained in terms of military expenditures of nations." Military expenditures is also correlated with the power component, as shown in Table 7.3.

12. For the details of this political triangle, see Chapter 31 of Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix.

13. Because of this correlation, the two components often appear as one political orientation component in orthogonal rotation, or in studies with insufficient political attributes to distinguish the two types.

14. In international relations, the perceived prestige of a state is largely dependent on wealth and power. For an empirical study of this, for example, see Alcock (1970). Therefore, I assume that a state's wealth and power as measured by the components in Table 7.2 and Table 7.3 empirically reflect its international wealth, power, and prestige.

15. These components measure national character, as reflected by the location of an actor in the common, international space-time. This is not to imply that national character is homogeneous. Rather, national character has different loci within the nation, it is differentiated into individual, group, and state levels. The character of individuals from a wealthy and economically developed state is similar in many respects to those from another wealthy and developed state. Industrialization creates considerable similarity in interests and perspectives. However, the character of the elite between these same states will differ considerably if one is a communist state, the other liberal democratic. The point that national character has different loci is made by Terhune (1970) in his critical review of the national character literature and reformulation of the concept.

16. The role of distance in conflict is later made more specific empirically in Appendix 9A, and in Appendix 16B through a number of propositions. The relevant evidence is also provided therein. See Propositions 16.6, 16.12, 16.14, 16.21, 16.32, and 16.33.

17. For how I came to realize the importance and use of this concept, see my "Roots of Faith" (1976b) [and "Roots of Faith II" 1989].

18. See the Wealth-Power-Politics Proposition 16.33 in Appendix 16B for the evidence, which is strongly supportive.

19. In Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field, I tried to clarify the psychological nature, aspects, and roles of perception; in Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix I similarly analyzed perception in a social context. Perception is now a well-accepted analytical concept in international relations, as for example in the work of Burgess (1967), Boulding (1959), Burton (1968), and Jervis (1970), and is worked through such ideas as "misperception," "image," "cognitive dissonance," and "cognitive model," all of which play a role in my own analysis.

In brief review, we perceive others along components related to ourselves (as distances from ourselves in psychological space) and in relation to a situation. This perception of both ourselves and others and of the situation is shaped by our cultural matrix, by our cognitive models of the world, by our self-images and those of the other, and by psychological forces toward balance and consistency. How these distances between international actors and situations combine to predict international behavior reflects this perception, as will be discussed in the next chapters. But for the moment I will be content to sum up my view in the words of Harold and Margaret Sprout (1965: 224): "values and preferences, moods and attitudes, choices and decisions are relatable to the milieu only via the environed individual's selective perception and his psychological reactions--to what is perceived. From the perspective of decisions and decision-making, what matters is how the individual or group imagines the milieu to be, not how it actually is."

See the Actor and Perception Propositions 16.7 and 16.29 in Appendix 16B.

20. See the Actor Proposition 16.7 in Appendix 16B.

21. In my previous works I have left different situations denotatively implicit. But this has tended to confuse, especially in detailing the precise linkages between behavior, situation and distances. Also, were I able to begin my notation from scratch without the baggage created by my previous publications and conventional notation in factor analysis and canonical analysis, I would denote situation by s rather than by . However, to so drastically alter notation at this point would be to create even more confusion.

22. As with the Chapter 6, the reader may have many operational questions, some of which may be as follows.

How are the common components of space-time defined? Data are arrayed in an actor (state) by years by attribute matrix, where the columns are defined by attributes. The matrix is factor analyzed (image analysis) and the components rotated to an oblique (biquartimin) solution.

How is the location of each actor i and j defined? Each state i has a location in international, sociocultural space-time defined by its factor scores, si, on the image components.

How are the sociocultural distances between actor and object measured? This is the difference si - sj in factor scores of i and j on each component.

How is the situation gi measured? This is the th canonical coefficient of the gth equation of a canonical regression of dyadic behavior onto the distances. Rummel (1979) empirically exemplifies this design. See also Appendix 9A.

For citations see the Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace REFERENCES

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