Homeostatis is the property of an international order of the anarchistic System that ensures that the tensions in the System remain within a certain range through active regulation.
Each international order has a set-point, the desired (target) value for the tension level of the System; the set-point describes a norm for the System. Through the release of tensions – by means of non-systemic wars – a departure/deviation from the norm (set-point) is corrected.
Homeostatis is a process of adjustment of the tension level – the internal environment (condition) – of the System. Non-systemic wars are instrumental in the release of tensions from the System and act as regulators (homeostats).
Non-systemic wars are about the constancy – viability – of tension levels in the System. If tensions become too high in the System, the fulfilment of basic requirements by states and their populations becomes problematic, which could eventually lead to (internal) instability of states and endanger their survival.
States not only ‘interactively’ (in interaction with other states) produce tensions, they also are integral parts of the homeostatic control mechanism of the System: They fulfil the functions of sensors (identify deviations from norms), and also trigger regulatory responses (they trigger corrective adjustment).
Threats to the homeostasis – the ability for self-regulation by the System – originate from changes in the internal ‘environment’ of the System: Population growth and intensifying rivalries between states, in combination with the increasing connectivity of the network of issues in the System, of which states are integral components.
The moment the international order – the relatively stable period – reaches the so-called tipping point, a connectivity effect (concerning the network of issues and states in the System) increasingly hinders the release of tensions from the System, and consequently negatively affects the capacity for self-regulation: This dynamic increasingly becomes a threat to the homeostasis of the System, and eventually causes the international order’s collapse. Once the tipping point is reached, tensions – instead of being released – and (unsolved) issues, accumulate in the System and cause the System to become eventually critical.
The moment the tipping point is reached – and tensions and unsolved issues accumulate in the System – a self-reinforcing dynamic also contributes to the build-up of (further) tensions. The security dilemma – intrinsic to anarchistic systems – reinforces a sense of insecurity and fear.
Once the tipping point is reached, the System also increasingly loses its internal balance; its ‘network of communication’ (communication between states) becomes increasingly dysfunctional. Because international orders in anarchistic systems lack ‘mechanisms’ to adjust the international order by other means than systemic war (international orders are designed to implement the status quo), collapse is only a matter of time.
This dynamic can be observed in the current international order: Homeostasis is (increasingly) ‘lost’, and the network of communication (between states) is increasingly dysfunctional. The international order is now on a ‘track’ to (unavoidable) collapse, if their is no dramatic intervention.
This figure shows how the first international order (1495-1618) was balanced through nine clusters of non-systemic wars (total = 45 non-systemic wars, data from Levy). The dynamics constitute a damped oscillator (and that is remarkable, Source).
When the System eventually becomes critical, the international order – its set of regulators – collapses, and the System produces a systemic war; the System loses control (its internal balance).
By means of a systemic war an upgraded international orders is then designed and implemented. From the perspective discussed in this article, a systemic war is instrumental in a regulatory reset: A new – upgraded – set of regulators is introduced.
Typically for anarchistic systems, each state in the System uses its own norm to decide when a regulatory response (war) should be triggered to release tensions and to resolve an issue. However, at least to a degree, even in anarchistic systems, states share certain norms. The shared norms are embedded in the rule-sets of international orders and are a reflection of shared interests of states.
In case of an upgrade of the international order (always by means of systemic war) these shared norms – that are instrumental in regulating interactions between states – are upgraded.
During the period 1495-1945, the System produced four systemic war cycles, of which four systemic wars were integral components. The successive international orders that were implemented – the shared norms – became increasingly far-reaching; ‘more’ norms were shared.
The norms of states – their ‘triggers’ to initiate corrective (regulatory) actions (war) – increasingly converged – overlapped – and the increasing overlap was instrumental in (and a prerequisite for) the implementation of non-anarchistic structures in Europe (by means of the fourth systemic war, the Second World War, 1939-1945), a next step in the long process of social integration and expansion.