Compliance gaining in the United Nations Security Council



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Texas Tech University


Perhaps the most basic and most prevalent purpose of all human interaction is to satisfy some desire. In such a case, "social behavior becomes the manipulation of other people to achieve the goals of the actor, and the study of interaction becomes the study of social control" (Marwell & Schmitt, 1967, p. 350). One of these forms of social control is called compliancegaining. This concept describes a person's (the agent's) attempt to cause another (the target) to act as the agent wishes. The target does not necessarily have to share the same beliefs or attitudes as the agent; it is the actual change in behavior that is of consequence. The concept of power also enters into this conception, since compliance-gaining "is the very reason for the existence of power" (Wheeless, Barraclough, & Stewart, 1983, p. 121). In order to be successful in his or her compliance-gaining attempt, the agent must evoke some sort of power over the target, such as the ability to reward proper behavior or punish undesirable action.

It would be reasonable to make the assumption that since power and compliance-gaining function together, one could make judgments and predictions of the actors' interactions based on knowledge of their relative powers and methods of compliance-gaining. Indeed, several studies have shown that differences on power status between the actors greatly affect what methods the agent will use to persuade the target and how the agent will phrase the request (Fung, 1991; Kipnis, Schmidt, & Wilkinson, 1980; Richmond, Davis, Saylor, & McCroskey, 1984; Rim & Erez, 1980).

What these definitions of human interaction have in common is that they study these interactions at the level of the individual. On a larger, more global scale, these definitions of social interaction might apply to the interactions of nations as well. How do nations attempt to influence other nations? Do they use strategies similar to those encountered in interpersonal relationships? It is the purpose of this study to examine the concepts of power and compliance-gaining at the international level to discover how nations attempt to influence and control the behavior of other nations. The effects of differences in power or status between the nations on these interactions will also be examined. Do states treat other states equally, as Clay's quote suggests; or do power differences lead to unequal rules of conduct, as Twain implies?