Key Difference – State Actors vs Non-State Actors
Actors in the international arena can be classified mainly into two types of actors as state actors and non-state actors. The key difference between state actors and non-state actors is, the state actors are the ruling governments of a state or a country whereas non-state actors are the influential organizations or even individuals having the potential to influence the actions of state actors, but not allied to a state.
In the international stage, actors are entities that participate in international relations. The field of international relations basically deals in studying the interactions or the affairs among international actors; the manner how they interact with each other, their ability to influence other actors, and causes and the consequences of their interactions. The international system is the system where all these types of actors interact with each other. The manner of the interaction between these two types of actors in the international stage has an impact in determining the political and social occurrences in the world.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What are State Actors
3. What are Non-State Actors
4. Relationship Between State Actors and Non-State Actors
5. Side by Side Comparison – State Actors vs Non-State Actors in Tabular Form
What are State Actors?
A state by definition is the political unit that has the ultimate authority or the sovereignty over an area of territory and the people in it. In other words, state actors are the governments of the countries in the world. Hence, every state in the global arena is categorized under state actors; for example, USA, UK, China, Germany, France, Vatican state, Singapore etc.
They are the major and the dominant actors on the international stage. Since these actors hold the administrative power of a state, they have the ultimate authority in their decision making procedure along with the right to possess the military power. They are in the topmost position in the international power hierarchy. They bear the legal right to use force and military power according to their wishes.
Even though state actors were regarded as the sole and the dominant actors in the international arena, technological developments, globalization and social movements have increased the capacity of the non-state actors over the state actors.
What are Non-State Actors?
Similarly, non-state actors are all those who are not the government. They are little below the power hierarchy of the state actors. They have no legal right to use military force and power as per their will, unlike the state actors. However, in cases of IGO and NGO involvements in state affairs such as the UN peace-keeping forces, military force is used under the approval and the consent of the particular the state.
Pearlman and Cunningham (2011) define non-state actors as ‘organised political actor not directly connected to state but pursuing aims that affect vital state interests.’ However, they can be either organizations or even influential individuals that have the political, economic or social capability to influence at a national or sometimes even on an international level. They are not allies to any government or state, which makes it possible for them to work individually and also to allow them to influence and interfere with the actions of the state actors.
Non-State Actors are again divided as follows;
Sub-State actors – State-associated organisations like the Tea Industry, Automobile Industry, Pharmaceuticals etc.
IGO or Inter-Governmental Organizations (Who are allied together regionally or internationally on a common interest, and are established by states through a treaty, e.g. Internationa IGO like UN, NATO, INTERPOL, IAEA etc.
Trans-National Actors – Groups or individuals that function below the state level but across borders, e.g. TNCs – Trans National Cooperations, MNCs – Multi-National Cooperations, NGOs – Non-Governmental Organisations
Violent political Groups – Groups that are politically motivated and who intend to propagate violence and influence the actions of the state like terrorist groups, warlords, Militia, Insurgent groups etc.
Criminal groups – Those who are engaged in criminal activities and illegitimate activities. Their intentions are not politically motivated, rather motivated by financial gains. e.g., human and drug traffickers, narcotics, money laundering etc.
In addition to these main subdivisions, influential individual figures like Dalai Lama, The Pope, celebrities, etc. and media cooperations also belong to these non-state actors.
What is the Relationship Between State Actors and Non-State Actors?
- State actors and non-state actors interact with each other in the international arena.
- Internationl Relations is the study of their interactions and their consequences.
What is the Difference Between State Actors and Non-State Actors?
State Actors vs Non-State Actors
|State Actors are the states or governments of the countries.||Non-State Actors are groups or individuals who have the potential to influence the activities of the state actors.|
|State actors primarily comprise of states.||Non-state actors can be IGOs, NGOs, Trans National Actors, Violent Political Groups, Criminal Groups (TOC) and Influential Individual figures.|
|State actors have state-related interests as exemplified by their domestic and foreign policies.||Non-state actors have varied self-motivated interests.
E.g., IGO s and NGOs mainly intend in promoting world peace, humanitarian measures, social services etc., Violent political group’s main intention is to create political transformations, Criminal groups engage in transnational organized crime for economic and political gains.
Summary – State Actors vs Non-State Actors
International relations deal in studying the manner how the actors in the international arena, state actors and non-state actors, interact with each other. Globalization and the development of technologies have transformed the international order; today, not only state actors have become major players in the international arena, but non-state actors as well. As a result, most of the actions of state actors are influenced and challenged by this growing demands of non-state actors. The difference between state actors and non-state actors as per definition is, state actors are the ruling governments of the states while non-state actors are the influential bodies not allied to states. The interest of these actors differs accordingly.
1. Kimberley, Margaret, et al. “States Vs. Non-State Actors: Asymmetric Conflict And Challenges To Military Transformation.” Eurasia Review, 13 Mar. 2011, Available here.
2. “State and Non-State Actors in International Politics.” UKEssays, Available here.