This paper is an effort to overcome a major obstacle to a creative system orientation in international relations—a dearth of knowledge about system-level change. To accomplish this goal two tasks are necessary. First, building upon earlier contributions, a new definition of international system is offered and its essential properties—structure, process, equilibrium, stability—are discussed. The second requirement is to create a new approach to crisis and to forge links between its unit and system levels, the focus of the rest of the paper. This, in turn, will facilitate the analysis of crises as catalysts to system change, that is, as international earthquakes. 0260-2105/85/01/0017-20/$03.00.
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* This paper was made possible by a generous grant to the International Crisis Behaviour (ICB) Project from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The final version has benefited greatly from comments by Yehudith Auerbach, Patrick Creary, Steven Finestone, Robert Keohane, Sheila Moser, Jonathan Wilkenfeld and Avner Yaniv.