Brokers: Linkage actors in international politics

Katherine Mancke Kidd, University of Pennsylvania


Broker is a term widely used in political science, and the other social sciences, to describe an informal function or style in political structures. Political scientists have used intuitive definitions of brokerage and have not developed a systematic understanding of the role. The purpose of this dissertation is to develop a theoretical model of brokerage, to apply it to two cases and to evaluate the results. A broker is defined as an actor in a political structure who links at least two other actors, a patron and a target, and has a reciprocal power relationship with the patron. Brokerage structures are assumed to be unstable because they did not represent preferred power relations for any of the actors involved. The study focuses on structural aspects of brokerage drawing on network analysis and power theory to describe the political structures. Theoretical insights from game theory and collective goods theory are also used. Eighteen hypotheses are developed to define the extent of a broker's power. The hypotheses relate to three key variables or sets of variables: reciprocity, scope, and domain, field and arena of influence. The case studies examine two brokers: Leon Sullivan, in relation to U.S. corporations in South Africa, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The cases differed in several ways which allowed for contrast and comparison on several dimensions: formal and informal brokerage, single or multiple issue brokerage, brokerage in one structure composed primarily of non-state actors and another composed primarily or nation-sates, and shorter and longer term brokerage. Of the eighteen hypotheses tested, one was falsified by the cases, three require modification as a result of the cases and fourteen were verified. Of particular interest are insights gained into the role brokers play in promoting change in international politics, the mechanisms brokers develop to limit conflict and enhance complementarity within their brokerage structure, and the ways in which brokers can use their dependency, usually viewed as weakness, to enhance their power.

Subject Area

International law|International relations

Recommended Citation

Kidd, Katherine Mancke, "Brokers: Linkage actors in international politics" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9112583.