Perhaps you’re a new student of international relations or just a passerby who’s been hearing stuff about shaky American hegemony and caught the terms “system maintainer” or “transformer” tossed around, wondering what they meant. They’re not about IT guys who maintain your servers or sweet Camaros that transform into awesome robots. They are worldviews of international relations. There are three groups – maintainers, reformers, and transformers; politically, these categories explain nations’ motives, interests, and why they behave the way they do.
Maintainers are the realist-pessimists of the bunch. They prioritize maintaining power (hence their name) relative to other states. They’re pretty “it’s every man for himself” in their attitude and motivated by national self-interest, which is reflected in their foreign policy. They cooperate and collaborate minimally and only if such interaction benefits them. To them, the world is a rat race and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to stay afloat and hopefully on top. Another man’s struggle or insecurity is your gain and security. Think Machiavelli.
Reformers are all about welfare and security. They like to cooperate with other states and believe that through collaboration, we can all benefit. It’s a world community, and sharing is caring. Unlike the maintainers, who guard what is theirs and don’t like to come out and play, reformers focus their foreign policy on balancing out the world. They work to make sure that everybody is on the same page, find common ground with one another, and try to redistribute the wealth, lessening the gap between the wealthy and the impoverished. Think Woodrow Wilson.
Transformers take it a notch above the reformers with their desire for a happy globe focused on human interests. These are truly the “we are the world” guys. Over national interests, transformers want to see a true situation of citizens of the world, where policies are focused on balance, welfare, social justice, and a healthy environment as well as economy. They want to spread the idea and message of the Earth being one world community. Think Gandhi.
Here is a brief sketch of these three worldviews in a bar to help cement them into your mind.
The Transformer walked in and happily waved at his friends who’d already started.
“Where’ve you been, man?” asked the Reformer, toasting the latecomer with his Fat Tire. He quickly set down the beer and whistled as he peered more closely at his friend. “Dude, what a shiner. Who popped you? Hey, Jerry, get this guy a glass of ice for his eye.”
The Transformer busily went around hugging everyone at the table as he answered. “Oh, this woman looked like she was getting harassed by a drunk ex a block away from here, so I intervened. She was pretty feisty back at him, but it still looked like it was getting pretty heated, so I had to step in.”
He sighed as the Maintainer pushed out of his attempted hug. Typical.
“Least it’s not her with this eye now,” he said, thanking Jerry the bartender as he accepted the ice and gingerly pressed the glass to his swollen eye.
The Maintainer shook his head in disgust as he sipped his 18-year Macallan.
“Jesus, Transformer. It wasn’t any concern of yours.”
“I couldn’t just let her get treated like that!”
“If it was an ex, she clearly got out of that situation. Dealing with belligerent exes is part of life and if she was feisty, could have handled it without your ass trying to be all noble. Look at you now with that busted eye.” He drained his glass signaled for another. “Relationships. What folly. Don’t know why you people put up with being dependent on someone else. Makes you vulnerable and gets you into situations like that. All lovey-dovey for a while, but eventually things break down. Always.” Jerry slid him a glass. “That’s why I’m a sugar daddy. I pay for the company of beautiful young women that are the same age as this fine scotch right here, and just as smooth, and they get through school with that money. Mutual benefit, no feelings. Transitory and satisfactory interactions.”
The Reformer sighed at the hardened man on his left. “Maintainer, I get where you’re coming from. But love is possible, and hell, we should strive for it. Relationships, man, yeah, conflict’s inevitable. But nine times out of ten, you guys can work through it together. Maybe you can’t stand pretending to be nice to her ditzy friends, maybe she hates how you leave your crap all over the place. You might have to compromise on things and agree on new rules to follow, but it’s worth it. And then you can avoid further fights, because sometimes fighting gets you nowhere and now you guys have a system of compromise that you’ve agreed upon about how to handle your issues together. That’s love, man.”
“I’ll drink to that,” said the Transformer.
Tired of dealing with these saps, Maintainer slammed down some cash and took his leave. Reformer and Transformer stared sadly after him. After the pair shared a sorrowful sigh for Maintainer’s unrelenting coldness, Reformer began to sing Kumbaya as Transformer pulled out his ukulele. The two friends swayed as they sang, overcome by a sense of community.