SIM – Levels is an Assignment where you explore the concept of the levels, define individual, community, local, state, national, and international levels, and explain how these levels can interact with one another.

The Concept of Levels

The world is complex, but there are ways to begin organizing this complexity. One way of organizing this complexity is by divide the world from a continuous space into discrete levels.

What is the utility of the levels model?

When we operate in a continuous space, there is not a beginning or an end. In some ways, this could be helpful in exploring ideas of indefiniteness and infinity.

However, in a political science course like ours, we need definition and finiteness to make tractable other concepts like status quo, political actors, and networks.

In other words, the levels model helps us partition a continuous space into discrete layers. These layers help us categorize individuals and entities, catalog knowledge within levels, and segment actors and actions within and between levels. Another way of thinking about this, is that levels create mental containers for us to store information.

Given these needs, we can divide a continuous space into discrete levels: individual, community, local, state, national, and international. Let’s define each of these levels next.

Graphical representations of levels in the form of pyramid

ndividual Level

The individual level centers on the person. Each person is unique, so when using this level, the goal is to explore the self-interest of the individual, given their observable behaviors and actions. Additionally, you can explore an individual’s unobservable values and beliefs by assuming them from observed behaviors and actions. In the scientific study of politics, the concept of observable and unobservable related to public and private spheres of individuals.

Community Level

The community level focuses on group of people who relationally proximate to each other. A common example of the community level is your immediate and extended family. Also, your physical neighborhood, as defined by streets, blocks, or other landmarks, or even your school or college community.

Community level could also center on a group of people who knowingly share a common interest. For example, if you a member of the marching band, a part of a dance group, or play in a video gaming team, you could consider those your community as well.

Local Level

The local level centers on a group of people and entities who are in close geographic proximity. Entities can be city, counties, businesses, non-profits, and other organizations within a specific area. The local level differs from the community level in two ways: inclusion of entities and requirement of geographic proximity. In political science, when we discuss local level, we are typically referring to city, county, school district, and special district governments.

State Level

The state level focuses on subnational governments, interest groups, and think tanks. For example, in the United States, the State of California would be considered an entity at the state level. In Iraq, the 19 provinces, would be considered an entity at the state level. In addition to governments, there are also interest groups and think tanks that focus on the state level. For example, the California Labor Federation is an umbrella organization that represents a range of labor unions in the state. Additionally, the Public Policy Institute of California is a statewide think tank that focuses on a variety of public policy issues relevant to the people and governments of California.

National Level

The national level centers on national governments, interest groups, and think tanks. For example, the federal governments of United States, Mexico, and Canada would each be considered national governments. The US Public Interest Research Group would be considered a national think tank. While the US Chamber of Commerce would be considered a national interest group.

International Level

Finally, the international level focuses on international agreements, international organizations, international non-government organizations, and international interest groups. The most common example is the United Nations, which is an international organization since it features countries as member-states. On the other hand, Doctors Without Borders is considered a non-governmental organization. Lastly, Green Peace would be considered an interest group at this level.

Interaction between Levels

While the levels serve as useful “within” objects, meaning we can place knowledge and political actors on a single level, there can be interaction “between” levels. Inherently, all levels derive from the same continuous space because levels are discrete representations of a continuous space.

Given this, we can describe the interaction between different levels. For example, how does the individual level interact with the community level? Or how does the community level interact with the local level? Or how does the local level interact with the state level? Or how does the state level interact with the national level? And lastly, how does the national level interact with the international level?

An underlying assumption of these questions is that interaction is hierarchical, implying that interaction between levels goes from one to another. But, if you relax this assumption, then we can consider other questions. For example, how does the community level interact with the state level? Or how does the local level interact with the international level?


Step 1: Select two levels

  • Select two levels that most intrigue you.

Step 2: Explain your Selected Levels

In 5-sentences or more, explain the two levels you selected. You can use the following questions to help explain your choice:

  • Which two levels most interest you and why?
  • What is at least one trade-off in focusing on two levels versus all the levels?
  • What is at least one benefit of using two level versus using just one level?
  • What are examples of other individuals or organizations within the two levels selected?

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