A conceptual framework for the analysis of global political change is presented and illustrated with examples drawn from the Cold War. The most important issues on an agenda, the critical issues, go through identifiable stages: genesis, crisis, ritualization, dormancy, decision making, and authoritative allocation. The effects of the different stages on behavior of international actors is examined in a preliminary fashion, and a theoretical rationale is offered. Each stage, treated in detail, relates to the others in terms of differences in behavior associated with each stage, the evolving of relationships among actors, and the resolution of issues. The concluding section elaborates the research implications.