Electronically excited molecules interact with their neighbors differently from their ground-state counterparts. Any migration of the excitation between molecules can modify intermolecular forces, reflecting changes to a local potential energy landscape. It emerges that throughput off-resonant radiation can also produce significant additional effects. The context for the present analysis of the mechanisms is a range of chemical and physical processes that fundamentally depend on intermolecular interactions resulting from second and fourth-order electric-dipole couplings. The most familiar are static dipole-dipole interactions, resonance energy transfer (both second-order interactions), and dispersion forces (fourth order). For neighboring molecules subjected to off-resonant light, additional forms of intermolecular interaction arise in the fourth order, including radiation-induced energy transfer and optical binding. Here, in a quantum electrodynamical formulation, these phenomena are cast in a unified description that establishes their inter-relationship and connectivity at a fundamental level. Theory is then developed for systems in which the interplay of these forms of interaction can be readily identified and analyzed in terms of dynamical behavior. The results are potentially significant in Förster measurements of conformational change and in the operation of microelectromechanical and nanoelectromechanical devices. © 2009 American Institute of Physics.