Power in international politics
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Power in International Politics. State Power/Power Politics Balance of Power International Systems. Key Concepts. Anarchy and self-help. The security dilemma. Security dilemma within a society of states.

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Power in international politics

Power in International Politics

State Power/Power Politics

Balance of Power

International Systems

Key concepts
Key Concepts

  • Anarchy and self-help.

  • The security dilemma.

  • Security dilemma within a society of states.

  • Power Politics: whereas power is unequally distributed, each state must provide its own security, and whereas one state’s security is another’s threat, states continually vie for power to be secure.

  • PP includes diplomacy, alliance, BoP, War, Peace, even IL and IO. Primacy is Power.

Types of state power
Types of State Power

  • The form of PP changes, but the nature of state relations remains the same.

  • Great Powers have five features. (Roman, Napoleonic, British empires, USA/USSR post 1945).

  • Middle Powers: GPs value its resources, strategic position and military value added. (Regional MPs: France, Indonesia).

  • Small Powers: do not affect BoP (Netherlands), are most insecure, can be flashpoints (Israel).

Nature of gp power politics
Nature of GP Power Politics

  • Status Quo vs. Revolutionary GP’s.

  • Tools: national power, alliances, diplomacy. (Classical vs. Cold War: Structural Realism {K. Waltz})

  • GPs may seek concert for world domination.

  • GP may seek universal empire.

  • Former GPs may be submerged in power structure of supplanter: Holland-England, A-H Empire-Germany, UK-US, ?USA-China?

Balance of power various meanings
Balance of Power: various meanings

  • Historical/descriptive assessment of power.

  • BoP not as conscious state policy but as a function of systems equilibrium.

  • Grotian (Liberal) Balance: enlightened self-interest makes near equilibrium a founding principle of the society of states (eg: Concert of Europe), used to limit conflict, grant compensation, and avert hegemony, eventually overcome war.

  • Machiavellian Balance: BoP is inevitable. States only have permanent interests: maintaining the scales in their favour. BoP is inherently unstable.

  • Immanuel Kant: reject ‘the power trap’, both as practice and as prescription.

Realist rules for bop
Realist Rules for BoP

  • Always increase capabilities, but choose diplomacy over war. (Morton Kaplan)

  • War rather than a loss in capabilities.

  • Oppose preponderance by one GP.

  • Avoid uncertainty of eliminating other GPs (Versailles, Gulf 1991) or allowing a new order not based on Power Politics.

Preponderance rather than balance
Preponderance rather than Balance

  • Preponderance of Power school of thought. (balances are unstable, benevolent hegemony is better {Cold War}, war is likely when hegemon declines or challenger closes the gap).

  • Hegemonic stability theory: hegemon underwrites rules of trade and diplomacy which creates stability

  • Declining hegemons/stability causes war or systems change

International systems
International Systems

  • The type of configuration of power in a time and geographical framework.

  • Holsti’s five IS aspects: boundary, units, interaction, norms, structure.

  • Structure: number of GPs, nature of their power, alliances.

  • Neo-realism (K. Waltz) makes int’l structure the key explanation of all international politics.

Types of structure
Types of Structure

  • Unipolar (tether pole). National or bloc power: Roman Empire.

  • Multipolar (merry-go-round). National power and alliances. (1648-1814 Europe), South Asia today.

  • Bipolar (see-saw). National power and alliance blocs. Triple Alliance {Ge, It, A-H, 1882) and Triple Entente {Eng-Fr-Rus. 1907}, and Cold War.

  • Each has its own type of dominant security problem: challenger/assimilation; shifting alliances; escalation/zero-sum conflict

Conflict potential and risk calculation
Conflict Potential and Risk calculation

  • Deutsch and Singer definition of stability (no dominant, all GPs remain, no large-scale war)

  • Multipolar: potentially many conflicts, but also countervailing alliances and BoP holder.

  • Bipolar: potential zero-sum and high risk of escalation, but more political control.(offset by ideology and MAD)

  • Structure of IS is also contextual: rules of war and diplomacy change.

Today s international system
Today’s International System

  • Boundaries: global strong points

  • Units: democracies vs. the rest

  • Interaction: eco, pol, mil, cult.

  • Structure: unipolar and multipolar mixed.

Complicating factors
Complicating Factors

  • Non-state actors and intrastate wars.

  • Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

  • Trade blocs vs. WTO

  • USA is not a traditional empire. It is a mixture of: primus inter pares, benevolent hegemon, globocop, and traditional GP.

  • ‘Triumph’ of Liberalism and instant communication challenges legitimacy of national interest and possibility of limited war.


  • Does the end of territorial aggrandizement mean the end of GP Power Politics?

  • Does the presence of Nuclear Weapons mean the end of GP Power Politics?

  • Does Globalization?

  • Can regional or global organization (NATO/UN) prevent/overcome GP politics?

  • Each GP has its own power and normative context.

  • Today’s Power Politics: The Role of one Hyper Power.

Future system watch
Future System Watch

  • Will a multipolar MAD be as stable as the Cold War MAD?

  • Will missile defence replace deterrence?

  • Will WMD replace Nuclear Weapons?

  • Will rigid trade blocs emerge from globalization?

  • Will the state system weaken from quasi states and global economics?

  • Will civilization/religion clashes replace inter-state war?