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Many also name cyberattacks from other countries and the condition of the global economy as major challenges. Survey Reports August 1, People around the world identify ISIS and climate change as leading international threats. Survey Reports July 13, Globally, More Name U. But the economic balance of power has shifted in the eyes of some key U. Survey Reports June 20, Economic views are mixed and corruption remains a concern. Survey Reports April 4, Yet, concerns about Chinese cyberattacks have risen and most Americans back using force to defend Asian allies against China.

Multimedia December 15, See these Pew Research Center findings on the growing support for populist movements that has been a prominent feature of recent politics in Europe and the United States. Survey Reports July 11, The refugee crisis and the threat of terrorism are very much related in the minds of many Europeans. Across the EU there are also sharp ideological divides on views about minorities, diversity and national identity. Survey Reports June 29, Seen Favorably in Europe and Asia.

As he nears the end of his presidency, Barack Obama continues to enjoy a broad degree of international popularity. Survey Reports June 23, Global Publics Back U. Ratings for the U. Survey Reports July 14, Global Opposition to U. Revelations about the scope of American electronic surveillance efforts have generated headlines around the world. A new Pew Research Center survey finds widespread decline in the view that the U. Commentary August 6, China finding superpower path no cakewalk. Commentary August 5, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's call for high-level talks with China comes at a time when Japanese attitudes toward China have soured precipitously as tensions have grown due to disputes over trade, geopolitics and history.

Multimedia July 23, Publications July 18, Although many around the world believe the economic balance of power is shifting, the U. China is seen as dominant in eight countries, with the remaining nine divided in their opinions. Overall, a median of […].

balance of power

Survey Reports July 18, Overview Publics around the world believe the global balance of power is shifting. Overall, the U. People are […]. Publications December 20, Slideshow: World Trends in Publications November 1, Over the past year, public opinion surveys in the United States and China have shown evidence of rising tensions between the two countries on a host of issues.

These include increasingly negative perceptions of each other and concern over economic and trade policies. This infographic explores these views. Commentary November 1, As economic and geopolitical competition grows between the U. He argued that it was not the use itself, but the threat of use of this new weapon, that could lead to peace and stability. This seemed to promise a revision of the workings of the international system. In the s, therefore, some started arguing that the balance of power was irrelevant because of nuclear weapons technology. Civilian scientists increasingly challenged the authority of the military establishment, arguing that the military's traditional ways of understanding war and conflict, such as a balance of power, were irrelevant for the nuclear wars of the future.

Whereas some held that the balance had become irrelevant because of nuclear weapons, others defended the old lessons from European diplomacy, and the concept of the balance of power. So did Robert Ingrim, arguing that the balance of power was still relevant, and that the concept could not be blamed for the world wars. The United States is not the holder of the balance, but a defender of it.

Glenn H. The presence of nuclear arsenals would only modify the balance. An early realist IR scholar, Hans Morgenthau, argued that nuclear policy was not a foreign policy tool, but a means of ensuring that the national interest can be supported by traditional means.


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Nuclear policy is a background condition that must be managed through cooperation, where peace and stability are the ultimate goal. Thus, the balance of power is not obsolete, he maintained: it operates, day to day, in the shadow of nuclear policy — which is a different matter entirely. After the Second World War, therefore, many debated whether, in some unprecedented way, there was no balance, order, or structure to international politics at all. Did Cold War diplomacy operate in a completely new and unprecedented world?

The initial concerns of many IR scholars went parallel to these discussions: Who would be the new guarantor of world order, and how? Was there a balance of power? Who could secure a new one? US academics took the practices of European diplomats as their cue to develop the theory we now know as Realism in IR — the practice of diplomats should be the ultimate reality test for any theory.

Here, two realist writers stand out: Hans Morgenhau and Kenneth Waltz. Morgenthau claimed that just as human beings, states follow a drive for power and domination. Morgenthau argued that the balance of power and the policies aimed at establishing and maintaining it were crucial for the stability of international politics.

He also argued, however, that the balance of power would be a result of a struggle for power where every state must aim for superiority and not explicitly for a balance of power. Yet, superiority is exactly what one should not aim for, according to the many diplomats who had been using the concept in former times. This is one of various ambiguities in Morgenthau's work, who operates with many different and at times contradictory definitions and implications of the balance of power.

Kenneth Waltz therefore aimed to establish the balance of power as a theory on a more consistent and scientific level. The balance of power is the theory of realist international politics. Because of the structure of international politics — where every state fends for itself in an international anarchy — the way to protect oneself as a small state is to engage in balancing against a threatening great power.

Today's international politics with the United States as a sole superpower is not normal, he would argue, as all countries historically have worked to right the balance when one actor threatens to become too big. Instead of focusing on each and every component of a system — such as all the various states with all their different characteristics and foreign policies — Waltz wanted to make a simpler theory by focusing on what all have in common, namely the structure within which they are acting.

The assumption is that all states are alike in the way they function as a part of the system, as every state has one overriding wish: to survive.

Balance of Power

They differ only in their capabilities: some states are powerful and big, others have fewer capabilities. Still, as all states learn from the successful states in the system, a balance of power will eventually emerge. Contrary to former theorists, it is not the skillful diplomatic maneuvering or political traditions that decide the balance of power but the recurring patterns of politics he calls the international structure. The balance of power will emerge whether politicians and diplomats intend it or not. Waltz argued that balancing can be done through external or internal means.

Internal balancing means channeling a state's resources to armaments, extracting resources, organizing the state properly, preventing revolts and infiltrations, and so on, to protect and strengthen oneself to be able to compete more effectively. States do external balancing through making alliances with others to halt a rising power. Even if cooperation is difficult between states, when facing a common or existential threat, states may temporarily put aside their disputes and band together against the dominant state.

These accounts have a strong hold on the discipline of IR, but today authors are also challenging these classical theories of the balance of power. Whilst Waltz implies that a state can be safe enough only having to defend itself, Mearsheimer argues that maintaining the status quo is never a successful strategy — there is no time to rest, states have to be on the offensive and work constantly to maximize their power, because that is what everyone else is doing.

No cooperation is possible; the structure of the international system compels states to engage in unrelenting competition to tip the balance in one's favor.

Balance Of Power | Definition of Balance Of Power by Merriam-Webster

Consequently, he argues that all states at all times are relentlessly engaging in internal balancing. States must spend all their resources on maximizing power to avoid falling behind in the international competition; there is no time to be complacent. These are all realist scholars. A different perspective on the balance of power comes from authors pertaining to the English School, who argue that the balance of power is an institution of international society, binding states tighter together.

Hedley Bull argued that one function of the balance of power has been to foster an international society resting on shared understandings between states. It is not only a factor in an international system. Many authors of this school, such as Richard Little, adopt a historical perspective on the balance of power, whilst also arguing that it is analytically useful to explain international stability and community.

Whilst not a member of the English School, Stephen Walt also adds a social aspect to the balance of power, arguing that not only material capabilities count.


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Perceptions also matter. States, that is, will ally against what is seen to be the most threatening state. They balance against perceived threats, not against any objective measure of power seen in isolation. For instance, a rising state could be considered friendly and similar to oneself, and therefore not be seen as an impending threat.

The implication is that another option is to join a rising power, rather than to balance against it. Bandwagoning, Waltz argued, is too risky because it allows the enemy to grow stronger. Therefore, bandwagoning will only happen as a last resort. Randall L. Schweller, however, points out that there are also revisionist states in the system that will work to overthrow the existing order — the status quo. Bandwagoning may therefore become more prominent. When large states successfully challenge the existing international order, small states may ally with the dominant, rising power to assure their own survival.

They will not primarily try the risky strategy of balancing against a state that can do whatever it wants anyway. Then, some have argued, an alternative is soft balancing. Soft balancing, on the other hand, is a more indirect way of balancing, whereby states use resources short of military buildups to establish understandings with other, often likeminded states, to undermine the stronger one.

The point is to increase the costs of the unilateral policies of the stronger state by undermining it through economic, diplomatic, institutional, or even cultural means. Collaboration in international institutions could be one example. Normally, balancing is viewed as something states do, whilst balances of power are viewed as the outcome on the level of the system. Balancing and the balance of power is a broader phenomenon than what realist IR theory traditionally implies.

This is important also given that some historical studies find scant evidence of traditional balances of power in operation. Historians like Paul W. Schroeder have questioned the presence of a static concept of a balance of power, mustering historical evidence to the contrary. In sum, the balance of power has been used throughout history, both in practice and theory, and is still with us. Today, the most debated theoretical question is, why have no states successfully balanced against the United States?

Why is the world order in a state of unbalance? Many of the debates mentioned above, and the suggested readings below, refer to this problem in different ways. Whilst the balance of power is still on the agenda for scholarship, also in the world of practical politics we still see the occasional mention of a balance of power.

In the context of increasing Russian assertiveness in the s, we can also find frequent references in the media to the balance of power in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and globally. The balance of power is and has been important and useful, both as theory and as politics, a concept to use to formulate policy positions, and a concept from which to distance oneself. The jury is still out on whether it is a useful theoretical concept for us as scholars. In any case, it has definitely been useful for diplomats throughout history, and a central concept of diplomatic practice in Europe and beyond.

This also means that it is difficult to find any clear definition of what the balance of power really is — a variety of political actors and scholars have been and are using the concept for very different purposes, and often with contradictory meanings. Therefore, in the study of diplomacy, it can be of analytical value if used with care, but it is also definitively worth investigating as being an integral component of the historical practice of diplomacy up until the present day see Andersen If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

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Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Abstract The balance of power — the idea that states consciously or unconsciously strive towards an equal distribution of power to avoid dominance by one — is a core concept for the study of international politics.

E-BOOK: THE POWER OF BALANCE

The Balance of Power in History It is in realist theories of international relations that we most often encounter the concept of the balance of power. The Balance of Power Today In sum, the balance of power has been used throughout history, both in practice and theory, and is still with us.

Andersen, M. Online at: etheses. Accessed April Google Scholar. Crossref Google Scholar. Suggested Readings. Anderson, M. Hatton and M.