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Article

Power is a crucial concept for international relations scholars. Of particular importance for those interested in understanding foreign policy is knowing how power manifests as national capabilities. Understanding the relationship between power and capabilities allows for comparison and contrast of the various foreign policy tools leaders have at their disposal as they attempt to achieve their goals. Despite the importance of power, scholars still debate the best means for conceptualizing and operationalizing the concept. The all-encompassing nature of power makes it difficult to focus on a single characteristic. This article focuses on three main aspects of power: military, economic, and soft power. Each section gives an overview into the current state of research into the various aspects of power. The discussion on military power emphasizes operationalizing military might and issues with innovation. The section on economics focuses on economics as a source of power and a tool for coercion. Finally, the last section focuses on noncoercive aspects of power, better known as soft power. The article ends with some suggestions for future research.

Article

Carmela Lutmar and Lesley Terris

War termination is not a monocausal event but rather the product of a multitude of strategic, political, and psychological factors. Variables at different levels of analysis, such as power distributions, regime types, leadership and leadership changes, and psychological factors are all found to influence war termination processes. Recent studies have also explored how variables at different levels of analysis interact with one another to impact the onset and outcome of war termination, across different types of conflict (interstate and intrastate). Dynamic Bargaining models contribute to our understanding by perceiving war termination in terms of the parties’ ability to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, against a background of accumulating costs and under conditions of incomplete information.

Article

Major powers appear to behave differently from other states in the international system. They are more active and less constrained by distance than other actors. The common approach of testing conflict (and other) hypotheses across relevant dyads builds this fact into the architecture of quantitative IR. However, we argue that the dominant operationalization of major power status actually conflates two different kinds of states—global powers and regional powers. Global powers are those with both a strong interest and a capacity for long-distance engagement in IR: they build strong navies and air forces and seek to control access to the global commons. In contrast, other states have predominantly local interests and lack much capacity to project force over distance (e.g., 19th-century Austria-Hungary). Here, we develop a new, historically robust measure of power projection capability by examining the naval and air power of states from 1816–2013. We illustrate the face validity of our model by illustrating the important ways in which global powers differ from other states. Not only are global powers more active internationally, they also have fundamentally different concerns than other states. One of the strongest findings in quantitative research in conflict is the idea that states often fight wars with neighbors (either because of the importance of territorial conflicts, proximity, or both). Yet even this powerful result is nullified in dyads where one or both participants have high levels of power projection capability. Global powers are behaviorally different from other states—even many of those considered “major powers” by the Correlates of War (COW) project. We need to consider these distinctions carefully when modeling conflict behavior—particularly when declaring particular dyads to be “relevant dyads.”

Article

Ever since Aristotle, the comparative study of political regimes and their performance has relied on classifications and typologies. The study of democracy today has been influenced heavily by Arend Lijphart’s typology of consensus versus majoritarian democracy. Scholars have applied it to more than 100 countries and sought to demonstrate its impact on no less than 70 dependent variables. This paper summarizes our knowledge about the origins, functioning, and consequences of two basic types of democracy: those that concentrate power and those that share and divide power. In doing so, it will review the experience of established democracies and question the applicability of received wisdom to new democracies.

Article

Constitution-making has been a central political activity in the modern era. Enacting a new constitution was an essential ingredient in the foundation of republics, the creation of new states, the inauguration of democratic regimes, and the reequilibration of democracies during or after a political crisis. Constitution writing has also become a crucial part of the process of overcoming a legacy of violent internal conflict and a component of authoritarian regimes that seek to gain legitimacy by emulating the formalities of representative democracies. This article surveys the most important concepts and issues related to the comparative analysis of constitution-making. Although it draws examples from constitutions made in a wide variety of settings, special attention is paid to constitutional texts adopted or implemented under competitive conditions.

Article

Historically, the military in Nepal was closely associated with and loyal to the institution of the monarchy and was intended to operate in the interests of the palace. However, the military was forced to confront political change in 1990 as the power of the king beyond that of the constitution was scrapped and Nepal was limited to a constitutional monarchy. Consequently, the military theoretically came under civilian control with the advent of the end of a partyless political system and the establishment of a multiparty democracy. The palace reluctantly accepted this change but covertly continued consolidating power by using the military. Hence, the already cemented mistrust between political parties and the military mounted. Political parties viewed the military as a royal army and the military perceived political parties as unpatriotic and aligned with foreign powers. This hidden tension remained and was reflected in many instances until the abolition of the institution of the monarchy in May 2008 by the Nepali parliament. From 1990 to 2010, the military endured very difficult periods such as continuous combat (February 1996–November 2006) with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)], the royal massacre (the entire family of King Birendra was assassinated), sharp criticisms of its armed conflict related to human rights violations, a cessation of military support from the international community, the abolition of the monarchy, which had existed in Nepal for 240 years, confinement along with CPN(M) ex-combatants per the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), tensions with the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), attempts by the CPN(M) government to politicize the military, and the removal of the military chief. In all these events, the military was indirectly and directly dragged in political maneuvering. In some cases, it fully dragged while in others only partially so, and in some cases, it failed entirely. Further, in the past three decades, from 1990 to 2020, the military has been sharply criticized for engagements in business beyond its traditional military role and for not respecting civilian supremacy. However, the military has also been highly praised for its acceptance of the republican system. All Nepali citizens have praised the military’s natural disaster relief work during floods, earthquakes, avalanches, fires, landslides, air and other transportation disasters, its search and rescue operations, medical assistance and evacuation efforts, air rescues and mass evacuations, flood control, reconstruction of damaged vital infrastructures, and construction of temporary shelters for homeless citizens. It is clear that the Ministry of Defense and the military require further security sector reforms and better civil–military relations as well as ensuring parliamentary oversight in the spirit of the National Security Policy and Nepal’s constitution.

Article

Mathias Albert

The German sociologist Niklas Luhmann has provided one of the most elaborate theories of society available, as well as numerous works on specific aspects of society. Commonly labeled as “systems theory,” this is but a shorthand description of Luhmann’s theory. In fact, the theory rests on at least three main theoretical pillars. In addition to systems theory, a theory of social evolution and a theory of social differentiation play important roles. The present article introduces these three pillars and describes Luhmann’s theory of politics in this context. It outlines the crucial difference between a theory of politics as part of a theory of society on the one hand, and political theory as a reflective theory within the political system on the other hand. More specifically, it introduces Luhmann’s accounts of the notions of political power, differentiation, the state, political steering, and the self-description of the political system. The contribution concludes with some observations on the fact that Luhmann’s theory has tended to overlook the dimension of international politics, but that his theory provides opportunities to account for it in innovative ways.

Article

Keith Dowding

Power is a complex topic that is viewed in entirely different ways by different writers. Power can be seen as a property of agents, with some agents having more power than others. It can be seen as a property of social systems, where structures hold power. It can be seen in terms of specific actions by people to coerce or dominate or it can be regarded as a subliminal force that leads people to think and behave in one way rather than another. It can be analyzed descriptively to try to explain how it is distributed and critically to argue for changing structures to provide a more egalitarian and fairer distribution. Power studies flourished in the great community power studies of the 1950s and 1960s. Some of these suggested that democratic nations were controlled by powerful elites who ruled in their own interests; some that power was more widely distributed and elites could not simply rule for themselves; others that in capitalist societies, despite some counterexamples, elites generally ruled in favor of developers and capitalists. Later studies examined how people’s interests are defined in terms of the structural positions in which they find themselves, and how the very ways in which we think and express ourselves affect our individual powers.

Article

Robert Noggle

Manipulation is a means by which a person is gotten to do something that the person was not initially inclined to do. As such, it is a form of power. Distinguishing it from other forms of power, such as persuasion, coercion, and physical force, is both important and difficult. It is important because it often matters which form of power a political actor uses, and manipulation is commonly thought to be a form of power whose exercise is undesirable. It is difficult because the line between manipulation and persuasion is often obscure, and because the term manipulation can be applied to tactics that influence the target’s state of mind, and tactics that change the target’s situation. Political theorists and philosophers have offered several accounts of manipulation: Some see it as deceptive influence, some see it as covert influence, some see it as influence with covert intent, some see it as offering bad reasons, and some see it as changing the external situation. While each of these approaches gets some things right about manipulation, each faces important challenges as well. One reason why manipulation seems undesirable is that it appears to undermine autonomy. This fact helps explain why concerns about manipulation arise in discussions of “nudges” that are meant to improve people’s decision making without coercion. Even if nudges benefit their targets, they may be undesirable on balance if they involve autonomy-undermining manipulation. Manipulation is a useful tool for autocrats, but it poses serious problems for democracies. This is because it appears to undermine the consent on which democratic legitimacy depends. Some political theorists argue that the problems posed by manipulation can be best addressed through deliberative democracy. Others dispute this suggestion. At the level of practice, there is reason to worry that late-20th- and 21st-century developments in psychology and the social and information sciences, as well as changes to the media landscape, threaten to make manipulation more prevalent and effective.

Article

Stefano Guzzini

The concept of power derives its meanings and theoretical roles from the theories in which it is embedded. Hence, there is no one concept of power, no single understanding of power, even if these understandings stand in relation to each other. Besides the usual theoretical traditions common to the discipline of international relations and the social sciences, from rationalist to constructivist and post-structuralist approaches, there is, however, also a specificity of power being a concept used in both political theory and political practice. A critical survey of these approaches needs to cast a net wide to see both the differences and the links across these theoretical divides. Realist understandings of power are heavily impressed by political theory, especially when defining the ontology of “the political.” They are also characterized by their attempt, so far not successful, to translate practical maxims of power into a scientific theory. Liberal and structural power approaches use power as a central factor for understanding outcomes and hierarchies while generally neglecting any reference to political theory and often overloading the mere concept of power as if it were already a full-fledged theory. Finally, power has also been understood in the constitutive but often tacit processes of social recognition and identity formation, of technologies of government, and of the performativity of power categories when the latter interact with the social world, that is, the power politics that characterize the processes in which agents “make” the social world. Relating back to political practice and theory, these approaches risk repeating a realist fallacy. Whereas it is arguably correct to see power always connected to politics, not all politics is always connected or reducible to power. Seeing power not only as coercive but also productive should neither invite one to reduce all politics to it nor to turn power into the meta-physical prime mover of all things political.

Article

Ronald L. Tammen, Jacek Kugler, and Douglas Lemke

Power Transition theory is a dynamic and structural model for analyzing fundamental shifts in global power. The theory itself, while maintaining its core concepts, has metamorphosed over time by adding new dimensions and addressing new topics. It is both data based and qualitatively intuitive. As a probabilistic theory, it has proven useful in predicting the conditions that forecast both conflict and cooperation at the global, national, and subnational levels of analysis. As a foreign policy tool, it creates historical signposts pointing toward tectonic shifts in nation state and alliance power profiles.

Article

Power transition theory and Graham Allison’s Thucydides Trap Project are discussed in tandem with two complementary aims: to highlight theoretical and empirical contributions of the power transition research program, and to provide critical perspective on the Thucydides Trap Project. Conventional-wisdom approaches of this sort are distinguished from power transition theory, the empirical international relations theory proposed by A. F. K. Organski and further articulated and tested by generations of scholars. The theory’s central elements—national power, stages of power transition, shifts in the distribution of power, international order and the status quo—are identified and discussed, with a focus on key variables used to explain war and peace among contending states. A comparative, critical examination of the Thucydides Trap Project is used as a lens for spotlighting key empirical contributions of the power transition theory research tradition and the value of adhering to norms of scientific rigor. Opportunities for further growth and development are noted, with special attention afforded to essential features of the power transition theory research program, including the study of (1) the timing and initiation of war; (2) rising powers’ dissatisfaction with the status quo, and a possible distinction between dissatisfaction and revisionism; and (3) reducing the risk of violent, revisionist challenges.

Article

Mark Souva

A large body of theoretical work posits that power shifts or expected power shifts cause war. Power transition theory, cyclic theories of war, preventive war arguments, and the bargaining model of war are discussed in this article. Indeed, shifting power is one of the most popular and venerable explanations for war. Its origins go at least as far back as Thucydides, who famously wrote, “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear this caused in Sparta.” Two major points must be discussed. First, there is an impressive correlation between major power war and shifting power, a correlation consistent with the arguments of several systemic theories of war. Second, much of the empirical research examining power shifts and war suffers from endogeneity and model specification concerns. Regarding endogeneity, more effort should be placed on identifying valid instruments and conducting experiments. Regarding model specification, more attention needs to be paid to scope conditions. Shifting power is not expected to cause war in all contexts. Precisely defining the relevant contexts and modeling them empirically is necessary to evaluate the shifting power and war hypothesis.

Article

Subregional powers have been characterized as states that despite being structurally and hierarchically below other powers, have enough capacities to project themselves in geopolitical and geoeconomic terms in specific subregions and to promote cooperation and governance dynamics in these areas. Colombia and Venezuela can be analyzed and compared through this new category of powers in order to gain a better understanding of the specificity of their roles in the international system, as well as their foreign policies toward the Caribbean, Mesoamerican/Bolivarian, and South American subregions.

Article

The Presidency plays a crucial role in the management and organization of the Council of the European Union’s work and the institution’s interactions with third parties. Formally, the Presidency just chairs the meetings of Council bodies; but over time, member states have endowed it with a range of procedural prerogatives to structure the Council’s agenda and broker agreements, which post holders can potentially use to advance their own private interests. The potential for abuse of these powers raises two related questions: first, why would member states grant these powers to the Presidency, and second, is the Presidency actually able to use these powers to advance its own priorities and policy preferences? In response to the first question, functionalist theories suggest that member states delegate powers to the Presidency to reduce transaction costs and solve collective action. According to Tallberg, member states grant the Presidency procedural prerogatives and provide it with administrative resources to ensure an efficient management of the Council’s agenda, avoid inadvertent negotiation failure or suboptimal negotiation outcomes, and provide adequate representation of the institution vis-à-vis external actors. Kleine’s theory suggests that the Presidency acts as an adjudicator of the legitimacy of demands for concessions by member states that find themselves in the minority but claim to experience strong domestic pressures for non-compliance. By making impartial and thus credible recommendations about whether the formal voting rule or consensus decision-making should apply in these situations, the Presidency contributes to the long-term sustainability of international cooperation. The two explanatory accounts disagree about whether the growing role of the Presidency reflects an incremental accumulation of powers over time in response to new tasks or just an extension of already existing powers into new areas. Historical research on the development of Presidency powers could shed more light on this topic. Responses to the second question about the actual influence of the Presidency can be distinguished according to whether they relate to the Presidency’s scheduling power or to its proposal-making power. Control over the schedule and agenda of meetings, as well as the time devoted to different issues during a meeting, allows the Presidency to affect the relative allocation of attention to different policies. Allowing the Presidency to structure the agenda according to its own priorities comes with tangible collective benefits while resulting in little redistributive costs for other member states. In contrast, the Presidency’s exercise of proposal-making power, through its first-mover advantage, control over the negotiation text, and its privilege to call a vote or declare consensus, leads to biased negotiation outcomes with little or no benefits for member states but direct and tangible redistributive consequences. Thus, the Presidency’s prerogatives are largely based on informal norms and behavioral practices, which can always be superseded by recourse to formal rules. However, member states have little incentive to do so when the Presidency exercises its scheduling power but ample incentive if it exercises its proposal-making power. Existing empirical research provides clear evidence that the Presidency can exercise both scheduling power and proposal-making power at least to some extent and under certain conditions. Interesting questions for future research relate to the overall size and prevalence of the effects of the Presidency’s powers, the mechanisms through which these effects are generated, as well as the conditions that explain their variation over time, across policy areas, and across member state characteristics.

Article

Regimes change constantly. Revolution, reform, and resilience are not discrete phenomena, but rather different modes in a common process. This means that change is not a distinct outcome to be explained, but an ongoing process to be traced over time. This requires a shift in focus from why change happens to how it actually unfolds. Social competition is the main driver, as social realists like Pierre Bourdieu indicate. Yet complex and continuous social interactions are impossible to account for in their entirety. Various aspects should be tackled in separate, complementary studies. One of those is power relations within the ruling bloc; the oscillation between conflict and collaboration between political, military, and security institutions. These three state institutions are necessary to govern society. But their relative weight shapes regime type. Security domination produces a police state, the most resilient form of authoritarianism. Egypt in 2011 provides a good example. Military guardianship has been, historically, more susceptible to piecemeal reforms, and can evolve to limited democracies. Turkey after 2002 is one instance. An overbearing political institution with weak military and security organs is vulnerable to revolutionary overthrow. The Iran of 1979 is archetypical. And the reason why relations within this “power triangle” remain tense and volatile is that while these three institutions share an interest in regulating society, they espouse different institutional agendas. They reinforce each other when their interests overlap, and clash when one institutional logic must be prioritized over the other two. And it is these recurring moments of discord that keep the path to regime change open.

Article

Baldur Thorhallsson and Sverrir Steinsson

Size matters in international relations. Owing to their unique vulnerabilities, small states have different needs, adopt different foreign policies, and have a harder time achieving favorable foreign policy outcomes than large states. Small states show a preference for multilateral organizations because they reduce the power asymmetry between states, decrease the transaction costs of diplomacy, and impose constraints on large states. Small state security policies vary widely depending on domestic and international conditions. Despite the inherent disadvantages to being small, small states can compensate for the limitations of their size and exert influence on world politics, provided that they use the appropriate strategies.

Article

Armed conflict is ultimately about the violent confrontation between two or more groups; however, there is a range of behaviors, both violent and nonviolent, pursued by governments and rebel groups while conflict is ongoing that impacts the course and outcomes of that violence. The use of judicial or quasi-judicial institutions during armed conflict is one such behavior. While there is a well-developed body of literature that examines the conditions under which governments engage with the legacies of violence following armed conflict, we know comparatively little about these same institutions used while conflict is ongoing. Similar to the use of transitional justice following armed conflict or post-conflict justice, during-conflict transitional justice (DCJ) refers to “a judicial or quasi-judicial process initiated during an armed conflict that attempts to address wrongdoings that have taken or are taking place as part of that conflict” (according to Loyle and Binningsbø). DCJ includes a variety of institutional forms pursued by both governments and rebel groups such as human rights trials, truth commissions or commissions of inquiry, amnesty offers, reparations, purges, or exiles. As our current understanding of transitional justice has focused exclusively on these processes following a political transition or the termination of an armed conflict, we have a limited understanding of how and why these processes are used during conflict. Extant work has assumed, either implicitly or explicitly, that transitional justice is offered and put in place once violence has ended, but this is not the case. New data on this topic from the During-Conflict Justice dataset by Loyle and Binningsbø suggests that the use of transitional justice during conflict is a widespread and systematic policy across multiple actor groups. In 2017, Loyle and Binningsbø found that DCJ processes were used during over 60% of armed conflicts from 1946 through 2011; and of these processes 10% were put in place by rebel groups (i.e., the group challenging the government rather than the government in power). Three main questions arise from this new finding: Under what conditions are justice processes implemented during conflict, why are these processes put in place, and what is the likely effect of their implementation on the conflict itself? Answering these questions has important implications for understanding patterns of government and rebel behavior while conflict is ongoing and the impacts of those behaviors. Furthermore, this work helps us to broaden our understanding of the use of judicial and quasi-judicial processes to those periods where no power shift has taken place.

Article

First-generation research in International Political Economy focused considerable attention on the relationship between hegemony and global economic stability. This focus was the result of a confluence of scholarly and policy concerns about the impact that the apparent decline of U.S. hegemony would have on international trade and investment regimes. Interest in this hegemonic stability hypothesis waned, however, as deeper explorations of the theoretical logic indicated that hegemony was not a necessary condition for international economic openness, and as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent “unipolar moment” suggested that American hegemony was hardly in decline. Interest in hegemony resurfaced in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The crisis triggered many scholars to proclaim the end of the era of American global hegemony. Scholars argued that the U.S. government’s attachment to a large budget and trade deficits and the resulting growth of foreign debt were likely to weaken foreign confidence in the dollar and encourage the shift to an alternative reserve currency such as the Euro. At the same time, China’s rapid industrialization and emergence as a large creditor nation was creating a new pole in the international economy that constituted a meaningful alternative to a global economy organized around the United States’ economy. Thus, a shift toward a Beijing hegemony was all but inevitable. The predicted decline of American hegemony has yet to materialize. The U.S. economy remains the world’s largest, and the U.S. government continues to play the leading role in system making—creating new rules to govern international economic cooperation—and in privilege taking—manipulating these rules in ways that advantage U.S. public and private sector actors. Moreover, the U.S. government plays this role in all three economic subsystems: finance, knowledge, and production. Empirical scholarship conducted over the last decade encourages one to conclude by paraphrasing Mark Twain: Recent reports of the death of American hegemony are premature.

Article

Technology has been given relatively scant attention in empirical international relations scholarship, despite its obvious importance to issues of military power and global security. Much progress is yet to be made into developing a fuller and more precise understanding of the interaction between technology and international relations. Synthesizing existing research will provide a clearer picture of the state of the field with regards to conceptualizing technology, the proliferation of technology, the technological component of national power, the impact of technology on international relations, the information and communication technology revolution and cyber security, and technology in international digital politics. This synthesis highlights key questions regarding what empirical research has to engage with and provides the first step toward addressing these issues.