Pols396 Week2 readings part 2 (Testing-Balance of Power Theory in History)
Concept has core meaning which is that “hegemonies do not form in multistate systems because
perceived threats of hegemony over the system generate balancing behavior by other leading
states in the system.”
What is missing from the balance of power scholarship is analysis of the theory in relation to
other international systems other than modern Europe and its global successor.
Sustained hegemonies routinely form, and balancing is relatively insignificant in explaining the
emergence of non hegemonic outcomes.
Found that multistate systems vary between the extremes of balance and empire.
Theories and expectation
Balance of power theory indicates that because units in anarchic systems have an interest in
maximizing their long-term odds for survival (security), they will check dangerous
concentrations of power (hegemony) by building up their own capabilities (internal balancing),
aggregating their capabilities with those of other units in alliances (external balancing), and/or
adopting the successful power-generating practices of prospective hegemon (emulation).
3 major bodies of social science literature predict problems to balancing.
o 1) the theory of collective goods predicts chronic free-riding and a consequent under
supply of external balancing via alliance formation.
o 2) the new institutionalism in economics, sociology, and political science generates the
expectation that increasing returns, path dependence, barriers to collective identity
change, and other domestic level institutional lags will raise the real costs and thus
lower the supply of internal balancing via domestic self strengthening reforms.
o 3) decades of culminating research on decision-making would predict pervasive
uncertainty ex ante concerning the identity and severity of the hegemonic threat that
would exacerbate the other-system and unit level barriers to balancing.
Balance of power theory predicts that processes within a given multi-state system- internal
balancing, external balancing, and emulation will prevent hegemony most of the time
o The theories discussed in this paper however yield 3 counter arguments about the
balance of power theory
1) efforts to form effective balancing alliances will frequently fail due to
collective action problems.
2) Political obstacles inside states will frequently lead to failures to emulate
power generating innovations by potential hegemons.
3) Uncertainty about which power poses the greatest threat of hegemony will
frequently impede or prevent efforts to balance.
Systemic hegemony is likely under two conditions
o 1) When the rising Hegemon develops the ability to incorporate and effectively
administer conquered territories. o 2) When the boundaries of the international system remain stable, and no new major
powers emerge from outside the system.
The Ancient Near Eastern System
o Centre of an international system 3000 years ago.
Its members engaged in diplomacy and war, they ultimately recognized that