Political Science 2231E Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Security Dilemma, Status Quo, Hegemony

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© Nigmendra Narain, Political Science 2231: Intro to I.R., 2012-13: Page 1 of 2
©Nigmendra Narain
Key ideas
Systemic analysis = structure determines agency
o Currency in the system
o Distribution in the system
o Pursue because system is anarchic = need security
o Security dilemma is permanent feature and catalyst for action
Balance of power: configuration of power in the system
States are black boxes
o No cultural or regime differences
o System determines behaviour
o Revisionist states: want to change system’s hierarchy
o Status quo states: want to prevent change to the system’s hierarchy
Why do states pursue power?
Key: systemic factors
States are main actors
States have offensive capabilities
States cannot know how other states will act
States’ main goal is survival
States are rational actors
How much power?
Defensive realists:
o not upset balance in the system
o balancing
o security dilemma = balance of power
o defender states have upper hand
o creates problems of over-extension, rebellion, etc. contradictory &
Offensive realists:
o as much power as possible
o achieve hegemony
o seek and capitalize on opportunities
o ‘buck-passing’
o war-initiators vs. defenders
o conquerors gain more material capabilities = more power
© Nigmendra Narain, Political Science 2231: Intro to I.R., 2012-13: Page 2 of 2
What causes great power war?
Acknowledge many causes of war BUT systemic factors are paramount
o Two main actors & camps
o Power is concentrated, esp. nuclear power
o Reduces uncertainty in signaling and communication, and
opportunities for warfare
o Keep their ‘camp members’ in line = maintain order
o Avoid great power war Cold War
o Distribution of power is fairly even
o Power in system is diffused
o No state is powerful enough to take on any other or others
o States have to worry about a number of states, so uncertainty reduces
o Deterrence: many states can gang up on one aggressor state
o Not reliant on any state to maintain order = system orders states
through anarchical self-help system
Unipolarity: one hegemon
Was there unipolarity after the end of the Cold War?
Was the US practicing ‘hegemony’ or ‘supremacy’?
Is there multipolarity now?
Should states pursue defensive realism or offensive realism?