AS.190.209 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Kenneth Waltz, Security Dilemma, Unbridled
SchoolJohns Hopkins University
DepartmentAS Political Science
ProfessorDavid, Steven R
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LECTURE 5 – BALANCE OF POWER
Discuss how the BOP system supposedly worked in Europe in 17 and 1800s.
Evaluate the assumptions of BOP system and what undermined it, considering the different
views of realist scholars
For some, the BOP is any distribution of power; for others, it is an indication of superiority;
finally, it sometimes refers to an equilibrium. For some, the BOP represents a system of states
behaving in a certain way; for others, it represents an aim or a goal; finally, to some, it is a
means for another goal. For those who focus on the third image, states automatically achieve a
BOP mode. Another view is that it is not automatically followed; you need a skilled statesman
to guide a country down the proper course for BOP to work.
David’s definition: BOP is a process in which independent states seeking to preserve their
security in an environment of anarchy combine in ways to ensure that no one state or group of
states will emerge preponderant. First, there are independent countries, each of whom is
seeking to expand their power. Secondly, each of these states seek to survive. Finally, they’re all
interacting in this environment of anarchy (there is no world government beyond the state that
adjudicate disputes and behavior). The result of these three characteristics is that states will
combine in ways to prevent any other state or group of states from becoming too dominant
and thus threatening their existence (third image) align with other countries to prevent any
one country from becoming too powerful. The BOP theory does not explain specific policies of
states. What it gives you are the motives of countries, the constraints that states face, the
constraints of the power of other countries to resist that domination, and the arena of
international anarchy in which all this takes place. How motives and constraints combine to
form specific policies depend on the situation and, to a certain extent, the states themselves.
How did the BOP system in Europe operate in the 19th century? The foundations of the BOP
system emerged out of the Peace of Westphalia. Europe had just undergone this horrific 30
years’ war in which the states of Europe each tried to violently impose their own view of
religion and domestic structure on other states. As a result of this war in which states were
interfering in the affairs of other countries, the outcome of the Peace of Westphalia was the
principle of sovereignty – states should not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
This principle of sovereignty was reinforced in the Congress of Vienna – a meeting of the
representatives of the great powers of Europe after the defeat of Napoleon. The goal of the
Congress of Vienna was to restore stability and peace in Europe after Napoleon’s effort to
conquer Europe. It largely succeeded by reinforcing the principle of sovereignty and promoting
a BOP system; Europe was largely peaceful until WWI.
Assumptions of BOP system:
1. There needs to be a state system of neighboring independent countries of about equal
power connected in some way. In 1815, there were 5 major powers – Britain, France,
Russia, Prussia, Austria – all connected geographically in Europe.
2. There needs to be a framework – a recognized size of the system to be balanced. There
has to be some limit to the number of countries to be balanced (more than 1). In 1815,
states bordered each other and had diplomatic interactions, and were separated from
other regions in terms of relevancy.
3. It’s also important to have homogeneity (second image). Many BOP theorists argue that
states that participate in the BOP system should have a similar outlook on fundamental
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