POLI 243 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Geopolitics, Security Dilemma, Power Transition Theory

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Published on 18 Apr 2013
The Levels of Analysis - System Level Arguments
-organizing theories by level of analysis emphasizes one assumption embedded in
theories: at each level, one actor is assumed to be more important than others
System-Level Theories and the Concept of Power
-system-level theories concentrate on characteristics of the international system, often
its structure, to explain state behaviour
-structural realists: use distribution of power to explain state behaviour
-power = central concept, but difficult to define
-Hall: three different definitions; 1. power over other actors, 2. power over resources, 3.
power over events and outcomes; third is more useful, combines other two
-Dahl: power is control over actors, appears in three ways: 1. control over actions
(getting an actor to do something they otherwise wouldn't - coercion), 2. control over the
agenda (control over which issues are debated, what action to take), 3. control over
preferences (ability to influence desires of other actors)
-problem: definitions of power tend to be descriptive, cannot easily be applied in
predictive theories
-power is ask relative: only takes on meaning when placed in a framework of
-problem of measurement = complicated by intangible aspects of power; Ray Cline:
created a formula to depict this - potential power = critical mass of population and
territory + economic capabilities + military power x (country's strategy and will to use
-however we can only assign weights to variables of strategy and will after the fact
Power and Structure
-realists talk about the system level, define structure in terms of distribution of
capabilities; easiest way to do this is to identify number of major powers
-unipolar distribution: system with a single power; one state can eliminate all rivals; have
never seen this in the international system
-are more likely to see a hegemonic structure: one state has greater capabilities than
others, but not so much power that it can completely eliminate them
-bipolar distribution: two poles, strong states or strong alliances; e.g. after WWII: US and
-tripolar distribution: three states have considerably more power; but analysts often
disagree: some see tripolar, whereas others may see bipolar
-multipolar distribution: system characterized by many poles
-realists create theories about how states will behave in these different structures
-Waltz (1960s) argued that bipolarity = peaceful and stable system; because each major
power only has one state to fear/compete against, both will strive to maintain a balance
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of power; major powers will be able to constrain and control is own allies; bipolar = limits
change of war breaking out
-Rosecrance: bipolarity = dangerous; bipolarity makes international affairs a zero-sum
game, meaning that every source of power is contested - conflicts likely to erupt over
minor issues
-theories should provide descriptions and make predictions, but should also guide our
policy prescriptions; therefore is important to consider the utility of these system level
theories in terms of advising policy
-theories can also be based on other characteristics; Rosecrance - identified the notion
of the regulator (coping mechanism); is a device or resources that helps keep the
system on track - diplomats, colonies (use of non-European resources for compensating
European powers)
-the distribution of power can be used to explain particular IP outcomes; competition in
an anarchic environment may cause states to pursue protectionist trade policies; if there
were two power states, and power was equally distributed, may find parallel division in
the international economy; unipolar: one state has ability to structure international
economic relations
Economics and Power: The Concept of Power Transitions
-in bipolar system, states would try to match each other's power through two different
strategies: internal and external
-internal: dedication of economic resources to realization of power or influence in
international sphere; but economies were slow to change, so internal sources of power
= difficult to modify
-external: form alliances; individual powers united as a single force, can change power
distribution rapidly
-Organski - power transition: when rapid internally driven change in a country's strength
(e.g. in Britain, due to Industrial Revolution) alters the systemic distribution of power
-as the power gap narrows, war becomes more likely, since newly strong state will try to
alter old relationship
-more powerful countries = more satisfied with status quo than weaker countries
The Many Meanings of Balance of Power
-Haas: 8 separate meanings of balance of power
1. Any distribution of power
2. An exact equilibrium distribution of power
3. Hegemony, or dominance
4. Stability in the distribution of power
5. Balance of power results in instability and war
6. Balance of power = power politics
7. Balance of power = universal law of history
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