POLB81H3 Chapter Notes -Fungibility, Geopolitics, Great Power
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•Ability to get another actor to do what it would not otherwise have done.
•Actors are powerful to the extent that they affect others more than others affect them.
•Definition treat power as influence- of actors get their way a lot then they must be powerful.
•Problem with definition: we rarely know what the 2nd actor would have done in the absence of
the first actor. – Danger id circular LOGIC: power explains influence and influence measures
power. ( ability / potential to influence not influence itself)
•Potential is based on sizes, levels of income, and armed forces.
•This is power as capability. It’s easier to measure than influence and is less circular in logic.
•The best single indicator of state power is GDP. This combines overall size, technological level
and wealth. But GDP even at its best is a rough indicator.( useful but nor precise)
•Power also depends on nonmaterial elements.
•Capabilities give a state the potential to influence others only to the extent that political leaders
can mobilize and deploy these capabilities effectively and strategically.
•This depends on national will, diplomatic skill, popular support for the govt, etc.
•Some scholars emphasize the power of ides the ability to maximize the influence if capabilities
through a psychological process. (This includes domestic mobilization of capabilities often
through religion, ideology or nationalism.)
•International influence is also gained by forming the rules of behavior to change how others see
their own national interests. If a states’s own values become wide it shared by others then it will
easily influence others. – SOFT POWER eg: us influencing free market
•Dominance is not the only way to exert power, principles of reciprocity and identity can also
•Although realists emphasize dominance approaches, they acknowledge that states often achieve
their interest in their own way.
•Realists agree that power provides only a general understanding of outcomes. – real world
outcomes depend on many other things including luck and accidents.
•Because power is a relational concept a state can have power only relative to other states power.
•Relative power is the ratio of the power that’s two states can bring to bear against each other.
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•Logic of power: in war more powerful state will generally prevail. Estimate of relative power
should explain the outcome of war.
•Estimates take into account nation’s relative military capabilities and the popular support for each
one’s govt, among other factor but most of all total size of the economy/GDP. (Which reflects
both population size and the level of income per person)
•With a healthy enough economy, a state can buy a large army, popular support and even allies.
•Eg: united states’s invasion of Iraq. (A regime change in Iraq, with low US causalities. After
when US force position and Iraq govt became uncertain, US moved to reciprocity based strategy:
funding opposing groups to gains support.)
•GDP doesn’t always predict who will win wars.
ELEMENTS OF POWER.
•Element an actor can draw over the long term includes GDP, population, territory, geography and
•These attribute change only slowly.
•Less tangible long term power resources include political culture, patriotism, education of the
population, and strength of the scientific and technological base.
•Credibility of its commitments is also a long term power base for a state.
•Eg: Japanese surprise attack on US. In Pearl Harbor in 1941. Before Japan had superior military
power and gradually US picked it up.
•Other capabilities allow actors to exercise influence in the short term.
•Military forces are such a capability perhaps the most important kind. the size, composition and
preparedness of the states’ military confrontation than their respective economies or natural
•Another capability is the military-industrial capacity to quickly produce weapons.
•The quality of a states’ bureaucracy is another type of capability allowing the state to gather
information, regulate international trade, or participate in international conference.
•Less tangible, the support and legitimacy that an actor commands in the short term from
constituents and allies are capabilities that the actor can use to gain influence. So is the loyalty of
a nation’s army and politicians to their leaders.
•Given the limited resources that any actor commands tradeoffs among possible capabilities
always exist. To the extent that one element of power can be converted into another, it is
fungible. Generally money is the most fungible capability bcoz it can buy other capabilities.
•Realists tempt to see military as the most important element of national power in the shirt term,
and other elements such as economic strength, diplomatic skill, or moral legitimacy as being
important to the extent that they are fungible into military power.
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