The concept of balance of power is full of contradictions but it has been one of the most important ideas in the area of international relations. This concept is a very simple one but its free usage by many individuals has caused a great confusion in understanding it. Hence the term balance of power refers to the general concept of one or more states’ power being used to balance that of another state of group of states.
Alliances between the states play a key role in the concept of balance of power. Hence in order that a state needs to remain in power, it forms an ally of another state so that the ratio of power gets balanced. Every state in present day tries to be in par with the great powerful states, it may not be practically possible, however alliances of many states make those allied states almost bring equilibrium in power.
Thus the balance’s underlying principle was that all the nth disengaged powers would tend to intervene on the side tat seemed in danger of losing any ongoing war, to ensure that such a loser was not eliminated from the system and absorbed into an emerging colossus.
Balance of power is a central concept in neorealist theory. A state’s position determine whether it would engage in balancing or bandwagoning behaviour. It could be said that the balance of power is as old as history itself, for it is no more than the percept of common sense, born of experience and the instinct of self-preservation. Definition
• The balance of power ‘refers to an actual state of affairs in which power is distributed among several nations with approximate equality’. – Morgenthau, 1978.
• Martin Wight (Butterfield and Wight, 1966: 151) identified nine distinct meaning, or at least nine different ways in which the concept has been used. Not all can be held to have equal validity, though all have been commonly used. An incorrect usage remains even if it is used frequently. 1. An even distribution of power.
2. The principle that power ought to be evenly distributed. 3. The existing distribution of power. Hence any possible distribution of power. 4. The principle of equal aggrandizement of the great power at the expense of t weak. 5. The principle that our side ought to have margin of strength in order to avert the danger of power becoming unevenly distributed. 6. (When governed by the verb ‘to hold’:) A special role in maintaining an even distribution of power. 7. (When governed by the verb ‘to hold’:) A special advantage in the existing distribution of power. 8. Predominance.
9. An inherent tendency of international politics to produce an even distribution of power.
• The ambiguity of the concept is well captured by Haas, who attaches eight meanings to the balance of power. The salient of these meanings are: 1. A description of the distribution of power as an exact equilibrium of power between two or more contending parties 2. An equivalent to “stability” or “peace as a universal law of history” 3. A guide to “policy making”
4. Emphasizing “conscious and deliberate behaviour and decision making”
• The term balance of power is used in the text with four different meanings: 1. As a policy aimed at a certain state of affairs
2. As an actual state of affairs
3. As an approximately equal distribution of power or
4. As any distribution of power.
It is difficult to give exact definition to balance of power because as Martin Wright says “the notion is notoriously full of confusions”. Inis.L.Claude also says: “The trouble with the balance power is not that it has no meaning but that it has too many meanings” But essential idea is very simple but when principle is applied to the international relations, the concept of power means “that through shifting alliances and countervailing pressures, no one power or combinations of powers will be allowed to grow so strong as to threaten the security of the rest” as...
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