Power Politics Summary

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PoThis chapter describes the international environment as anarchic, evidently lacking a centralized authority capable of creating order among the nation states of the world. As a result, nations have to behave under the principle of self-help, ensuring their own security due to the absence of said centralized authority to defend them from outside threats. This inference to the cause of conflict can be characterized as congruent with the realist point of view. In the absence of international authority, nations assume that they are under threat of exploitation by other nations, and must thus employ strategies to ensure their wellbeing. This is consistent with the realist idea of the inevitability of social conflict. All nations will self-help because of the assumption that in some time in the future, conflict with other nations will arise, and they must be prepared for it.

The balance of power theory states that nations will continually strive to accumulate power for themselves, resulting in a balance of power among nations. This results in an environment where war becomes less likely due to all parties not being tempted to initiate war for lack of confidence in a positive outcome. A core aspect of this theory is the expectation for weaker states to ally with one another in order to collectively meet or exceed the powers of more powerful nations, thus creating the ‘balance’ mentioned in the theory’s name. This theory is challenged by the fact that weaker countries did not band together to ally against the incredibly powerful United States during the Cold War, a scenario that would have lent credence to the balance of power theory.

The second theory examined in the chapter is the balance of threat theory, which states that nations will align against another nation if they share the viewpoint that their opponent poses the biggest threat to them. Whilst at first glance, this theory might seem to be a rehashing of the balance of power theory, it is important to...
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