The Balance of Power: History and Theory

The Balance of Power: History and Theory

The Balance of Power: History and Theory

The Balance of Power: History and Theory

Synopsis

The balance of power is one of the most fundamental concepts behind international politics and provides a structure for explaining some of the essential principles behind international relations. Yet despite its widespread importance it remains an enigma and is surrounded by controversy. The Balance of Powertraces the evolution of the theory from the eighteenth century to the present day. It incorporates classical anlysis and recent research to give a detailed account of the concept in practice and the operation of the international system while challenging traditional views of the balance of power. Its exploration of the way the balance of power operated in key historical periods shows how the generally accepted development of the concept is based on a misunderstanding of the historical reality.

Excerpt

The balance of power principle has been central to both the study and practice of international politics for three centuries. It has guided governments in the conduct of foreign policy and provided a structure for explanations of some of the recurring patterns of international relations. For many analysts it comes closer than any other idea to being the guiding principle behind international politics. It has always been controversial, both in terms of its power to explain the workings of the international system and in terms of its wisdom and moral virtue as a foreign policy strategy. It is a concept riddled with ambiguity and the fact that it has demonstrated such longevity and resilience shows that it has served an important purpose in thinking about international relations. That purpose emerged in Europe in the seventeenth century, and though subsequently modified, its power as an 'image' explains its survival as a centre-piece of the post-Renaissance international system.

This book attempts to give an explanation of the complexity of the balance principle and practice in history and seeks also to give the reader an introduction to the vast literature on the subject. It attempts to explain the mystery of the enduring fascination of the balance of power image and to introduce the reader to the controversies that have surrounded it. For a subject that has been analysed or discussed so often in the past three centuries, the balance of power idea is surprisingly nebulous. It is an idea which has been given many different meanings and this creates difficulties when it comes to trying to reduce the concept to its essence, to provide a clear explanation of what the phrase 'the balance of power' does and does not mean.

However, in an important sense, this effort is not necessary, indeed, it would be counter-productive. Although it is possible, and worthwhile, to isolate various meanings of the concept and explain

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.