Freedom and Control in Modern Society

By Morroe Berger; Theodore Abel | Go to book overview

10
THE DEMOGRAPHIC FOUNDATIONS OF NATIONAL POWER

KINGSLEY DAVIS

Too often the course of history is ascribed to the astuteness of generals or the intentions of statesmen. Interpretations tend to be motive-centered, to find the "causes" of events in the ignorance or knowledge, in the goodness or badness, of the leading actors. The more fundamental causes, because they are slower and more impersonal in their operation, receive less popular and often less scholarly recognition. Yet economists, geographers, sociologists, and demographers have been showing for decades that it is the economic developments, the growth or decline of population, the changes of technology, the transformations of society that set the stage and write the script for the military and political actors. In politics, as on the stage, brilliant acting alone cannot bring success. A good setting and a good drama are also required. It is not so much what Wilson or Hitlerdid which affects history, but rather what they could do. The personal stature of Munoz Marin in Puerto Rico or of Aung San in Burma doubtless equals that of Churchill in England or Roosevelt in America, but the vehicles in which they appear are too inconspicuous for comparable recognition. Great opportunities breed great men.

One way of avoiding a superficial view of international relations is to seek the determinants of national power. Such a quest brings the nation to the fore as the unit of analysis, rather than its leaders or the words they speak. It also calls for an answer in long-run terms, because a nation's power vis-à-vis other nations rarely changes suddenly. Finally, the relative power of nations offers one of the main keys to international affairs. Just as the big trees control the ecological balance of all the organisms in a forest, so the powerful

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