Power in international relations is defined in several different ways. Modern discourse generally speaks in terms of state power, indicating both economic and military power. Those states that have significant amounts of power within the international system are referred to as small powers, middle powers, regional powers, great powers, superpowers, or hegemons, although there is no commonly accepted standard for what defines a powerful state. NATO Quint, the G7, the BRICS nations and the G20 are seen by academics as forms of governments that exercise varying degrees of influence within the international system.
Entities other than states can also be relevant in power acquisition in international relations. Such entities can include multilateral international organizations, military alliance organizations like NATO, multinational corporations like Wal-Mart, non-governmental organizations such as the Roman Catholic Church, or other institutions such as the Hanseatic League and technology companies like Facebook and Google.
Concepts of political power
- Power as a goal of states or leaders;
- Power as a measure of influence or control over outcomes, events, actors and issues;
- Power as victory in conflict and the attainment of security;
- Power as control over resources and capabilities;
- Power as status, which some states or actors possess and others do not.
Power as a goal
Primary usage of "power" as a goal in international relations belongs to political theorists, such as Niccolò Machiavelli and Hans Morgenthau. Especially among Classical Realist thinkers, power is an inherent goal of mankind and of states. Economic growth, military growth, cultural spread etc. can all be considered as working towards the ultimate goal of international power. The German military thinker Carl von Clausewitz is considered to be the quintessential projection of European growth across the continent. In more modern times, Claus Moser has elucidated theories centre of distribution of power in Europe after the Holocaust, and the power of universal learning as its counterpoint. Jean Monnet was a French left-wing social theorist, stimulating expansive Eurocommunism, who followed on the creator of modern European community, the diplomat and statesman Robert Schuman.
Power as influence
Political scientists principally use "power" in terms of an actor's ability to exercise influence over other actors within the international system. This influence can be coercive, attractive, cooperative, or competitive. Mechanisms of influence can include the threat or use of force, economic interaction or pressure, diplomacy, and cultural exchange.
Under certain circumstances, states can organize a sphere of influence or a bloc within which they exercise predominant influence. Historical examples include the spheres of influence recognized under the Concert of Europe, or the recognition of spheres during the Cold War following the Yalta Conference. The Eastern Bloc, the Western Bloc, and the Non-Aligned Movement were the blocs that arose out of the Cold War contest. Military alliances like NATO and the Warsaw Pact are another forum through which influence is exercised. However, "realist" theory attempted to maintain the balance of power from the development of meaningful diplomatic relations that can create a hegemony within the region. British foreign policy, for example, dominated Europe through the Congress of Vienna after the defeat of France. They continued the balancing act with the Congress of Berlin in 1878, to appease Russia and Germany from attacking Turkey. Britain has sided against the aggressors on the European continent—i.e. the German Empire, Nazi Germany, Napoleonic France or the Austrian Empire, known during the Great War as the Central Powers and, in the World War Two were called the Axis Powers.
Power as security
Power is also used when describing states or actors that have achieved military victories or security for their state in the international system. This general usage is most commonly found among the writings of historians or popular writers.
Power as capability
American author Charles W. Freeman, Jr. described power as the following:
Power is the capacity to direct the decisions and actions of others. Power derives from strength and will. Strength comes from the transformation of resources into capabilities. Will infuses objectives with resolve. Strategy marshals capabilities and brings them to bear with precision. Statecraft seeks through strategy to magnify the mass, relevance, impact, and irresistibility of power. It guides the ways the state deploys and applies its power abroad. These ways embrace the arts of war, espionage, and diplomacy. The practitioners of these three arts are the paladins of statecraft.
Power is also used to describe the resources and capabilities of a state. This definition is quantitative and is most often[dubious ] used by geopoliticians and the military. Capabilities are thought of in tangible terms—they are measurable, weighable, quantifiable assets. A good example for this kind of measurement is the Composite Indicator on Aggregate Power, which involves 54 indicators and covers the capabilities of 44 states in Asia-Pacific from 1992 to 2012. Hard power can be treated as a potential and is not often enforced on the international stage.
Power as status
Much effort in academic and popular writing is devoted to deciding which countries have the status of "power", and how this can be measured. If a country has "power" (as influence) in military, diplomatic, cultural, and economic spheres, it might be called a "power" (as status). There are several categories of power, and inclusion of a state in one category or another is fraught with difficulty and controversy. In his famous 1987 work, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, British-American historian Paul Kennedy charts the relative status of the various powers from AD 1500 to 2000. He does not begin the book with a theoretical definition of "great power"; however he does list them, separately, for many different eras. Moreover, he uses different working definitions of great power for different eras. For example:
"France was not strong enough to oppose Germany in a one-to-one struggle... If the mark of a Great Power is country which is willing to take on any other, then France (like Austria-Hungary) had slipped to a lower position. But that definition seemed too abstract in 1914 to a nation geared up for war, militarily stronger than ever, wealthy, and, above all,. endowed with powerful allies."
Categories of power
In the modern geopolitical landscape, a number of terms are used to describe various types of powers, which include the following:
- Superpower: In 1944, William T. R. Fox defined superpower as "great power plus great mobility of power" and identified three states, the British Empire, the Soviet Union and the United States. With the decolonisation of the British Empire following World War II, and then the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States appeared to be a superpower. China is now considered an emerging global superpower by many scholars.
- Great power: In historical mentions, the term great power refers to the states that have strong political, cultural and economical influence over nations around them and across the world.
- Middle power: A subjective description of influential second-tier states that could not quite be described as great or small powers. A middle power has sufficient strength and authority to stand on its own without the need of help from others (particularly in the realm of security) and takes diplomatic leads in regional and global affairs. Clearly not all middle powers are of equal status; some are members of forums such as the G20 and play important roles in the United Nations and other international organisations such as the WTO.
- Small power: The International System is for the most part made up by small powers. They are instruments of the other powers and may at times be dominated; but they cannot be ignored.
- Regional power: This term is used to describe a nation that exercises influence and power within a region. Being a regional power is not mutually exclusive with any of the other categories of power. The majority of them exert a strategic degree of influence as minor or secondary regional powers. A primary regional power (like Australia) has often an important role in international affairs outside of its region too.
- Cultural superpower: Refers to a country whose culture, arts or entertainment have worldwide appeal, significant international popularity or large influence on much of the world. Countries such as China, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have often been described as cultural superpowers, although it is sometimes debated on which one meets such criteria. Unlike traditional forms of national power, the term cultural superpower is in reference to a nation's Soft power capabilities.
- Energy superpower: Describes a country that supplies large amounts of energy resources (crude oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, etc.) to a significant number of other states, and therefore has the potential to influence world markets to gain a political or economic advantage. Saudi Arabia and Russia, are generally acknowledged as the world's current energy superpowers, given their abilities to globally influence or even directly control prices to certain countries. Australia and Canada are potential energy superpowers due to their large natural resources.
Hard, soft and smart power
Some political scientists distinguish between two types of power: Hard and Soft. The former is coercive (example: military invasion) while the latter is attractive (example: broadcast media or cultural invasion).
Hard power refers to coercive tactics: the threat or use of armed forces, economic pressure or sanctions, assassination and subterfuge, or other forms of intimidation. Hard power is generally associated to the stronger of nations, as the ability to change the domestic affairs of other nations through military threats. Realists and neorealists, such as John Mearsheimer, are advocates of the use of such power for the balancing of the international system.
Joseph Nye is the leading proponent and theorist of soft power. Instruments of soft power include debates on cultural values, dialogues on ideology, the attempt to influence through good example, and the appeal to commonly accepted human values. Means of exercising soft power include diplomacy, dissemination of information, analysis, propaganda, and cultural programming to achieve political ends.
Others have synthesized soft and hard power, including through the field of smart power. This is often a call to use a holistic spectrum of statecraft tools, ranging from soft to hard.
- Balance of power in international relations
- Global policeman
- International relations of the Great Powers (1814–1919)
- Lateral pressure theory
- National power
- Peace through strength
- Power Politics (Wight book)
- Power (social and political)
- Power transition theory
- Useem, Jerry (2003-03-03). "One Nation Under Wal-Mart: How Retailing's Superpower—and our Biggest, Most Admired Company—Is Changing the Rules for Corporate America". CNN. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
- "SIX PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL REALISM".
- Bauer, Richard H. "Hans Delbrück (1848–1929)." Bernadotte E. Schmitt. Some Historians of Modern Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942.
- ANGELA LAMBERT (27 July 1992). "INTERVIEW / Sir Claus Moser: 73.5 per cent English: 'What is dangerous". The Independent.
- Anonymous (16 June 2016). "About the EU – European Union website, the official EU website – European Commission" (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2016.
- Anonymous (16 June 2016). "About the EU – European Union website, the official EU website – European Commission" (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2016.
- "The SIPRI Military Expenditure Database". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Archived from the original on March 28, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
- "The 15 countries with the highest military expenditure in 2009". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
- A.J.P.Taylor, "Origins of the First World War"
- Ensor, Sir Robert (1962) 2nd ed. "Britain 1870–1914" The Oxford History of England.
- Marcella, Gabriel (July 2004). "Chapter 17: National Security and the Interagency Process" (PDF). In Bartholomees, Jr., J. Boone (ed.). U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Policy and Strategy. United States Army War College. pp. 239–260.
- Fels, Enrico (2017). Shifting Power in Asia-Pacific? The Rise of China, Sino-US Competition and Regional Middle Power Allegiance. Springer. pp. 225–340. ISBN 978-3-319-45689-8. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
- Kennedy, Paul (1989) . The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. London: Fontana. p. 290. ISBN 0006860524.
- Evans, G.; Newnham, J. (1998). Dictionary of International Relations. London: Penguin Books. p. 522.
- Kim Richard Nossal. Lonely Superpower or Unapologetic Hyperpower? Analyzing American Power in the post–Cold War Era. Biennial meeting, South African Political Studies Association, 29 June-2 July 1999. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
- "Should We Compete With China? Can We?". The Unz Review. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
- Asia, Current Affairs Correspondent East (2019-08-04). "Is China a Superpower Now? - Belt & Road News". Retrieved 2020-05-06.
- "Does China Outspend US on Defense?". The Unz Review. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
- "CHINA". Lowy Institute Asia Power Index. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
- "Five big takeaways from the 2019 Asia Power Index". www.lowyinstitute.org. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
- Welle (www.dw.com), Deutsche. "Many Germans believe China will replace US as superpower: survey | DW | 14.07.2020". DW.COM. Retrieved 2020-09-21.
- Ovendale, Ritchie (January 1988). "Reviews of Books: Power in Europe? Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany in a Postwar World, 1945–1950". The English Historical Review. Oxford University Press. 103 (406): 154. doi:10.1093/ehr/CIII.CCCCVI.154. ISSN 0013-8266. JSTOR 571588.
- Heineman, Jr., Ben W.; Heimann, Fritz (May–June 2006). "The Long War Against Corruption". Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations.
Ben W. Heineman, Jr., and Fritz Heimann speak of Italy as a major country or 'player' along with Germany, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
- Roberson, B. A. (1998). Middle East and Europe: The Power Deficit. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415140447. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
- Fels, Enrico (2017). Shifting Power in Asia-Pacific? The Rise of China, Sino-US Competition and Regional Middle Power Allegiance. Springer. p. 213. ISBN 978-3-319-45689-8. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
- Rudd K (2006) Making Australia a force for good, Labor eHerald Archived June 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- Vital, D. (1967) The Inequality of States: A Study of Small Power in International Relations
- Schenoni, Luis (2017) "Subsystemic Unipolarities?" in Strategic Analysis, 41(1): 74–86 
- "China: The Cultural Superpower". www.chinafrica.cn. Retrieved 2020-09-21.
- "Scholars and Media on China's Cultural Soft Power | Wilson Center". www.wilsoncenter.org. Retrieved 2020-09-21.
- "Asia Power Index 2019: China Cultural Influence". power.lowyinstitute.org. Retrieved 2020-09-21.
- "Elcano Global Presence Index: China". explora.globalpresence.realinstitutoelcano.org. Retrieved 2020-09-21.
- Italy has been described as a cultural superpower by Arab news, by Global Times, by the Washington Post, by The Australian. Italy has been described as a cultural superpower by the Italian consul general in San Francisco, by former minister giulio terzi and by US President Barack Obama. Archived December 26, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
- "The other superpower". The Guardian. London. 2002-06-01. Retrieved 2009-07-17.
- "How Japan became a pop culture superpower". The Spectator. 31 January 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-11-25. Retrieved 2016-11-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Spain, main reference for world's Hispanic heritage". ABC.es. Madrid. 2014-07-03. Retrieved 2016-06-08.
- "From Seville to Brussels: The Architecture of Global Presence". International Relations and Security Network. October 28, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
Our partners at the Elcano Royal Institute have released their latest edition of the Global Presence Index. It confirms that the EU – if perceived as a single global actor – has the greatest degree of ‘presence’ in the world, largely because of the contributions of the UK, Germany and France.
- Shawcross, Edward (2018). France, Mexico and Informal Empire in Latin America, 1820-1867: Equilibrium in the New World. Springer. p. 13. ISBN 9783319704647.
France remained a “military, economic, scientific, and cultural superpower”
- "Why France and Italy can't help clashing". The Economist. 2017-08-10. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
France and Italy both consider themselves the cultural superpower of Europe
- Dugan, Emily (18 November 2012). "Britain is now most powerful nation on earth". The Independent. London. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- "The cultural superpower: British cultural projection abroad" (PDF). Journal of the British Politics Society, Norway. 6 (1). Winter 2011. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
- Entertainment Superpower: the economic dominance of American media and entertainment, Alexa O'Brien, 17 February 2005
- "Report: Canada can be energy superpower". UPI.com. 2012-07-20. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- "Australia to become energy superpower?". UPI.com. 2012-05-14. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- Fels, Enrico (2017). Shifting Power in Asia-Pacific? The Rise of China, Sino-US Competition and Regional Middle Power Allegiance. Cham: Springer. ISBN 978-3-319-45689-8.
- The Sino-Brazilian Principles in a Latin American and BRICS Context: The Case for Comparative Public Budgeting Legal Research Wisconsin International Law Journal, 13 May 2015
- Handel, Michael I. (1990). Weak States in the International System. Cass. ISBN 0714640735.
- Lane, Jan-Erik; Maeland, Reinert (2008). "International Organisation as Coordination in N-person Games". Political Studies. 54 (1): 185–215. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9248.2006.00572.x.
- Ferguson, Niall. "What is power?". Hoover Digest. Hoover Institution. Archived from the original on May 28, 2007.