Power (international relations)

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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.


  • If power does not reliably bring control, what does it do for you? Four things, primarily. First, power provides the means of maintaining one's autonomy in the face of force that others wield. Second, greater power permits wider ranges of action, while leaving the outcomes of action uncertain. […] Third, the more powerful enjoy wider margins of safety in dealing with the less powerful and have more to say about which games will be played and how. […] Fourth, great power gives its possessors a big stake in their system and the ability to act for its sake. For them management becomes both worthwhile and possible.
    • Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (1979), Ch. 9 : The Management of International Affairs

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