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  • Power is a central concept in the study of international relations and has been the focus of various theories, particularly the realist school of thought.

  • Hans Morgenthau emphasized power by defining interests in terms of power, implying that power plays a crucial role in shaping international politics.

  • Kenneth Waltz argued that the allocation of power is the primary determinant of the structure of the international system.

  • John Mearsheimer highlighted power as the unit of exchange in great-power politics, indicating its significance in international relations.

  • Power is not limited to realist academics but is relevant to all major international relations theories.

  • Liberals view power in terms of trade and "soft power," Marxists view it in terms of production forces and capital, constructivists view it in terms of norms, and post-structuralists view it in terms of discourses.

Power Definition

  1. Max Weber defined power as a special ability held by an individual or group to carry out their wishes in social relations despite resistance.

  2. Lasswell emphasized the involvement in decision-making processes and interpersonal relationships as key to having power.

  3. Morgenthau defined political power as control over interpersonal relationships between those in positions of power and the general public. He also stated that power is the ability to influence the thoughts and actions of others.

Hard Power & Soft Power

Hard Power

  • Hard power refers to the use or threat of force through military or economic resources.

  • It involves utilizing military might and economic strength to influence the behavior of other actors.

  • Hard power relies on observable resources such as the size of a state's military or nuclear arsenal.

  • Realist scholars emphasize hard power as a means for states to secure their survival and establish coercive partnerships.

  • It is often associated with the use of "carrots and sticks" to persuade others to comply with demands.

Soft Power

  • Soft power is the capacity to appeal to or persuade others through cultural, ideological, and policy elements.

  • It relies on immaterial factors such as culture, ideas, and values rather than coercive force.

  • Soft power involves influencing other countries through attraction and persuasion rather than through coercion or threats.

  • It can be exercised through diplomacy, education, science, and cultural exchange.

  • Joseph Nye argues that soft power is even more important than hard power in international politics as it carries less risk and more gains.

Relationship between Hard Power and Soft Power

  • Smart power refers to the balance between hard power and soft power.

  • Soft power complements hard power and enhances a country's ability to achieve its goals.

  • Soft power is particularly emphasized in the liberal tradition of international relations.

  • Democracies are more inclined to use soft power as they allow people to influence peaceful goals and the management of their country.

  • Economic interdependence can generate both soft power (through attraction) and hard power (through coercion) depending on how it is utilized.

  • International institutions play a role in promoting cooperation and mitigating the disadvantages of anarchy, as advocated by liberals.


1. Definition and Origins of Sovereignty

  • Sovereignty is the ultimate controlling force or authority over a state's decision-making and the maintenance of law and order.

  • The term sovereignty comes from the Latin word "superanus," which originally meant "ultimate power."

  • The Westphalia Peace Treaty (1648) established the key elements of a modern state: territory, population, and sovereignty.

  • Jean Bodin and Thomas Hobbes played significant roles in developing the concept of sovereignty, emphasizing the supreme and absolute authority of the state.

2. Principles and Significance of Sovereignty

  • Sovereignty is guided by principles of reciprocal political independence, peaceful coexistence, formal equality, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

  • Sovereignty grants recognition to a state by other states and allows it to engage with other countries on an equal footing.

  • A state's sovereignty enables it to establish diplomatic and commercial relations with other states.

3. Development of the Doctrine of Sovereignty

  • The theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke contributed to the development of popular sovereignty, emphasizing the idea that the state is based on a social contract with its citizens.

  • The American Declaration of Independence (1776) and the French constitution of 1791 added to the concept of sovereignty, highlighting its indivisibility and belonging to the nation.

  • John Austin expanded the idea of sovereignty in the 19th century, asserting that it resides in a country's parliament, which has supreme legislative authority.

Challenges to Sovereignty

1. Democracy and Restriction of Sovereign Authority

  • The rise of democracy placed significant constraints on the authority of monarchies and ruling classes, limiting unrestricted sovereignty.

  • The consensus emerged that peace and law require restrictions on sovereign power, challenging the notion that might is right in international affairs.

2. Combining Sovereignties and Global Interdependence

  • International organizations such as the United Nations, NATO, ASEAN, WTO, and the EU began to combine sovereignties to preserve peace and prosperity.

  • National governments and regional/international organizations progressively asserted sovereignty on behalf of the peoples of the world.

  • Divided sovereignty, initially developed in federal states, started applying in the global context.

3. Existential Threats and Non-Sovereign Entities

  • Nation-states face existential threats from various sources but will coexist with powerful non-sovereign entities, including businesses, NGOs, terrorist organizations, drug cartels, and regional/international institutions.

  • The flow of people, ideas, goods, and other elements across borders challenges the control that sovereignty traditionally implies.

4. Contingency and Contractual Nature of Sovereignty

  • Sovereignty is not absolute but contingent or even contractual.

  • States may lose the advantages of sovereignty if they support terrorism, develop weapons of mass destruction, or commit genocide, making them vulnerable to invasion and occupation.

  • Popular acceptance of guiding principles of state behavior and processes for responding to violations will be a diplomatic challenge.

5. Voluntary Shedding of Sovereignty

  • States willingly choose to cede some of their sovereignty, particularly evident in the trade realm and adherence to rulings by organizations like the World Trade Organization.

  • Global climate change prompts limits on sovereignty, as seen in agreements like the Kyoto Protocol that impose caps on greenhouse gas emissions.


1. Definition and Characteristics of Empire

  • An empire is a political entity consisting of multiple nations and regions, often formed through conquest.

  • It is typically divided into a dominant center (imperial capital) and submissive peripheries.

  • Different populations within an empire have varying rights and regulations.

2. Empires and Sovereign States

  • Strictly defined, an empire is a sovereign state with an emperor as the head of state.

  • Not all states with a combined territory under supreme authorities are referred to as empires.

  • Recognition of empires by historians and contemporaries varies.

3. Empire as a Political Force

  • According to Stephen Peter Rosen, an empire influences other countries to control their external behavior and ensure conformity to certain standards internally.

  • The establishment and maintenance of a hierarchical interstate order, where the empire occupies the top position, is a fundamental function of an empire.

  • Monopoly on organized military force and providing security and stability to constituent components are crucial for preventing the emergence of peer competitors.

5. Types of Empires

  • Empires can be brutal or peaceful, centralized or decentralized, ancient or modern.

  • Land empires are founded by land power and include contiguous territories (e.g., Austro-Hungarian Empire).

  • Sea power-based empires include remote territories from the empire's home country (e.g., British Empire).

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Nation States and Empire

1. Distinction between Empires and Nation-States

  • Scholars distinguish empires from nation-states based on various factors.

  • Empires are larger in size compared to states.

  • Empires lack permanent or definite borders, while states have them.

  • States have supreme power over a territory and population, whereas empires consist of varied groups and territorial units with asymmetric links to the center.

  • Empires have multi-level, overlapping jurisdictions, unlike the monopoly and uniformity sought by states.

2. Evolution and Opinions on Empires

  • Empires often originated as strong monarchies but comprised diverse nations.

  • Opinions on empires have varied from widespread support to unanimous disapproval.

  • Empires consist of diverse ethnic, national, cultural, and religious components, indicating a disparity between rulers and the ruled.

3. Imperialism and Empires

  • Imperialism refers to a powerful nation governing another area for its own benefit.

  • Many empires were established through military conquest, while others rose to power through popular vote or breaking away from existing empires.

  • France, for example, changed its name from the French Republic to the French Empire while maintaining its overseas empire.

4. Types of Empires

  • Territorial empires are founded and maintained through direct conquest and control by force.

  • Coercive or hegemonic empires are established and maintained through indirect conquest and control by power.

  • Territorial empires cover large regions, while maritime republics or thalassocracies have looser organizational systems and dispersed domains.

  • Electing the emperor with the support of member countries facilitated the unification of empires like the Holy Roman Empire.

International Order

1. Definitions of International Order

  • Michael Barnett defines international order as patterns of relating and acting upheld by laws, institutions, conventions, and rules.

  • George Lawson describes international order as regularized transaction practices among independent political units.

  • John Mearsheimer sees international order as organized networks of international institutions regulating interactions between member nations.

  • John Ikenberry defines political order as governing arrangements among states, including core rules, values, and institutions.

2. Views on Order: Coercion, Consent, and Institutions

  • Realist views emphasize coercion, hegemony, and balance of power as primary forces behind order.

  • Institutionalists and the English School acknowledge a mix of compulsion and consent.

  • Institutionalists argue that governments can create institutions that lead to equilibrium through voluntary agreements.

  • Institutions use information and sometimes coercive measures to encourage cooperation.

3. Liberal International Order (LIO)

  • The liberal international order is a system of rules-based, structured interactions based on political liberalism, economic liberalism, and liberal internationalism.

  • It promotes human equality, open markets, security cooperation, liberal democracies, and international cooperation through multilateral institutions.

  • The United States played a major role in establishing the LIO after World War II.

4. Debates on the Nature and Existence of LIO

  • Scholars have debated the nature and existence of the liberal international order.

  • The LIO is attributed to free trade expansion, capital mobility, democracy, human rights, and collective defense against the Soviet Union.

  • The LIO facilitated cooperation among North America, Western Europe, and Japan, promoting economic liberalism and democratic consolidation.

  • Some scholars place the historical genesis of the LIO in the 1940s, while others, like John Mearsheimer, argue it emerged after the Cold War.

5. Efforts to Establish International Order

  • The Versailles Peace Conference after World War I aimed to establish a global order through the League of Nations, but national interests hindered its effectiveness.

  • The United Nations (UN) was established in 1945 to preserve unity among victorious nations.

  • The UN consists of the General Assembly and the Security Council, but the split into NATO and the Warsaw Pact limited its global governance aspirations.

  • The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and subsequent debates marked a new phase in shaping the world order.


1. Current International Order

  • The current international order is described as uni-polar, with the United States as its leader.

  • The United States has played a dominant role in shaping global governance and maintaining order.

2. Rapid Rise of China

  • China's rapid rise as a global power is challenging the uni-polar nature of the international order.

  • China's growing influence and economic strength indicate a shift toward a multipolar international order.

3. Regional Groupings

  • Regional groupings like BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) are emerging as influential actors in the international order.

  • These groupings demonstrate the trend towards a multipolar world order, where power is distributed among multiple global players.

4. Moving Towards Multipolarity

  • The rise of China and the presence of regional groupings suggest that the world is moving towards a multipolar international order in the 21st century.

  • This shift challenges the previous dominance of a single power and indicates a more balanced distribution of power among different nations and regions.

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