The Power Puzzle

Caroline Fehl

in Living with a Reluctant Hegemon

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608621
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731730 | DOI:
The Power Puzzle

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This chapter discusses the shortcomings of a major theoretical alternative to the argument of the book, a realist perspective focusing on power as the driving force of international politics. Drawing and expanding on existing ‘ad hoc’ analyses that rely implicitly or explicitly on realist assumptions, it discusses how different types of realist arguments could explain both the rise in transatlantic conflicts over multilateral agreements and the European choice for or against non-hegemonic cooperation. In particular, the chapter considers a realist account that explains non-hegemonic cooperation as a European attempt to ‘balance’ US power and an alternative account that relates accommodating European responses to European fears of ‘abandonment’. The chapter shows that neither argument can plausibly explain the observable variation in European responses, underlining the need to address the “power puzzle” from an alternative theoretical perspective.

Keywords: realism; balance of power; soft balancing; binding; abandonment

Chapter.  5554 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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