Arms Races

David Atkinson

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:
Arms Races


Arms races are an abiding feature of international relations. Despite the subject’s apparent straightforwardness, however, the scholarship has yet to produce one universally accepted definition. At the most basic level, scholars agree that an arms race is an intense armaments competition between two or more rival states, which can manifest itself either qualitatively (technological advancements) or quantitatively (numerical superiority), and which may or may not result in war. There are also unresolved debates concerning the relative influence of domestic or international factors, and disagreement over whether arms races constitute an effective deterrent or actually instigate interstate violence. In the broadest sense, arms race scholars generally investigate how, why, and under what circumstances arms races develop, and with what consequences. Much of the scholarship further investigates how arms races can be precluded, managed, measured, and resolved. The subject is resolutely interdisciplinary, and this is both its strength and its weakness. Researchers from international relations, political science, economics, history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and international law have all contributed to a vibrant and often profitable debate. Too often, however, scholars do not cross interdisciplinary boundaries to engage with one another. The scale, scope, and complexity of the literature will therefore excite some new researchers, and frustrate and bewilder others. Its quantitative and empirical orientation will also inhibit uninitiated undergraduate and graduate students.

Article.  7059 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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