Power Transition Theory

Ronald L. Tammen, Jacek Kugler and Doug Lemke

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online July 2012 | | DOI:
Power Transition Theory

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Power transition theory is a structural and dynamic approach to world politics. Although it is sometimes associated with the realist school (see the Oxford Bibliographies article on Realism) due to its focus on power relationships, it differs in terms of its description of the international system as well as its focus on the importance of status quo evaluations. Unlike realism’s emphasis on anarchy, the power transition perspective envisions global politics as a hierarchy of nations with varying degrees of cooperation and competition. Additionally, the theory differentiates between domestic and international politics by viewing world politics as integrated horizontally and vertically. The static picture of structure and rules is complemented by dynamic factors that demonstrate how and why change occurs in the international system. Power transition focuses on differential growth rates and their effect on altering relative power between nations, resulting in new relationships among nations and the formation of new political and economic entities. One by-product of differential growth is the high potential for conflict when a challenger and a preeminent or dominant nation reaches the stage of relative equivalence of power, and specifically when the challenger is dissatisfied with the status quo. Understanding the interaction of the structural and dynamic components of power transition theory provides a probabilistic tool by which to measure these changes, and to forecast likely events in future rounds of change. While based on empirically tested propositions backed by large data sets, the theory has an intuitive feel that maximizes its utility for interpreting current events, including the rise of China and India and the related effects on world politics.

Article.  10087 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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