balance of power

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balance of power,

system of international relations in which nations seek to maintain an approximate equilibrium of power among many rivals, thus preventing the preponderance of any one state. Crucial to the system is a willingness on the part of individual national governments to change alliances as the situation demands in order to maintain the balance. Thucydides' description of Greece in the 5th cent. B.C. and Guicciardini's description of 15th-century Italy are early illustrations. Its modern development began in the mid-17th cent., when it was directed against the France of Louis XIV. Balance of power was the stated British objective for much of the 18th and 19th cent., and it characterized the European international system, for example, from 1815–1914. After World War I the balance of power system was attacked by proponents of cooperation and a community of power. International relations were changed radically after World War II by the predominance of two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, with major ideological differences between them. After the 1960s, with the emergence of China and the Third WorldThird World,
the technologically less advanced, or developing, nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, generally characterized as poor, having economies distorted by their dependence on the export of primary products to the developed countries in return for finished products.
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, a revived Europe and Japan, it reemerged as a component of international relations. With the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the United States, as the sole remaining superpower, became dominant militarily and, to a lesser degree, economically, but in the early 21st cent. China emerged as a significant counterbalance to the United States economically.


See H. J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations (1960); H. Butterfield and M. Wright, ed., Diplomatic Investigations (1966); P. Keal, Unspoken Rules and Superpower Dominance (1984); R. J. Lieber, No Common Power: Understanding International Relations (1988).

balance of power

(INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS) a situation (actually achieved or the objective of policy) in which a rough balance is sought in the military capacity of major powers. In an era of nuclear weaponry the term balance of terror has also been used. See also NUCLEAR DETERRENCE, ARMS RACE.

balance of power

the distribution of power among countries so that no one nation can seriously threaten the fundamental interests of another
References in periodicals archive ?
A skewed balance of power may be harmless if vertical power is limited, but it will be dangerous if vertical power is great.
This phase requires reshaping relations anew, especially as the Arab countries with traditional position in the balance of power are going through difficulties.
It also has a great deal in common with the characteristics of the international balance of power.
The balance of power in the Persian Gulf was largely designed according to traditional threats that regional states perceived from one another during the Cold War and the specific circumstances dictating the great powers' presence in the region over the last four decades.
The balance of power according to Emerich de Vattel is "an arrangement of affairs so that no state shall be in a position to have absolute mastery and dominate over others.
Douglas Lemke focuses on the utility of balance of power as defined by Mearsheimer's version of "offensive realism" and determines that the concept is so "vaguely stated" that he finds it "impossible to imagine a scenario that would be inconsistent" with it.
But Niebuhr never doubted that his primary vocation as an American Christian ethicist was to help America use its power to contain communism, maintain a Western-dominated world order, secure balances of power within geopolitical regions, and establish a balance of power domestically among commercial enterprises, trade unions, and the government.
With Microsoft about to enter the wireless home networking market (see this month's wireless feature) and already in the mobile phone sector, an Intel-Microsoft pairing in WLANs could alter the balance of power significantly.
Alsop attributes the big-school shift to changes in the job market and balance of power between recruiters and grads.
And many are watching nervously as the Greens' Ed McGaa takes on Minnesota's Senator Paul Wellstone, a noted liberal Democrat locked in a tough battle with his Republican opponent as the balance of power is in play in the U.
He presents, among other things, a startlingly frank chief of staff, Andrew Card, openly fretting that Hughes's departure will tip the balance of power to the more conservative Karl Rove, and a Karen Hughes strong, spiritual, and just wanting to go home.
For one thing, the balance of power in Eurasia, a traditional American concern, is in no danger of being overturned.

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