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).

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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.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000

balance of power

the distribution of power among countries so that no one nation can seriously threaten the fundamental interests of another
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Another way to look at the balance of power is to build the strength of the weak to an extent where the strong does not attempt to threaten the security of the rest.
In light of the difficulty of defining and measuring power, let alone determining whether the power of different branches "balances," one might be skeptical of the Court's assertion that its task is to maintain that balance of power. In Morrison v.
The debate about the Iran deal should be conducted within the context of an understanding of the balance of power in the Middle East.
Organised by Bahrain-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the two-day conference titled "Trade and Flag: The Changing Balance of Power in the Multilateral Trading System" featured two former directors-general of the World Trade Organisation, Pascal Lamy and Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, who joined thought leaders in debates on issues including the challenge of regionalism to multilateral trading systems.
Kevin Nagle, partner and property law specialist at Shakespeares, said: "The balance of power in property deals in the region has started to shift in favour of the developer and in some instances there is a stand-off taking place, as end users learn that the terms on offer are less favourable than previously.
It was the American president Woodrow Wilson who summarized for the first time in his 14th points (2) the new principles in International Relations by evoking the collective security system that should, from that time on, to govern in world politics against the balance of power, the main concept that governed the world politic since the creation of the Holy Alliance in 1815.
In other words, the Syrian regime has given up all of the elements of the balance of power and deterrence with Israel merely because it considered its own survival to have become at risk, as a result of threats of a Western strike against its forces.
The Balance of Power as a Core Institution of Regional Order
The current international balance of power is not what it was right after World War II in 1945.
Summary: America's strategy in Asia for more than a century has sought a stable balance of power to prevent the rise of any hegemon.
From Richard Cobden (1878, 1-21) onward, one element of international relations has had an especially bad press among classical liberals: the balance of power between states, which has been seen as a major cause of war and destruction.
The Arab world's top think-tank establishment says that the latest spate of Arab revolts would lead to the emergence of a Pan-Arab gathering that "changes the balance of power" in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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