War and Change in World Politics

Cambridge University Press
Free sample

War and Change in World Politics introduces the reader to an important new theory of international political change. Arguing that the fundamental nature of international relations has not changed over the millennia, Professor Gilpin uses history, sociology, and economic theory to identify the forces causing change in the world order. The discussion focuses on the differential growth of power in the international system and the result of this unevenness. A shift in the balance of power - economic or military - weakens the foundations of the existing system, because those gaining power see the increasing benefits and the decreasing cost of changing the system. The result, maintains Gilpin, is that actors seek to alter the system through territorial, political, or economic expansion until the marginal costs of continuing change are greater than the marginal benefits. When states develop the power to change the system according to their interests they will strive to do so- either by increasing economic efficiency and maximizing mutual gain, or by redistributing wealth and power in their own favour.
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Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Published on
Oct 30, 1981
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Pages
177
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ISBN
9781107392830
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / International Relations / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Seminar paper from the year 2009 in the subject Politics - International Politics - Topic: International Organisations, grade: 1,0, University of Bamberg (Lehrstuhl für Internationale Beziehungen), course: International Institutions, language: English, abstract: When one wants to understand international regimes – their formation, maintenance and breakdown, the best way to begin is to try analysing these aspects by looking at and using theories connected to these specific problems. In our case we have a set of three main theories that are concerned with the wide field of international regimes: interest-based neoliberalism, power-based neorealism and knowledge-based cognitivism. Each of those theories has a unique view of international regimes and the phenomena related to them, although when looked at closer, one notices that they do in fact have several things in common. Of these three, neoliberalism and neorealism are both rooted in and based on the theory of rational choice – that is rationalism. Within the boundaries of rationalism however they do preserve their own interpretations of international regimes. In this essay we will therefore focus on the converging aspects of neoliberalism and neorealism as well as on their differences. Thus in the end it is our goal to show possible ways of how these two rationalistic approaches could be amalgamated so that their advantages may be used in a combined form by future political scientists, not ignoring the difficulties that one faces, when making such an attempt.
After the end of World War II, the United States, by far the dominant economic and military power at that time, joined with the surviving capitalist democracies to create an unprecedented institutional framework. By the 1980s many contended that these institutions--the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now the World Trade Organization), the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund--were threatened by growing economic nationalism in the United States, as demonstrated by increased trade protection and growing budget deficits.

In this book, Robert Gilpin argues that American power had been essential for establishing these institutions, and waning American support threatened the basis of postwar cooperation and the great prosperity of the period. For Gilpin, a great power such as the United States is essential to fostering international cooperation. Exploring the relationship between politics and economics first highlighted by Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and other thinkers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Gilpin demonstrated the close ties between politics and economics in international relations, outlining the key role played by the creative use of power in the support of an institutional framework that created a world economy.


Gilpin's exposition of the in.uence of politics on the international economy was a model of clarity, making the book the centerpiece of many courses in international political economy. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, when American support for international cooperation is once again in question, Gilpin's warnings about the risks of American unilateralism sound ever clearer.

The War Ledger provides fresh, sophisticated answers to fundamental questions about major modern wars: Why do major wars begin? What accounts for victory or defeat in war? How do victory and defeat influence the recovery of the combatants? Are the rules governing conflict behavior between nations the same since the advent of the nuclear era?

The authors find such well-known theories as the balance of power and collective security systems inadequate to explain how conflict erupts in the international system. Their rigorous empirical analysis proves that the power-transition theory, hinging on economic, social, and political growth, is more accurate; it is the differential rate of growth of the two most powerful nations in the system—the dominant nation and the challenger—that destabilizes all members and precipitates world wars.

Predictions of who will win or lose a war, the authors find, depend not only on the power potential of a nation but on the capability of its political systems to mobilize its resources—the "political capacity indicator." After examining the aftermath of major conflicts, the authors identify national growth as the determining factor in a nation's recovery. With victory, national capabilities may increase or decrease; with defeat, losses can be enormous. Unexpectedly, however, in less than two decades, losers make up for their losses and all combatants find themselves where they would have been had no war occurred.

Finally, the authors address the question of nuclear arsenals. They find that these arsenals do not make the difference that is usually assumed. Nuclear weapons have not changed the structure of power on which international politics rests. Nor does the behavior of participants in nuclear confrontation meet the expectations set out in deterrence theory.
Many individuals proclaim that global capitalism is here to stay. Unfettered markets, they argue, now drive the world, and all countries must adjust, no matter how painful this may be for some. Robert Gilpin, author of the widely acclaimed Political Economy of International Relations (Princeton, 1987), urges us, however, not to take an open and integrated global economy for granted. Rather, we must consider the political circumstances that have enabled global markets to function and the probability that these conditions will continue. Gilpin's new book amounts to a magisterial inquiry into all major aspects of the contemporary world political economy. Beginning with the 1989 end of the Cold War and the subsequent collapse of communism, it focuses on globalization and rapid technological change and covers a broad sweep of economic developments and political cultures. Gilpin demonstrates the fragility of a global and integrated economy and recommends what can be done to strengthen it.

The international community has another chance to solidify the global market economy that collapsed with the outbreak of World War I. Yet, writes Gilpin, the full implications of this historic development for international affairs are not yet clear. Will socialist economies make a successful transition to market-type economies? What role will a dynamic China play in the world economy? Will the United States continue to exercise leadership or gravitate toward self-centered policies? Gilpin explores such questions along with problems in the areas of trade liberalization, multinational corporations, and destabilizing financial flows. He also investigates the struggles of less developed countries and the spread of economic regionalism, particularly in Europe, North America, and Pacific Asia, which directly threatens an open world economy.


The author maintains that global capitalism and economic globalization have rested and must continue to rest on a secure political foundation. However, this foundation has eroded since the end of the Soviet threat. To ensure survival of the global economy, Gilpin concludes, the United States and other major powers must recommit themselves to working together to rebuild its weakened political foundations.

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