The Balance Of Power Theory

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Balance of power theory represents a body of interrelated concepts for achieving security and stability by maintaining an equal distribution of power throughout the international system. Some critics contend that the theory cannot provide guidance to states in a unipolar system since it developed out of centuries of multipolarity and decades of bipolarity. This assessment is incorrect. Although a specific conception of balance of power theory may not provide guidance, an appraisal of the concepts within its various forms suggests continuing relevance. This paper discusses balance of power theory by examining the evolution of its structural and ideational variants, and asserts that the concept remains relevant in a unipolar international system. The balance of power is a historical concept with a variety of meanings. In Thucydides’ account of the Melian dialogue, he indirectly refers to countries balancing in response to growing Athenian power and aggression (Thucydides, 1972). Over 1200 years later, Hobbes described balancing in reference to the ability of a confederacy of the weak to overwhelm the strong (Hobbes, 1996). Both Thucydides and Hobbes reference a type of balancing aimed at reestablishing an equilibrium of power within the international system. Gulick refers to this behavior by states as a doctrine of counterpoise, designed to ensure the survival of individual states and to prevent a state from accruing predominant power (Gulick, 1955). During the 19th
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