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Restraining Great Powers. Soft Balancing In World Politics

Friday October 21, 2016, at 14:00
Room 24.120 - Mercè Rodoreda Building (1st Floor)
Research seminar

This seminar presents the book project than examines a crucial element of state behavior -- the use of international institutions and economic instruments such as sanctions -- to constrain the power of dominant actors. Much of International Relations scholarship fails to capture the use of these non-military instruments for constraining superior power. Analysts have coined the concept ‘soft balancing’ to describe this phenomenon (Paul, 2005; Pape, 2005). The soft balancing debate has generated much literature in the past half a decade or so. However, it has been used exclusively in the context of responses by second-tier states toward U.S. power. The main objective of this book project is to expand and test soft balancing arguments to historical eras (such as the Concert of Europe, and the League of Nations during the interwar period) and the emerging power, China. I seek to explore: under what conditions do states resort to soft balancing (relying on institutional and economic instruments) as opposed to hard balancing (relying on formal military alliances and arms buildups)? When do they combine both? What are the differences and similarities between the 20th and 21st century cases of soft balancing--one under multipolarity, the other under near-unipolarity? When do soft balancing efforts elicit hostile reactions and when do they produce positive results? Finally, what are the implications of soft balancing for the rise of new great powers and the international order, especially conflict and cooperation in the 21st century’s globalized international system?

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