Power and Global Politics

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: TessAni
  • Created on: 04-06-13 18:41
Preview of Power and Global Politics

First 433 words of the document:

Power and Global Politics
Power, in its broadest sense, is the ability to influence the outcome of events, in the
sense of having the `power to' do something. In global politics, this includes the
ability of a country to conduct its own affairs without interference of other
countries, bringing power very close to autonomy. However, power is usually
thought of as a relationship: that is, as ability to influence the behaviour of others in
a manner not of their choosing, or `power over' others. Power can therefore be said
to be exercised whenever A gets B to do something that B would otherwise not
have done. Distinctions have nevertheless been drawn between potential/actual,
relational/structural and `hard/soft' power.
Power as Capability
The traditional approach to power in international politics is to treat it in terms of
capabilities. Power is therefore an attribute or possession. However, the idea that power
can be measured in terms of capabilities has a number of drawbacks, making it an
unreliable means of determining the outcome of events. The often quoted example of the
Vietnam War (1959-75) helps to illustrate this. The USA failed to prevail in Vietnam
despite enjoying massive economic, technological and military advantages over North
Vietnam. At best capabilities define potential or latent power rather than actual power, and
translating a capability into a genuine political asset may be difficult and perhaps
impossible. This applies for a number of reasons:
The relative importance of the attributes is a matter of continual debate
Some elements of national power may be less beneficial ­ high levels of education
may hinder warfare or the `paradox of the plenty'
Subjective factors may be as significant as quantifiable, objective factors e.g.
national morale
It may oly be possible to translate resources or capacities into genuine political
efficacy in particular circumstances. For instance the possession of nuclear
weapons may be irrelevant when a state is confronting a terrorism/fighting a
guerrilla war
Power is dynamic and ever-changing, meaning that power relations are never fixed
or `given'. Power may shift due to economic booms/new discoveries etc.
Relational Power and Structural Power
Relational Power: The ability of one actor to influence another actor or actors in a
manner not their choosing
Structural Power: The ability to shape the frameworks within which global actors relate
to one another, thus affecting `how things shall be done'.

Other pages in this set

Page 2

Preview of page 2

Here's a taster:

Power relations between state or other actors may be taken to reflect the balance of their
respective capabilities. In this case, the relationship model of power suffers. For this reason
relational power is often understood in terms of actions and outcomes rather than in
terms of contrasting assessments of capabilities. States and other actors deal with one
another on the basis of their calculations of relative power. This may mean, for example,
that reputation can sustain national power despite its decline in `objective terms'.…read more

Page 3

Preview of page 3

Here's a taster:

The second shift is the alleged wider decline of `hard power'. Hard power is `command
power', the ability to change what others do through the use of inducements or threats. By
contrast, there has been a growth in `soft' power. Soft power is `co-optive power'; it rests on
the ability to shape the preferences of others by attraction rather than coercion. Hard
powers draw on resources, soft power operate largely through culture, political ideals and
foreign policies.…read more


No comments have yet been made

Similar Government & Politics resources:

See all Government & Politics resources »See all resources »