Saturday, 1 October 2011

Relevance of Balance of Power to international relations

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The concept of balance of power originates from the theory of realism in international relations. Realism as the name suggests is the theory which is closest to a realistic outlook of the world. the basis upon which the theory was founded is the notion that all activities in this world are dictated by self interest.this means that realism views the global stage as a series of competing power bases, where the acquisition and exercise of power is the sole means of pursuing interests. hence the desire is to exceed and exert control over other weaker entities is inherent in human nature.it is merely natural to regard ones own well being over that of the other. this same notion is applied to the international system where nations seek to further their own interests .it has to be recognized that interests of one nation can only be advanced at the expense of the interests of other nations implying that the international environment is inherently unstable. this instability forms the basis for the struggle for power which will thereby lead to friction between the nations that battle for power.hence realism is the perception of the world in terms of power politics.according to this theory, the country whose power is increasing will take advantage of its superior strength to attack its now weaker rivals.

one of the key concepts upon which the theory stands is that of self-help. it is due to this notion of self help that a state provides for its own security.but due to the interconnectedness of the international system an action taken by one state becomes the cause of insecurity for other nations. this concept is known as security dilemma. it exists when the militatry preparations of one state create an unresolvable uncertainity in the mind of another .Baylis and smith.

it is to counter this regressive nature of the interntional system that the concept of balance of powers was introduced.

balance of power is a way of establishing international peace and security.it is a concept that establishes an equilibrium in the anarchical system that is seen to exist by realists..according to morgantheau it is a general state of affairs in which power is distributed among several nations resulting in equilibrium of the system. the system of balancing of powers basically infers that wars and other forms of friction and exploitation of one another in pursual of naked self interest can be avoided by maintaining a balance such that power is not concentrated with one state. however this might seem absurd,as it is an innate characteristic of the economic and social system that one entity claims a greater share of power and control. the answer to the question as to how the balance will be maintained is given by the structural and historical realists.

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structural realists believe that the system will through its own free mechanisms move toward the equilibrium level of power between nations whereas the historical realists argue that such a balance will have to be contrived through other measures.

the major mechanism through which the balance-of-power system is maintained is the making and unmaking of alliances.

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