Introduction to International Relations" Please note: Although archived, it is open for learning without registration or enrollment. Please consider contributing updates to this course on GitHub you can also adopt, adapt, and distribute this course under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.
Theoretical origins[ edit ] Balancing behaviour of states is prompted by the structural characteristics of the balance of power system itself. This belief is strongly perpetrated by theorists of neorealism or structural realism, namely Kenneth Waltz who is one of the earliest and most significant contributors to neorealism and balance of power theory.
Anarchyor the lack of an overarching law enforcing body, inevitably forces states to rely on their individual resources and actions to assure their welfare,   whereby it becomes a responsibility and a requirement of each state to look out for its own survival and security and show readiness in countering force and aggression from other actors.
At a minimum, they simply strive for their own preservation, while others may have more expansionist motives and seek universal domination. Balancing, hence, becomes a tool by which states use the means available to them to achieve their goals and interests; that is to protect themselves from a more threatening actor or to further their power and capability.
This inevitably leads states to behave in ways prescribed by the balance of power. The key to security and survival of each state is power, not as an absolute concept, but rather in relations to that of other states,  and balancing can often be used as a mechanism of gaining a greater share of power or decreasing the share of power possessed by another state.
Traditional forms[ edit ] Balancing International relations notes on balance of be carried out through internal or external efforts and means. Internal balancing involves efforts to enhance state's power by increasing one's economic resources and military strength in order to be able to rely on independent capabilities in response to a potential hegemon and be able to compete more effectively in the international system.
In the balance of power system, balancing is opposed to the concept of bandwagoningwhereby smaller states seek to achieve their security by allying with the major power or a dominant actor.
As tempting as this option may be for smaller powers, it can essentially undermine the security of the international system because by joining an alliance with a rising, potentially expansionist state, aggression and expansionist motives are being rewarded and accepted.
It becomes a safer alternative to either improve one's own capabilities through self-help mechanisms or join alliances with states who cannot readily dominate in order to restrain and curb the one who can potentially dominate the system and undermine the survival of actors within it.
Another reason why states in a majority of instances choose to balance and not bandwagon is because joining the balancing alliance allows them to have more influence and play a more important role in that alliance, whereas the alliance with a major power would not allow them opportunities for a great deal of contribution and decisive capability as they would inevitably be dominated by their powerful ally.
If states are extremely vulnerable and insignificant, bandwagoning may be their only choice, however middle powers and states that have something to contribute and protect will always balance in face of a rising power and a potential hegemon  There are a number of factors that influence the decision of states to balance or bandwagon, as proposed by Stephen Walt  in his account on alliance formation.
First is aggregate power, which constitutes state's resources and capabilities. Second factor is proximate power, whereby geographically close states pose a greater threat than distant ones as the ability to project power declines with distance.
Offensive power is the third factor, which conveys that states with large and growing offensive capabilities are likely to provoke other to balance against them. However, it is tough to dispute the growing trend towards bandwagoning rather than balancing exhibited over the recent decades of United States U.
This trend has shown that, whether for purposes of seeking protection or out of fear, states are choosing to ally with the superpower and accept the conditions its inflicts onto the international system.
Internal balancing is subjected to a number of domestic obstacles that can impede its success. High costs associated with it and the difficult task of allocating resources to be able to make significant contributions to one's economic and military development are among the main ones.
Furthermore, independently balancing a major power would require major expansion of one's capabilities and accelerated rearmament, which would undoubtedly provoke unfavourable responses from not just the major power in question but also other states.
It can inevitably cause a security dilemmawhereby the increase in power and security of one state decreases that of another and offsets offensive actions, potential arms races and escalating hostility among actors, hindering collective security. Its success is contingent on an enduring and coherent alliance system, however given the structural constraints of the international system, this might be difficult to attain and ensure.
The anarchic nature of the international system together with the states' primary goal of survival intrinsically causes a self-help approach from all states, whereby reliance and trust on other actors are significantly undermined.
Alliances do, however, form despite these structural impediments, but they are seen as temporary arrangements that should not be overly relied upon.
However, even though there is an expectation to share the costs and efforts of achieving a common goal, alliances and groups demonstrate a tendency towards exploitation and inconsistent dedication and input among participants. However, the main critique surrounding balance of power theory and subsequently balancing behaviour of states highlights that this logic applies to and concerns the period of the rise of hegemon: At present, the US enjoys a well established primacy, with power and capabilities greatly superior than that of other states.
At no other period in history was the margin of dominance of one state over others so extensive, making the traditional application of balance of power theory and predictions of balancing behaviour from secondary powers inapplicable.
Historical instances of great unbalanced power, such as Louis XIV and Napoleon I's rule of France or Adolf Hitler's rule of Germany, saw aggressive and expansionist motives with aims to conquer and dominate, hence provoking the crucial need for balancing in an instance of a single dominant state in order to bring the international distribution of power into balance.
A number of aggressive and unilateral foreign policies, most significant ones being the abandonment of Kyoto Protocolwithdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and most importantly the decision to go to war in Iraq in despite great opposition from other states have led secondary powers to pursue indirect, soft-balancing strategies towards constraining the U.
Even though it is unlikely to bring any substantial changes to the balance of power within the international realm, it does show potential in constraining the major power and allowing secondary powers to have their input in international affairs and maintain their autonomy under the dominance of a unipolar leader.
However, this is not to say that traditional, hard balancing is a thing of the past. Indeed, some powerful arguments are emerging both from the political and academic realms pointing to the rapid emergence of rising powers, namely China and India, as balancers and competitors of the U.
China is undoubtedly surfacing as the most credible power, one with the greatest potential over the next decade or two to alter the balance of power away from U. China has come through as a "formidable political, strategic and economic competitor"  to the United States, increasingly challenging its regional and global leadership.
Despite claims of peaceful rise mainly focused on economic prosperity, the world is becoming increasingly aware and anxious of China's military expansion and modernisation,  with its military budget rising In addition, soft-balancing mechanisms can also be detected, as the growth in regional partnerships and agreements has offset a new regional integration with China at its centre  where the U.
The emergence of new major powers is certain to bring changes to the balance of power dynamics regardless of the level and intensity at which these powers choose to balance the unipolar leader.
Even if China and other growing states refrain from balancing the U. Fortmann eds Balance of Power: Theory and Practice in the 21st Century Stanford: Stanford University Press, Routledge,International Relations Notes.
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