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Harsha AH asked: Is the Concept of Balance of Power still relevant in contemporary international politics?

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  • Anit Mukherjee replies: One helpful manner of thinking of international politics is to relate it with human nature. In other words states behave similar to people and both are driven by the same passions. For Thucydides, the ancient Greek historian, state behavior was driven by "fear, honour and interest." One could argue that the same passions drive us. If this is true then in an anarchic state, where international politics is conducted, it is unlikely that concepts like "balance of power" will ever be irrelevant.

    So, yes, the concept of balance of power is still relevant in contemporary international politics. One can only imagine this no longer being so in case of a world, federal government which, at this moment or for the foreseeable future, appears highly unlikely. The concept of balance of power stems from the fear among smaller powers of the rise of a larger rival power. In this fear is the key, for if the two powers enjoy friendly relations then there would be no need to "balance" the larger power. Moreover balance of power consists of external and internal balancing. In the former, the state looks for external alliances as deterrence and in the latter it builds up its own strength again for deterrence. In sum this concept, like most other concepts that drive international politics, is not going away anytime soon.