Balance of Power: Adversarial Pair of Scales or Associational Arch?

J.H. de Wilde*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


    By looking at its intellectual history, this chapter addresses the problem that Balance of Power by most observers is treated one-sidedly in adversarial terms, whereas a balance of power-logic often requires cooperation. The Peace of Utrecht (1713) is an example where the balance can be better compared with an arch than with a pair of scales. Moreover, an adversarial Balance of Power has little to do with weighing power in imaginary scales: 1) there are no objective standards for measuring power, 2) means of power cannot predict outcomes of struggles; and 3) outcomes themselves are discursive tools rather than historic facts. Balance of Power has two specific political functions: the first is to structure an analysis of specific historic episodes; the second is to support specific political argumentations. Using the scales argument is likely to undermine the associational logic.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe 1713 Peace of Utrecht and its Enduring Effects
    EditorsAlfred H.A. Soons
    PublisherBrill / Nijhoff
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-35157-8
    ISBN (Print)978-90-04-26640-7
    Publication statusPublished - 19-Dec-2019


    • balance of power
    • International Relations theory
    • peace treaties

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