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The balance of power

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Existence of balance of power.
  3. The balance of power theory.
  4. Meaning of balance of power theory.
  5. Claude's and Gentz's view.
  6. The loopholes in theories of balance of power.
  7. The balance of power and war.
  8. Conclusion.
  9. Sources.

It was not until the beginning of the 17th century, when the science of international law took shape at the hands of Grotius and his successors, that the theory of the balance of power was formulated as a fundamental principle of diplomacy in the realist theory. According to Cobden, the first instance in which we find the ?balance of power? alluded to in a king's speech is on the occasion of the last address of William III . A balance of power exists when there is parity or stability between competing forces. As a term in international law for a "just equilibrium" between the members of the family of nations it expresses the doctrine intended to prevent any one state from becoming sufficiently strong to enforce its will upon the rest.The principle involved in this, as Hume pointed out in his Essay on the Balance of Power, would be as old as history. But during the greater part of the 19th century the series of national upheavals which remodelled the map of Europe obscured the balance of power; Cobden speaks of the balance of power as a ?mere chimera? , criticising Lord Brougham and Gentz but failing to examine their arguments with great care.

[...] Maybe the balance of power theorists do not often ask us to consider the outcomes of the major conflicts among great powers as triumphs of the system. They tend to concentrate the periods of stability and relative peace between the great wars and to neglect the wars themselves. Finally, the balance of power entertains a very dubious relationship with war, which can on the first hand be an end to recover the equilibrium of the international relations, but which can on the other hand show the failure of the good functioning of the balance of power. [...]

[...] But judging from the example of the period 1914-1918, one can tell that the balance of power system failed in 1918, or that in terms of the preservation of international order, the 1914-1918 war and subsequent events amount to a vindication of the balance of power. Alliance politics and arms race are ways of maintaining a balance of power without war, but if they fail war may be necessary, as an essential mechanism for preserving the balance of power according to Cobden. [...]

[...] What is above all criticised in this lack of consistent meaning is, as Claude state, the body of though who promotes the balance of power theory, rather than to the system. It is not a self-evident concept, as it means different things to different people (Doyle). Hass found eight meanings of Balance of power as policy, concept and propaganda. Wight found nine different uses, revealed in the writing or speeches of its adherents. Nevertheless, it is possible to extract a definition underlining the core meaning where most definitions converge. [...]

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