Great power

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The term 'Great power' only came into use post-1815, for prior important powers see Historical powers

A Great power is a nation or state that, through its great economic, political and military strength, is able to exert power over world diplomacy. Its opinions are strongly taken into account by other nations before taking diplomatic or military action. Characteristically, they have the ability to intervene militarily almost anywhere, and they also have soft, cultural power, often in the form of economic investment in less developed portions of the world.

There is great debate as to which nations constitute the Great powers of the world. Largely the question has been answered by recourse to 'common-sense'. This has led to a great deal of subjective analysis, with little agreement on a definitive list. A second approach that has been taken, has been an attempt to develop a conceptual notion of Great powers — deriving criteria which can then be applied in a historical examination to identify those countries which have, or have had, this status.<ref>Levy, Jack S - War in the Modern Great Power System 1495-1974, University Press of Kentucky (1983)</ref>

Contents

[edit] History

Different sets of great, or significant, powers have existed throughout history; however the term "Great power" has only been used as one of scholarly or diplomatic discourse since the post-Napoleonic era Congress of Vienna in 1815.<ref>Danilovic, Vesna. When the Stakes Are High - Deterrence and Conflict among Major Powers, University of Michigan Press (2002), p. 27 - (PDF copy)</ref> The Congress established the Concert of Europe as an attempt to preserve peace after the years of Napoleonic Wars.

Lord Castlereagh, the British Foreign Secretary, first used the term in its diplomatic context, in a letter sent on the February 13, 1814. He stated that:

It affords me great satisfaction to acquaint you that there is every prospect of the Congress terminating with a general accord and Guarantee between the great Powers of Europe, with a determination to support the arrangement agreed upon, and to turn the general influence and if necessary the general arms against the Power that shall first attempt to disturb the Continental peace.<ref>Webster, Charles K, Sir (ed). British Diplomacy 1813-1815: Selected Documents Dealing with the Reconciliation of Europe, G Bell (1931), p. 307</ref>

The Congress of Vienna consisted of five main powers: the United Kingdom, Austria-Hungary, Prussia, France, and Russia. Spain, Portugal, and Sweden were consulted on certain specific issues, but they were not full participants. On issues relating to Germany, Hanover, Bavaria, and Württemberg were also consulted. These five primary participants constituted the original Great powers as we know the term today.<ref>Danilovic, Vesna. When the Stakes Are High - Deterrence and Conflict among Major Powers, University of Michigan Press (2002), p. 228 - (PDF copy)</ref>

Over time, these original five were subject to the usual ebb and flow of events. Some, such as the UK and Prussia (as part of the newly-formed German state), experienced continued economic growth and political power.<ref>[www.courses.rochester.edu/stone/PSC272/lectures/05-Pro%20Waltz.ppt Multipolarity vs Bipolarity, Subsidiary hypotheses, Balance of Power]</ref> Others, such as Russia and Austria-Hungary, slowly ossified.<ref>History of Europe Austria-Hungary 1870-1914</ref><ref>A Short History of Russia</ref> At the same time, other states were emerging and expanding in power; the foremost of which were Japan and the United States. Clearly, at the dawn of the 20th century, the balance of world power had changed substantially from 1815 and the Congress of Vienna. The Eight-Nation Alliance formed in 1900 to invade China represented the club of the Great powers at the beginning of 20th century.
Image:UN security council 2005.jpg
One of the hallmarks of contemporary Great power status is permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

Shifts of international power have most notably occurred through major conflicts. <ref>phttp://jcr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/32/1/87 Power Transitions as the cause of war] </ref> The conclusion of World War I and the resulting Treaty of Versailles saw the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the United States (otherwise known as the Big 4) as the chief arbiters of the new world order.<ref name="The Treaty of Versailles">Globalization and Autonomy by Julie Sunday, McMaster University</ref> The end of World War II saw the United States, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union emerge as the primary victors. The importance of China and France was acknowledged by their inclusion (along with the 'Big Three') in the group of countries alloted permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council.

Since the end of the World Wars, the term 'Great power' has been joined by a number of other power classifications. Foremost among these is the concept of the superpower, used to describe those nations with overwhelming power over the rest of the world. Middle power has emerged as a term for those nations which exercise a degree of global influence, but insufficient to be decisive on international affairs. Regional powers are those whose influence is confined to their region, major power and global power have emerged as synonyms of 'Great power'. <ref>Definition of Great power </ref>

[edit] Characteristics

There are no set and defined characteristics of a Great power. Largely the question has been treated as 'an empirical one, and common sense can answer it'.<ref>Waltz, Kenneth N - Theory of International Politics, McGraw-Hill (1979) - p131</ref> This approach does have the obvious disadvantage of subjectivity. As a result there have been attempts to derive some common criteria and to treat these as essential elements of Great power status.

Early writings on the subject tended to judge nations by the realist criterion, as succinctly expressed by the historian AJP Taylor: "The test of a Great Power is the test of strength for war".<ref>Taylor, AJP - The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918, Oxford: Clarendon (1954), xxiv</ref> Later writers have expanded this test, attempting to define power in terms of overall military, economic, and political capacity.<ref>Organski, AFK - World Politics, Knopf (1958)</ref> This expanded test can be divided into three heads: power capabilities, spatial aspects, and status.<ref>Danilovic, Vesna. When the Stakes Are High - Deterrence and Conflict among Major Powers, University of Michigan Press (2002), p. 225 - (PDF copy)</ref>

[edit] Power dimension

As noted above, for many, power capabilities were the sole criterion. However, even under the more expansive tests power retains a vital place.

This aspect has received mixed treatment, with some confusion as to the degree of power required. Writers have approached the concept of Great power with differing conceptualizations of the world situation, from multipolarity to overwhelming hegemony. In his essay 'French Diplomacy in the Postwar Period', the French historian Jean-Baptiste Duroselle spoke to the multipolarity conceptualization. He wrote:

'A Great power is one which is capable of preserving its own independence against any other single power.' <ref>contained in: Kertesz and Fitsomons (eds) - Diplomacy in a Changing World, University of Notre Dame Press (1959)</ref>

This differed from earlier writers, notably from Leopold von Ranke, who clearly had a different idea of the world situation. In his essay 'The Great Powers', written in 1833, he wrote:

'If one could establish as a definition of a great power that it must be able to maintain itself against all others, even when they are united, then Frederick has raised Prussia to that position.' <ref>contained in: Iggers and von Moltke - In the Theory and Practice of History, Bobbs-Merril (1973)</ref>

These positions have been the subject of criticism.<ref>Danilovic, Vesna. When the Stakes Are High - Deterrence and Conflict among Major Powers, University of Michigan Press (2002), p. 226 - (PDF copy)</ref> For Duroselle's definition to result in more than one Great power, major world powers must be equal in power - each able to resist one another. This is quite unlike the usual state of international relations where, even amongst Great powers, there are nations which are stronger than others. For there to be even one Great power, Ranke's definition requires one state to have overwhelming power. These positions are ameliorated somewhat by the asymmetry between offense and defense.

Some of this difficulty is remedied by the post-war emergence of the term Superpower.

[edit] Spatial dimension

All nations have a geographic scope of interests, actions, or projected power. This is a crucial factor in distinguishing a Great power from a regional power; by definition the scope of a regional power is restricted to its region. It has been suggested that a Great power should be possessed of actual influence throughout the scope of the prevailing international system.

'Great Power may be defined as a political force exerting an effect co-extensive with the widest range of the society in which it operates. The Great Powers of 1914 were 'world-powers' because Western society had recently become 'world-wide'.' - Arnold J Toynbee<ref>Toynbee, Arnold J - The World After the Peace Conference, Humphrey Milford and Oxford University Press (1925) - p4</ref>

Other suggestions that have been made are that a Great power should have the capacity to engage in extra-regional affairs and that a Great power ought to be possessed of extra-regional interests, two propositions which are often closely connected.<ref>Stoll, Richard J - State Power, World Views, and the Major Powers, Contained in: Stoll and Ward (eds) - Power in World Politics, Lynne Rienner (1989)</ref>

[edit] Status dimension

Formal or informal acknowledgment of a nation's status as a Great power.

'The status of Great Power is sometimes confused with the condition of being powerful, The office, as it is known, did in fact evolve from the role played by the great military states in earlier periods ... But the Great Power system institutionalizes the position of the powerful state in a web of rights and obligations.' - George Modelski<ref>Modelski, George - Principles of World Politics, Free Press (1972) - p141</ref>

This approach restricts analysis to the post-Congress of Vienna epoch; it being there that Great powers were first formally recognized.<ref>Danilovic, Vesna - When the Stakes Are High - Deterrence and Conflict among Major Powers, University of Michigan Press (2002) - p228 - (PDF copy)</ref> In the absence of such a formal act of recognition it has been suggested that Great power status can arise by implication, by judging the nature of a state's relations with other Great powers.<ref>Domke, William K - Power, Political Capacity, and Security in the Global System, Contained in: Stoll and Ward (eds) - Power in World Politics, Lynn Rienner (1989)</ref>

A further option is to examine a state's willingness to act as a Great power.<ref>Domke, William K - Power, Political Capacity, and Security in the Global System - p161, Contained in: Stoll and Ward (eds) - Power in World Politics, Lynn Rienner (1989)</ref> As a nation will rarely declare that it is acting as such, this usually entails a retrospective examination of state conduct. As a result this is of limited use in establishing the nature of contemporary powers, at least not without the exercise of subjective observation.

[edit] Great powers

[edit] Past

It should be noted that some of the past Great powers regained or retained their influential position on the global stage and thus can be found in the "Present" table in the following section. Also note that while these powers and other powers may have been "great" before the Congress of Vienna, they were only referred to as "Great powers" in an academic sense and in relation to Power in international relations after the Congress.

Great powers throughout modern history
Country Dates Rise Downfall Notes
Habsburg Monarchy/ Austrian Empire/ Austria-Hungary<ref name="The Great powers and the Eastern Question">The Great powers and the Eastern Question Michigan State University Lecture </ref><ref name="BBC News - World War I">Template:Cite web Note listing of Triple Entente and Triple Alliance as Great powers</ref> 1815-1918 Battle of Mohács (1687) World War I Under the Habsburg Dynasty
German Third Reich 1933-1945 Rule of Nazism (1933-1945) World War II Under Adolf Hitler
Prussia, Imperial Germany 1815-1871, 1871-1918 Seven Years' War, Franco-Prussian War (1871) Treaty of Versailles Under Hohenzollern Dynasty
Italy<ref name="The Great powers and the Eastern Question">The Great powers and the Eastern Question Michigan State University Lecture </ref><ref name="BBC News - World War I">Template:Cite web Note listing of Triple Entente and Triple Alliance as Great powers</ref><ref name="umich">University of Michigan Explanation of great powers</ref><ref name="World War II Great Power GDP Comparison">Template:Cite web </ref><ref name="The Treaty of Versailles">Globalization and Autonomy by Julie Sunday, McMaster University</ref> 1861-1943 Italian Unification World War II After the Italian Unification under Savoy Monarchy and later Benito Mussolini
Imperial Japan<ref name="World War II Great Power GDP Comparison">Template:Cite web</ref> 1905-1945 Russo-Japanese War Military destruction by the Allies during World War II Under Mutsuhito, Yoshihito and Hirohito
The Ottoman Empire<ref name="The Great powers and the Eastern Question">The Great powers and the Eastern Question Michigan State University Lecture </ref> 1815-1923 Collapse of Byzantine Empire World War I Used southeastern Europe to launch great assaults into the heart of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Spain<ref>Template:Cite journal, p.110:"Spain, the great power of the sixteenth century".</ref> 1815-1898 Unification of Spain Latin American wars of independence and internal political turmoil, Spanish-American War. Under Trastámara, Hapsburg, and Bourbon Dynasties. First "global empire".
Imperial Russia<ref name="BBC News - World War I">Template:Cite web Note listing of Triple Entente and Triple Alliance as Great powers</ref> 1815-1917 (Russian Empire) The Great Northern War Russian Revolution of 1917 Under Romanov Dynasty (Russian Empire), large population and abundant resources.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) / Soviet Union<ref name="World War II Great Power GDP Comparison">Template:Cite web </ref> 1945-1991 World War II Dissolved in 1991 by the leadership of Russia, the Ukraine, and Belarus Successor state to the Russian Empire, under communism, large population consisted of 15 Soviet Republics; military strength, diplomatic influence, large industrial output, extensive resources, possession of a vast nuclear stockpile, advanced military and space scientific/technological capabilities

[edit] Present

Image:Gdp 2005 by PPP world.PNG
The gross domestic product (GDP), as shown on this map, is perhaps the most important characteristic of a great power.

The European powers of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy lost much of their political influence after the World Wars. However, these nations managed to rebuild their economy and increase their power projection. India is generally considered a Great power, although as this represents a recent ascension from Middle power, it is not always categorized uniformly. There is debate on whether Italy should be included as a 'great power'. It is a member of the G-8, and can be described as a major power in economic contexts;<ref> see for example Template:Cite journal; which speaks of Italy as a major country or "player" along with Germany, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom.</ref> in military terms, however, she is categorized as a middle power instead of a great power.<ref>Middle Power Approaches to Maritime Security Note the categorization of Italy within this group</ref>.<ref>Middle Powers Initiative April 25 2003. Note Italy's inclusion as a Middle power</ref>

Great powers throughout modern history
Country Dates Rise Notes
China<ref name="Yale, China as a great power">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="Council on Foreign Relations, China as a great power">Template:Cite web</ref> 1978 - present Today under People's Republic of China (PRC), successor state to Imperial China. World's fastest growing economy, largest population, Cultural influence, permanent UN Security Council seat with veto power, world's largest military, nuclear capability Considered an emerging superpower
Kingdom of Great Britain/ United Kingdom<ref name="The Great powers and the Eastern Question">The Great powers and the Eastern Question Michigan State University Lecture </ref><ref name="World War II Great Power GDP Comparison">Template:Cite web </ref><ref name="BBC News - World War I">Template:Cite web Note listing of Triple Entente and Triple Alliance as Great powers</ref><ref name="The Treaty of Versailles">Globalization and Autonomy by Julie Sunday, McMaster University</ref><ref name ="G8"> Template:Cite journal</ref> 1815 - present Economic power and former colonial power, large economy, scientifically advanced, highly professional and effective military with a genuine power-projection capability, nuclear deterrent, head of Commonwealth, G8 Nation, permanent member of UN security council Under House of Hanover, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Windsor, and the British Parliament. Empire created by the Royal Navy and British Army. Lost its Empire Post-WWII.
Germany<ref name="World Security Network, Germany a great power in denial">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="Nato, Federal Republic of Germany, a European great power">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="World Security Network, Germany fails to recognize its position as a Great Power">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name = "G8" /> 1970s-present Economic 'miracle' (1970s) and economic power, G8 founding member (starting in Western Germany, then continuing after the reunification) Federal Republic; forming the core of continental Europe (w France)
France<ref name="The Great powers and the Eastern Question">The Great powers and the Eastern Question Michigan State University Lecture </ref><ref name="World War II Great Power GDP Comparison">Template:Cite web </ref><ref name="BBC News - World War I">Template:Cite web Note listing of Triple Entente and Triple Alliance as Great powers</ref><ref name="The Treaty of Versailles">Globalization and Autonomy by Julie Sunday, McMaster University</ref><ref name="G8" /> 1815 - present Economic and military power Under Napoleon, Napoleon III, and multiple French Republics. Lost its Empire Post-WWII, partially recovered, now G8 nation, highly professional military with nuclear deterrence, permanent member of UN security council and forms the core of continental Europe (w Deutschland).
India <ref>India: The Fourth Great Power?</ref><ref>India as a world power</ref><ref>India and the Balance of Power </ref> 1990-Present Rapid economic expansion, largest democracy, friendly with majority of nations, military strength, nuclear capability Considered an emerging superpower
Italy<ref name="Modern Italy Stakes a Claim to Top League">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="There is no doubt that Italy is a great power.">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="G8" /> 1970s - present Economic miracle, G8 nation Debatable
Japan<ref name="The New Republic, Japan's great power role relating to the Korea conflict zone">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="G8" /> 1970s-present Successor state to Imperial Japan, economic power, G8 nation Slumped post-World War II, but recovered by 1970s.
Russia 1991 - present (Russian Federation) Largest state of the former Soviet Union; current power from military strength, permanent seat on UN Security Council, extensive resources, possession of a vast nuclear stockpile, advanced military and space scientific/technological capabilities, G8 Nation Now a federation and the formal successor state to the USSR.
United States<ref name="World War II Great Power GDP Comparison">Template:Cite web </ref><ref name="The Treaty of Versailles">Globalization and Autonomy by Julie Sunday, McMaster University</ref> 1898 - present Spanish-American War World's largest economy and greatly influential on the world scale, permanent seat on the UN Security Council, G8 nation, scientific leadership, technologically advanced, and military strength with nuclear deterrence

[edit] References

<references />

Power in international relations
Power statuses Middle power | Regional power | Great power | Superpower | Hyperpower
Emerging superpowers China | India | European Union
Future geopolitics African Century | American Century | Asian Century | British Moment | Chinese Century | European Century | Indian Century | Pacific Century
Types of power Soft power | Hard power | Political power | Power (sociology) | Power politics | Power projection | Polarity in international relations
Other BRIC | BRIMC | BRICS | BRICET | Energy superpower | Second superpower | SCO
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Great power

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