Most definitions of politics include power and power relations between states. International relations scholars have developed various theories around the concept power and its nature. The current discourse generally speaks in terms of state power signifying both economic and military power. Among scholars in international relations, all state power differently. For realism, the focus of the analysis is the struggle for power among states in the anarchic international systems for realists’ power is synonymous with world politics. For classical realists’ thinkers such as Morgenthau, they tend to suggest that power is an inherent goal of mankind and of states. He observes that international politics is a struggle for power. For example, these include military and economic growth, combined these all contribute to the goal of international power. Conversely,the scholar Robert Gilpin focuses on the powerful political and technological forces that have altered the world whereas liberalism the universal condition of world politics is globalisations. In my view our understanding of power, depends on relative power and the individual freedom to pursue it which is why liberals best understand the nature of power.
The long history has caused implications to generate an agreement about the role of power. The debate between realists and liberals has emerged as an axis of dispute in international relations. For a classical realist, the concept of power and its nature are best understood with traces back to ancient Greece. The intellectual roots of Thucydides share an account if the Peloponnesian war in the fifth century BC. In terms of the largest impact on the field, Hans Morgenthau formulated a theory and advocated the concept of power as a theoretical core of international politics. For Morgenthau and waltz, the main currency of discussion is power. Therefore, the concept of power is at the centre of their analysis when regarding international politics. In his book the Politics among nations, Morgenthau identified international politics as ”struggle for power”. For Morgenthau, he argued that the desire to dominate is all a part of human associations and interactions. He wrote that the aspiration for power is the distinguishing element of international politics. He set forth six key principles of political realism, which helped to solidify a theory of international politics. These state the influence of human nature on politics power defined as interest. Political realism believes that politics is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature. Therefore, to understand society it is necessary to understand the laws by which society lives. The theory plays upon ascertaining facts and giving them meaning through reason. One of the principles assumes that key concept of interest defined as power is an objective category that is universally valid however that concept is not necessarily fixed. Regardless of circumstances of time and place. (Morgenthau, 1948). As classical realism emphasises on human nature, some ambiguity remains. However, Morgenthau argues that the struggle for power arises because people want things and not necessarily because of evil in their desires. He labels one of the two roots of conflict but pulls towards animus domandi the desire for power. Similarly, to Morgenthau, Hobbes sees conflicts ingrained in human nature, even with other factors like the quest for glory or lust ultimately war and conflict and war are still embedded in human nature. Therefore, states for Morgenthau do not act of political nature. Yet, some implications and criticisms do arise. The claim ”the desire to attain a maximum of power is universal” among nations is one of Morgenthau’s ”objective laws that have their roots in human nature, illustrates that much of the behaviour of nations contradict this claim. Waltz suggest that Morgenthau does not explain why other desires fail to moderate or outweigh the fear states may have about miscalculation of their relative power. Unable to conceive of world politics as a self-sustaining system, and realists shed more light on the characteristics they have attributed to men and states with power. (Waltz, 1990).Oon the other hand, neorealist rather view power in a different way. Power is useful and states run risks if they have little or too much. It either illustrates and invites an attack for weaker states, or can have the opposite affect of other states increasing their arms and weapons. Therefore, neo-realists would suggest that the nature of power is sensible, and power is not an end itself, but rather concerns the idea of power with security. Yet, countries such as North Korea who present an existential threat to its Asian neighbours and growing danger to the united states shows how power can be detrimental and can cause global condemnation. Several sanctions by the United Nations against North Korea, have implicated the economy in North Korea. For example, the united nation’s ban on textile, North Koreas second largest industry after coal could cost the Kim regime millions annually. Therefore, misusing power creates implications on the world stage. (Albert, 2018).
On the hand for liberals derive several conceptions of the nature of power. Neoliberals like Keohane and Nye call asymmetrical interdependence”, suggesting the more interdependent a state is the more intense its outcomes, therefore the more power others potentially have over it. Whereas the less a state wants something the less a state cares about its outcomes and the less power they have over it. This can be seen in trade negotiations of example poorer countries are dependent on trade, thus benefit more from free trade. This leads to these state with weaker positions in the international system and therefore make more businesses through negotiations. For example, although a smaller state may not have the most power they can, and some do prevail. This can be seen with Vietnam in the Vietnam war although it had not possessed more coercive power it had more preference at stake. (Moravcsik, 2009).
For liberals, the universal condition of world politics is due to globalisation. States are embedded in transnational society, thus creating incentives for economic, social and cultural interaction between borders (say it diff). globalisation drives different state preference, those drive what states do. they start of individual and groups in society as the basic actors, they represent their views to states, for example in the modern world they are states, but these could include in previous times like tribes or cities. In explaining patterns of war, for example, liberals do not look to interstate imbalances of power, they look instead to conflicting state preferences which stem from politics ideologies disputes over economic resources. (Moravcsik, 2009). The power politics itself is the product of ideas, crucially ideas can change, although the world may not accommodate to liberalism to date this does not mean that it cannot be made into a liberal world order.
According to structural realists would argue that human nature is irrelevant and has nothing to do with it. They argue that states want power because of the architecture of the international system. In terms of the best way to understand the power and the nature of power, they suggest there are five assumptions why states want power. Mearsheimer, in his opinion after the cold war the world entered a stage of little prospect of security competition. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, USA became the sole great power. in today’s climate, we still see the USA as the dominant force in world politics and maintain power. yet it can be argued that other great powers also dominate in the western hemisphere, such as china and Russia. So, for Mearsheimer states should gain as much power as they can, which leads them to hegemony if the circumstances are right. (Mearsheimer, 2013). However, the validity of neorealism can be complicated and cause implications when regarding world politics, for example neorealist ignored the domestic changes that took place inside the USSR. They missed the opportunity to predict and understand the changes in that state behaviour. Another area where domestic turmoil and cultural complexities significantly alter state behaviour is the middle east. For example, the war in Iraq and how the Iraqi people would welcome American invasion demonstrated a major flaw in the neorealist view on how religion and culture can have a major impact in the state behaviour and its citizens. Therefore, the neorealist view is limited when discussing the implications of world politics in today’s world. To conclude both classical and structural realism argue that the most important actors in world politics are nations states. These states are rational and autonomous which is characterised by anarchy. They ignore the fact that domestic politics do influence the state and the pursuit of power is the key role in the behaviour of the state. (Mansour, 2008).
In conclusion, liberalism provides the best framework to understand the nature of power, in my view liberalism, offers an alternative way to view power politics. In terms of military power, liberalism takes into considerations other forms such as the economic and social power which do play a part in the role of a state. For example, relations between western powers may have a disagreement but would not exercise military power against allies. Therefore, liberalism offers a possibility of peace state accumulate power, and does not simply state how politics ought to be but offers a modern theory for understanding and peace even in anarchic conditions where state aim to gain the most power.