Review of International Studies

Research Article

Reconceiving the balance of power: a review essay



Richard Little's new book has considerably widened the scope for thinking about the balance of power in International Relations (IR), both by beginning to provide a conceptual history of the idea and by expanding existing balance-of-power models. His concept of the associational balance of power is an important corrective to the prevailing realist understanding of the balance of power. However, Little does not explore more fully the relationship between the balance of power as a myth and a reality. Moreover, the usefulness of distinction between adversarial and association balance of power is not given a direct evaluation against the historical record, nor is his own composite model of the balance of power partly based on the distinction fully developed.

(Online publication November 29 2010)

Feng Zhang is a Lecturer in the Department of International Relations, Tsinghua University, Beijing. He is the author of ‘Rethinking the Tribute System: Broadening the Conceptual Horizon of Historical East Asian Politics’, Chinese Journal of International Politics, 2:4 (2009). His research interests are East Asian international politics, China's foreign relations, and IR theory.

* I wish to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.