International Politics

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 65–83 | Cite as

The elusive definition of the small state

  • Matthias Maass
Original Article


The small state has so far escaped a consensus definition because ‘the’ small state has in fact been conceived of very differently. Different studies of ‘the’ small state have characterized it quite distinctly. In fact, there is substantial disagreement even over what type of criteria, quantifiable or qualitative, are most appropriate to characterize the small state. However, I argue that such fundamental disagreement over what makes a state small has actually benefited the area of small states studies by providing it with conceptual flexibility to match different research designs as well as the quite substantial variations among actual small states in the world. In short, in the discipline of international relations as well as in reality, more than one definition of the small state does and should exist.


small state small states studies definition quantifiable criteria qualitative criteria 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Maass
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of International Studies, Yonsei UniversitySeodaemun-GuKorea

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