The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Global Security Studies

Living Edition
| Editors: Scott Romaniuk, Manish Thapa, Péter Marton

Balance of Power

  • Glen M. E. DuerrEmail author
  • Michael WiltEmail author
Living reference work entry


Balance of power theory has been the focal point of international relations (IR) political theory, especially concerning the various generations of realism – one of the main theories in this field of academic study. Under realism – classical realism, structural realism, and neoclassical realism – the three “generations” of the theory, power remains a major consideration in any calculation. For any scholar seeking to oppose the arguments of realists, balance of power is an important point of rebuttal or repurposing in order to undercut a power-centric position.

Thus, balance of power has been used in a variety of ways with a range of different definitions. Most revolve around the idea of balancing the amount and accumulation of power among great powers in world politics. Past events – such as World War II between 1939 and 1945 – have pointed to the importance of understanding balance of power as a consistently fluid process that affects systems drastically through...


Power Realism Liberalism International Relations Buck-passing USA China World War II 
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Further Reading

  1. Fearon, J. D. (1994). Signaling versus the balance of power and interests: An empirical test of a crisis bargaining model. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 38(2), 236–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Schweller, R. L. (1998). Deadly imbalances: Tripolarity and Hitler’s strategy of world conquest. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cedarville UniversityCedarvilleUSA