The Dynamics of Power Politics
With Stacie E. Goddard and Paul K. MacDonald.
Status: In planning stages; to be completed as a deliverable for the Evaluating Power Political Repertoires (EPOS) project, which ends in 2020.
Summary: This book expands the arguments developed in “The Dynamics of Global Power Politics: From Realism to the Study of Realpolitik” to build a mechanism-centered account of the logics, dynamics, and instruments of power politics. The aim is a book that resembles Dynamics of Contention, but for the subject-matter usually studied under the rubric of realpolitik.
Undermining the Hegemon: The Global Politics of Goods Substitution
Co-edited with Alexander Cooley and Morten Andersen. Forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.
The Outsider Advantage: Why Liminal Actors Rise to System-Wide Domination
Status: We’ll get from the existing draft to submission one of these days.
Summary: We intervene in the debate over balance-of-power theory by scrutinizing a particular process—one in which an outside or liminal actor successfully establishes system-wide domination—thereby transforming a previously anarchical system into a hegemonic or imperial order. Indeed, many of the cases invoked by scholars to challenge balance-of-power theory display this dynamic. We argue that system “roll up” by peripheral actors matters a great deal for contemporary debates about balance-of-power theory. It contradicts the expected outcome of such theories. But its patterns lend qualified support for balance-of-power theory, particularly in its structural-realist variant, with respect to its causal mechanisms.
Some combination of two related major processes operate in peripheral system-wide roll up. First, the new—or previously marginal—domination-seeker emerges as an ambiguous player with respect to the existing threat environment. It finds itself able to exploit ongoing rivalries and otherwise avoid counterbalancing by potential rivals concerned with long-standing threats within the system. In general, key participants in existing power-political competition fail to adjust to the threat its poses because they lack adequate information about its capabilities, intentions, or both. Alternatively, they discount such information, as it appears ambiguous when compared to the certainty of existing threats.
Second, liminal actors often face a favorable emulation lag. Newly emergent domination-seekers who enjoy an advantage—in terms of military practices, social technologies of control, and so forth—over targets of domination will find their rivals slower to adapt then if they occupied a central position within the system. On the one hand, liminal actors are more likely to be culturally distinct from other players in the system. This cultural distinctiveness creates barriers to rapid and effective emulation by potential counter-balancers. On the other hand, limited information about the nature of the newly emergent dominant seeker also works against the diffusion of their advantageous practices.
These two processes, especially when they combine, create a favorable window of opportunity for, at a minimum, the emergence of a new great power in a system and, at a maximum, its successful bid for system-wide domination. But rather than completely subvert balance-of-power theory, they point to scope conditions under which its mechanisms either cannot effectively translate into balancing equilibria or actually facilitate systemic balancing failures.
Want to see more ongoing work? Check out my curriculum vitae.