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Lost in transition: a critical analysis of power transition theory

By Richard N. Lebow and Benjamin Valentino


In this paper we identify and critique the key propositions of power transition theory. We find little support for any of power transition theory’s main empirical implications. Contrary to most versions of the theory, we fin d that the European and international systems almost never have been characterized by hegemony. No state has achieved a position that allowed it for any extended period to order the international system to suit its interests at the expense of the other major powers. Power transitions are remarkably rare, they seldom occur as the result of differential rates of economic growth, and have most often occurred peacefully. Power transitions are more often the results of wars, rather than the causes of them. Wars between rising and dominant powers are infrequent and are not waged by either side primarily in the effort to defend or revise the international order in their favor. Finally, we find that war rarely resolves the fundamental conflicts of interest caused by power transitions

Topics: JZ International relations
Publisher: Sage
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1177/0047117809340481
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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