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Debate | LUCIR Roundtable

Roundtable: Competing Concepts of Power

Tuesday 7 May 2019
The Roundtable is followed by coffee and tea.
Anna van Buerenplein
Anna van Buerenplein 301
2595 DG The Hague
Auditorium 2.21


Over the last seven decades, the nature of power itself has changed due to technological changes, globalization and the shifting diffusion of material capabilities across states in the international system. The spreading of norms and the socialization of states in new and far-reaching normative structures further complicate how power is defined and expressed in international politics. In addition, the growing role of non-state actors in global affairs further complicates any state-centric definition of capabilities-based power. Today, the world stands at a crucial juncture, not quite unipolar and not quite multipolar, with global power transitions taking place in the shadow of nuclear weapons. Are nuclear powers the great leveller when it comes to power distribution? Are newer concepts like soft power and normative power useful to understand interstate dynamics than the typical capabilities-based definitions of power? Or should we focus on the most widely accepted, definition of power, that is relational power, put forward by Robert Dahl ? In fact, how do we define and measure polarity and power transition if we do not have a consensual conceptualization of power among scholars and policy-makers? Do we need new ambitious multi-dimensional conceptualizations or mid-range definitions? Should we integrate regional and historical context into our understandings of power, or strive for parsimony and systematic generalizability? A debate on these questions among a diverse group of IR scholars will help provide a comprehensive picture of the evolution of the study of power, while also charting a course for future research during this roundtable.

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