Universiteit Leiden

nl en

LUCIR Lecture: The Concept of Power in World Politics

The Measure of Power and the Power of Measure

Monday 6 May 2019
Registration is mandatory!
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague
Auditorium 2.02


Power is a central concept in theories of International Relations. Its explanatory role shows in such a key concept as the ‘balance of power’ which predicts that allied groups of states will tend to balance their respective powers. But it also plays an important role for understanding the outcome of conflicts, since here ‘power’ has often been likened to a ‘cause’: getting someone else to do what he/she would not have otherwise done. Knowing power distributions therefore is said to explain state behaviour and the outcome of their interaction. Such power analysis must assume the measurability of power. Unfortunately, such measure is of no avail, not because we have not yet thought enough about it, but because it is not possible. There are two main reasons. First, because of the missing fungibility of power re-sources, no standard of measure can be established. And secondly, for under-standing power phenomena and the very value of such resources in the first place, we need to analyse legitimacy, which is, however, not reducible to any objective measure. Still, since power as a measurable fact appears crucial in the language and bargaining of international politics, measures of power are agreed to and constructed as a social fact: diplomats must agree first on what counts before they can start counting. Consequently the analysis of power moves away from the illusion of an objective measure to the political battle over defining the criteria of power, which in turn has political effects. In other words, besides understanding what power means, one has also to assess what its understanding, if shared, does. To illustrate his argument Prof. Guzzini will use the US as an example.


This event is also supported by the Contemporary History and International Relations Research Seminar (CHIRRS) funds. The aim of CHIRRS is to foster an inclusive interdisciplinary dialogue about issues in the fields of Contemporary History and International Relations.

Stefano Guzzini

Stefano Guzzini is Professor of Government at Uppsala University, Professor of International Relations at IRI/PUC-Rio de Janeiro, and Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies. His research focuses on international theory, security studies (ontological security), approaches to foreign policy analysis, as well as on the conceptual analysis and theories of power. More recently, he has also worked on interpretivist methodologies (process tracing and notions of non-efficient causality) and critical geopolitics as applied to Europe. His research appeared in, among others, Cooperation and Conflict, European Journal of International Relations, International Organization, Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia, Review of International Political Economy, Review of International Studies, Revue Française de Science Politique, Security Dialogue, and Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen. His most recent publications include The Return of Geopolitics in Europe? Social Mechanisms and Foreign Policy Identity Crises (Cambridge UP, 2012), and Power, Realism and Constructivism (Routledge, 2013), winner of the 2014 ISA Theory Section Best Book Award. He served as the editor of the Journal of International Relations and Development, as a member of the Governing Council of the International Studies Association (ISA) and of the Steering Committee of the Standing Group of International Relations (SGIR) of the ECPR (now EISA). He currently serves as President of the Central and East European International Studies Association (CEEISA) and as editor of the journal International Theory.

This website uses cookies.  More information.