The Making of Balance-of-Power—Power Asymmetry, Domestic Politics, and the Making of Balancing Practices

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This article joins the growing body of literature that perceives balance of power as a social construct containing shared understandings that comprise states’ repertoire of balancing practices. Distinct repertoires of balancing have prevailed in different international orders. We build on this work and focus on a less explored, though important, political process to explain the variation in balancing practices over time. We suggest that external threats, domestic considerations of key states, and diffusion mechanisms deriving from hierarchical relations can explain the evolution of balancing practices. More specifically, we suggest that balancing practices evolve in the domestic arena of the dominant state at a given time, as leaders frame their foreign policy in terms that most closely resonate with their domestic circumstances. Secondary states, who depend on the dominant state for their security, will tend to adopt its balancing practice. They will do so because the hierarchy of the international system enables the dominant state to use positive and negative leverage tools to pressure them, or because they voluntarily calculate that this choice will enhance their security.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberogad022
JournalJournal of Global Security Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) (2024). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Studies Association. All rights reserved.


  • US foreign policy
  • balance-of-power
  • balancing repertoires
  • early Cold War
  • eighteenth-century Britain
  • hegemony
  • international order
  • practices


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