What does it take to be a great power? The story of France joining the Big Five

Gadi Heimann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The article illuminates the International Relations (IR) enigma of how states with relative low power succeed in gaining privileges reserved for great powers. Many IR studies on status stress the importance of social recognition as a precondition for enjoying the status of a great power. However, very few focus on the factors that affect such recognition. This article tries to fill this gap by looking at systemic wars. Systemic wars are special circumstances wherein a new world order is built and privileges are redistributed among states. In these situations, states may use their symbolic, moral, and circumstantial assets to grant themselves a paramount role in the new order. A state's previous status as a great power, its contribution to victory in a war, and the utilitarian considerations of other countries are all assets that help it to win the privileges reserved for great powers - and that in the long run could gain it recognition as a great power, despite its lack of the requisite capabilities. By using this conceptual framework in the case of France during and after the Second World War, this article tries to explain how a relatively weak power can gain a leading role in a postwar order.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)185-206
Number of pages22
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 16 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2014 British International Studies Association.


Dive into the research topics of 'What does it take to be a great power? The story of France joining the Big Five'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this