Theorising power shifts

Start date


End date



Power is a central concept in International Relations, but one that is strangely under-theorised. That we don’t really have an agreed, operationalizable concept of power is IR’s dirty theoretical secret.

What does it mean for a country to be powerful? Is it just about the capabilities they have – population, economic size, and military hardware – or should we pay more attention to what they are actually able to achieve in international politics? What’s the impact of the structures and institutions of international order on power relations between states? How do we know if power is shifting – can we measure if a state is in decline, or is power all in the eyes of the beholders?

This project involves theoretical work to understand the nature of contemporary power, with implications for how we understand power shifts in the international system. It also encompasses practical work to support the efforts to assess the balance of strategic advantage between states.