Power politics
Power politics, or Machtpolitik (borrowed from German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

), is a state of international relations
International relations
International relations is the study of relationships between countries, including the roles of states, inter-governmental organizations , international nongovernmental organizations , non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations...

 in which sovereign
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

s protect their own interests by threatening one another with military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

, economic, or political aggression. The term was the title of a 1979 book by Martin Wight
Martin Wight
Robert James Martin Wight , also known as Martin Wight, was one of the foremost British scholars of International Relations in the twentieth century...

, which the Times Literary Supplement listed as the 18th most influential book since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


Power politics is essentially a way of understanding the world of international relations: nations compete for the world's resources and it is to a nation's advantage to be manifestly able to harm others. It prioritizes national self-interest over the interest of other nations or the international community
International community
The international community is a term used in international relations to refer to all peoples, cultures and governments of the world or to a group of them. The term is used to imply the existence of common duties and obligations between them...


Techniques of power politics include, but are not limited to, conspicuous nuclear
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear warfare, or atomic warfare, is a military conflict or political strategy in which nuclear weaponry is detonated on an opponent. Compared to conventional warfare, nuclear warfare can be vastly more destructive in range and extent of damage...

 development, pre-emptive strike
Pre-Emptive Strike
Pre-Emptive Strike is the first release by Five Finger Death Punch on July 10, 2007. It was only released as a digital download to the American iTunes Music Store. The live version of "The Devil's Own" was recorded at a performance in Las Vegas, Nevada....

, blackmail
In common usage, blackmail is a crime involving threats to reveal substantially true or false information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates unless a demand is met. It may be defined as coercion involving threats of physical harm, threat of criminal prosecution, or threats...

, the massing of military units on a border, the imposition of tariff
A tariff may be either tax on imports or exports , or a list or schedule of prices for such things as rail service, bus routes, and electrical usage ....

s or economic sanctions, bait and bleed
Bait and bleed
Bait and bleed is a military strategy described by international relations theorist John J. Mearsheimer in his book on offensive realism, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics...

 and bloodletting, hard and soft balancing
Soft balancing
Soft balancing is a recent addition to balance of power theory used to describe non-military forms of balancing evident since the end of the Cold War, particularly during and after the 2003 Iraq War....

, buck passing
Buck passing
Buck passing or passing the buck is the act of attributing another person or group with responsibility for one's own actions. It is also used as a strategy in power politics when the actions of one country/nation are blamed on another, providing an opportunity for war.The latter expression is said...

, covert operation
Covert operation
A covert operation is a military, intelligence or law enforcement operation that is carried clandestinely and, often, outside of official channels. Covert operations aim to fulfill their mission objectives without any parties knowing who sponsored or carried out the operation...

s, shock and awe and asymmetric warfare
Asymmetric warfare
Asymmetric warfare is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly....



  • Hans J. Morgenthau, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1946.
  • Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. New York NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948.
  • Hans Köchler
    Hans Köchler
    Hans Köchler is a professor of philosophy at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and president of the International Progress Organization, a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the United Nations...

    , "The United Nations Organization and Global Power Politics: The Antagonism between Power and Law and the Future of World Order," in: Chinese Journal of International Law, Vol. 5, No. 2 (2006), pp. 323–340. ABSTRACT
  • John Mearsheimer
    John Mearsheimer
    John J. Mearsheimer is an American professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He is an international relations theorist. Known for his book on offensive realism, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, more recently Mearsheimer has attracted attention for co-authoring and publishing...

    , The Tragedy of Great Power Politics
    The Tragedy of Great Power Politics
    The Tragedy of Great Power Politics is a book by the American scholar John Mearsheimer on the subject of international relations theory. In the book, Mearsheimer lays out the theory of offensive realism, showing its key assumptions, evolution from early realist theory, and providing some...

    . New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001.

External links

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