“Balance of Power: Adversarial Pair of Scales or Associational Arch?” in The 1713 Peace of Utrecht and its Enduring Effects

Jaap de Wilde




By looking at its intellectual history, this chapter addresses the problem that Balance of Power by most observers is treated one-sidedly in adversarial terms, whereas a balance of power-logic often requires cooperation. The Peace of Utrecht (1713) is an example where the balance can be better compared with an arch than with a pair of scales. Moreover, an adversarial Balance of Power has little to do with weighing power in imaginary scales:
1) there are no objective standards for measuring power,
2) means of power cannot predict outcomes of struggles; and
3) outcomes themselves are discursive tools rather than historic facts.
Balance of Power has two specific political functions: the first is to structure an analysis of specific historic episodes; the second is to support specific political argumentations. Using the scales argument is likely to undermine the associational logic.

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