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Back to BasicsState Power in a Contemporary World$
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Martha Finnemore and Judith Goldstein

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199970087

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199970087.001.0001

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Puzzles about Power

Puzzles about Power

(p.3) 1 Puzzles about Power
Back to Basics

Martha Finnemore

Judith Goldstein

Oxford University Press

Despite the centrality of the concept of power to our thinking, international relations scholars still lack robust theories to explain many basic puzzles about the way state power works in the world. Strong states lose small wars, resource-rich states “fail,” resource-poor states may become empires. Understanding the many puzzles surrounding state power and its effects requires us to reexamine basic concepts and assumptions. Three changes in our thinking are particularly important. First, we must broaden our understanding of what power is and how it creates outcomes. Power has many “faces,” and attention to its diverse characteristics can enrich our explanations. Second, we must rethink our assumptions about states and the nature of sovereignty. Both are changing in contemporary politics, and this is changing power’s role. Third, we must reexamine our notions about the contexts in which states exercise power, attending to the normative and institutional factors that so often determine outcomes.

Keywords:   power, state power, sovereignty, international relations, international relations theory

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