Towards a New Understanding of Structural Power: Structure Is What States Make of It
The study of power in International Relations (IR) can be seen as the search for the cornerstone of our discipline. Hardly any theory or approach of IR can claim evidence and explanatory power without at least implicitly addressing the question of the ontology of power. In this article we will, by introducing our concept of structural power, offer a new path towards understanding a concept famously introduced in the 1980s by Susan Strange (1987, 1988a, b), but still lacking clarity in operationalization and application. By addressing the questions: “How does structural power work? How does structural power change the rules of the game? How is structural power constituted? Through which kind of transmission channels does structural power affect the power position of states? What are the underlying power resources of structural power? What is the relationship between structural power and other forms of power?”, our approach to structural power will, by responding this questions offer a new approach towards the study of power in IR and will foster the understanding of a concept which can help to understand international relations in an interdependent age. By doing so, we will present a concept of structural power which differs from the concept of Susan Strange, but which is also able to enclose her ideas about power structures in world politics, by examining the importance of states’ needs and goods for their structural power position in international relations. The aim of this article is to foster a new understanding of structural power, by introducing a concept of structural power independent from the assumed, but empirically not proofed existence of a specific number of dominant power (sub-)structures and certain resources, but based on a model of structure able to enclose changes in power structures in international affairs.