CGS Bonn
Uni Bonn

Methode Macht Indikatoren

The Bonn Power Shift Concept

The Bonn Power Shift Monitor (BPSM) uncovers and analyzes the shifts in international power relations between the world’s leading industrialized and emerging economies. Our goals are to raise awareness about power shifts and to invite the economy, politics and society to discuss the consequences of and political answers to these alterations beyond borders. Equally important, we intend to stimulate the debate about power concepts, as well as traditional and innovative measuring methods.

Even though the focus on states as actors indicates a classical realist view, we apply an eclectic understanding of power to the BPSM. We do neither prioritize an aggregated, nor relational, nor structural power concept, as we view them compatible in analytical and operational terms (in accordance with Barnett and Duval), while they certainly emphasize different aspects. Furthermore, the sources of those power categories are by no means separable in any empirically meaningful way. Accordingly, our indicators are not subjected to any artificial ad hoc taxonomy. Each change monitored by the indicators may translate to shifts in aggregated, relational, structural, soft or hard power underlining the multi-faceted nature of such categories. Therefore, the assessment, which dimension of power is affected by the shifts and to what extent, stays an analytical question which creates broader spaces of interpretation. With this approach, the BPSM diverges from traditional power measures that focus on one (ad hoc predetermined) power concept only, while neglecting the influence of other factors.

Based on this, the model considers the classical capabilities of resources, the impact on related actors, the attractiveness of a country, and its ability to innovate structures. This reflects our understanding that power is comprised of the capacities, the willingness and the ability to assert interests. If one of these components is missing, the power of an actor declines, i.e. the ability to achieve political victory evaporates.

In a word, the scores and shifts provided by the BPSM are intended to be a tool for analysis. They help to explain and predict the developments in the international relations between the states, as well as their power or powerlessness in the international system. In order to be useful and reliable as a research instrument, the BPSM is based on six principles: feasibility, accessibility, comparability, expandability, transparency, and simplicity. Their initials build the acronym “facets” which directly refers to our basic idea to integrate the power theories in one model. By incorporating free available data only, the BPSM is of unique accessibility, expandability, and transparency for researchers, students, and beyond. It avoids definitional fuzziness and statistical complexities in its theoretical and calculation model in order to ensure the simplicity of the approach. With this, the model remains comprehensible for the public and easily extendible. This again ensures the comparability of results and feasibility of analysis beyond the project.



The Indicators

1. GDPGDPPPP; current int. DollarWorld Bank
2. MerchandiseMERTotal, current USDWorld Bank
3. Service ExportsSERTotal, current USDWorld Bank
4. Armed ForcesFORCEtotal number of personnelWorld Bank
5. Military SpendingMILEXconstant 2015 USD mStockholm Institute for Peace Research
6. Top CompaniesCOMPtotal of Top 500Fortune
7. Top UniversitiesUNItotal of Top 200QS World University Ranking
8. PublicationsPUBnumber of S&E ArticlesNational Science Foundation



GDP (PPP) is the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year provided in a standard measure by purchasing power parity (PPP) rates. GDP (PPP) in current international Dollar was selected as an indicator, because it illustrates the overall state of an economy, its purchasing power in international comparison, the size of the national market as well as the general economic prosperity. The basic assumption is that the higher the GDP (PPP) of a state, the higher is its economic power in the international system. This in turn affects different hard and structural power aspects, e.g. to influence bargaining processes such as trade agreements or to enforce sanctions.

Merchandise Exports

Merchandise exports records the so-called free on board (f.o.b.) value of goods delivered to the frontier of the exporting country for shipment. This indicator covers tangible commodities; thus services are not included. This indicator illustrates the integration of a state’s economy into global markets as well as its competitiveness. The indicator reveals the shifts on the global trade market, hence market power shifts between the leading export nations. Higher merchandise exports translate into the capacity to influence international economic structures and shape them according to a state’s production and trade interests.

Service Exports

Service exports record intangible commodities that are delivered across a state’s border. Comparable to the merchandise exports indicator, service exports illustrate the integration of a state’s economy into global markets as well as its competitiveness. However, the nature of service exports is inherently different as it does not appraise material power structures, but immaterial ones such as financial flows, communication and information structures, as well as knowledge. On the globalizing market that is increasingly based on internet networks, service exports highlight power shifts by indicating the economic and social changes such as the digitalization of markets or shifts towards a service society.

Armed Forces

Military troops counts all active duty military personnel plus paramilitary forces if it seems that they serve to support or replace regular military forces. This indicator illustrates a classical hard power category of the International Power Theories, e.g. in Realism. Military forces reflect the military strength and thus the ability of a state to defend itself and its citizens. It also indicates the location of a state in the global security structures as higher numbers of military personnel enhances the capacities to generate or deprive security which may also influence bargaining processes.

Military Spending

Defense spending in constant 2015 million USD illustrates the trends of a country’s military expenditures over time by adjusting it to a consistent base year measure. This process-oriented category reflects a state’s willingness to gain military might and thereby hard and structural power in international relations. It also indicates national preferences, for example security perceptions and risk assessments, military modernization, as well as the preparation or involvement in armed conflicts. In brief, the defense spending of a state illustrates its willingness to change to status quo of global power structures and predicts possible power shifts.

Top Universities

The world’s top universities are monitored by the QS World University Ranking. Leading universities are central hubs of scientific knowledge production and a country’s academic outreach on a global level. Depending on the research, universities contribute to the hard, soft and structural power of their home countries in various ways. More specifically, leading universities illustrate the research quality, international connectedness and academic reputation of a country which provides soft power in form of prestige or the attraction of academic staff. The indicator also illustrates the capacities to shape current and future structures of knowledge, innovation, production and technology.

Top Companies

The largest companies of the world as ranked by the Global Fortune 500 according to their revenues shape the economic structures around the globe. These companies represent engines driving globalization, innovation, production, and communication. In this way, they contribute to the hard, soft and structural powers of their home countries in various ways similar to universities. More specifically, leading companies particularly shape the financial flows and thus interdependent structures on a global level illustrating the structural power a country. Giving another example, leading companies boost national reputation by serving as globally known brands which contributes to a state’s soft power.


The publications indicator covers the number of science and engineering (S&E) articles collected by the National Science Foundation.  The figures shown refer to publications from a selection of journals, books, and conference proceedings which are assigned to the institutional address(es) listed in the article. The publications cover the fields of engineering, chemistry, physics, geosciences, mathematics, computer sciences, agricultural sciences, biological sciences, medical sciences, other life sciences, psychology, and social sciences. In our globalized world, innovation, invention and knowledge transfer have become central metrics for state competitiveness influencing hard, soft, and structural power alike. This indicator also reflects the scientific community, level of knowledge and higher education of a country.


The Calculation

Power Score (PS)

The Power Scores (PS) correspond with the average country shares of a particular year. By doing so, the Power Scores and thus Power Shift Rates are based on the model of relative “market” shares.

  1. Calculate the country shares by dividing the world’s total by the country figure. In the absence of a world total for top universities and companies, we use the number of entities included in the ranking (200 and 500), which gives more weight to these indicators in our index. This fits in our model as we assume that micro-economic hubs are of central importance to a country’s position in the globalized network of states.
  2. Calculate the average to derive the Power Score of a country for a certain year. In our model n equates to seven as this is the number of indicators, hence country shares used.

Power Shift Rate (PSR)

The Power Shift Rate (PSR) is the difference between the Power Scores of two points in time. This score illustrates whether a country lost or gained considering all indicators of our index.

  1. Use the Power Scores of two points in time (t) to calculate the Power Shift Rate (PSR).

Rate of Country Change (CC)

In contrast to the relative Power Shift model, the rate of country change examines the development of the country figures without comparing them to the global total. This model reveals whether a country has experienced a positive or negative trend over the years.

  1. Calculate the rate of change between two points in time (t) of each indicator.
  2. Calculate the average to derive the Rate of Country Change (CC). In our model n equates to seven as this is the number of indicator, hence country shares used.
Letzte Aktualisierung: 10. September 2018