The idea to systematically investigate ‘structural power’ stemmed from the observation of global political developments since the turn of the millennium; in recent years states that were equipped with impressive hard power capabilities and/or seemed to possess sufficient soft power resources were unable to implement their specific state preferences on the international level. On the other hand, it became increasingly evident that states with weaker standings in the realm of soft and/or hard power were capable of achieving their preferences, even against the will of states that were perceived to be ostensibly more powerful. Hence the main task of this research project is to scientifically explain and investigate this particular phenomenon.
The project pursues the question whether there is a third source of power that enables some states to prevail in international conflicts, while others fail in their attempts to advance their interests. We believe that the prevalent dichotomy of hard and soft power is not reflecting the actual power structure appropriately. It is highly likely that there is a third source of power, whose outlines and modes of action have not sufficiently been investigated yet. Following the British political economist Susan Strange we term this yet to be investigated power source “structural power”.
By undertaking a systematic analysis, which will consist of a range of case studies, it shall be established where structural power can be located and what kind of relations it has with hard and soft power. First and foremost the project is concerned with the identification and systematization of specific modes of operations. In the current hypothesis-building phase we assume this third source of power forms a leverage force or a sort of “butterfly effect” (referring to meteorological chaos theory). It is planned to establish an indicator system based on our systematization work. This shall help us to measure structural power and to visualize its shifts and changes respectively.