Power politics

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Further information: Power (international relations)
For the video game, see Power Politics (video game).

Power politics (or, in German, Machtpolitik) is a form of international relations in which sovereign entities protect their own interests by threatening one another with military, economic or political aggression. The term was the title of a 1979 book by Martin Wight, which the Times Literary Supplement listed as the 18th most influential book since World War II.[1]

Power politics is essentially a way of understanding the world of international relations: nations compete for the world's resources and it is to a nation's advantage to be manifestly able to harm others. It prioritizes national self-interest over the interest of other nations or the international community.

Techniques of power politics include, but are not limited to, conspicuous nuclear development, pre-emptive strike, blackmail, the massing of military units on a border, the imposition of tariffs or economic sanctions, bait and bleed and bloodletting, hard and soft balancing, buck passing, covert operations, shock and awe and asymmetric warfare.


  • Hans J. Morgenthau, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1946.
  • Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. New York NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948.
  • Hans Köchler, "The United Nations Organization and Global Power Politics: The Antagonism between Power and Law and the Future of World Order," in: Chinese Journal of International Law, Vol. 5, No. 2 (2006), pp. 323–340. ABSTRACT
  • John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001.

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