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Somewhere Between Great and Small: Disentangling the Conceptual Jumble of Middle, Regional, and Niche Powers

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Journal Article - Open Access

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Naval War College Newport United States

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Structural schools of International Relations IR theory have long indulged a benign disinterest in the intermediate spectrum of states within the power hierarchy that comprises their most elemental conception of the international system. These states are the score or more of supporting actors that do not rank among the few great powers that command the starring roles on the world stage, but that nevertheless boast sufficient national wherewithal to act as consequential regional players or to exert some meaningful degree of global influence. This moderate capacity to affect international affairs sets these supporting actors apart from the much larger cast of bit players, meaning the vast majority of sovereign actors that are too small geographically or demographically or too weak militarily or economically to exercise any significant independent agency in shaping their external relations. There is now every reason to suppose, however, that scholarly interest in these intermediary actors may be on the rise. Given the widely surmised transformation of todays quasi-hegemonic world order into a more multipolarin carnation, it seems likely that IR scholarshipeven to include the stubbornly solipsistic American mainstream version of the disciplinewill need to look beyond the United States and its handful of closest peers to discern the shape of things to come.

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  • Government and Political Science

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