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Power politics, or Machtpolitik (borrowed from German), is a state of international relations in which sovereigns protect their own interests by threatening one another with military, economic, or political aggression. The term was coined in Martin Wight's 1979 book of the same name, which the Times Literary Supplement dubbed 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.

See also


  • 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

External links

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