Since the Peace of Westphalia, few great powers have “died”, while the “death rate” and proliferation of small states has been dramatic at times. What causes these fluctuations? In this paper, I claim that the dominant reason for the extinction, emergence and proliferation of the small state over the last three and a half centuries is to be found at the system level. Ultimately, small state survival is determined by the particular set-up of the state system. I advance this argument from the perspective of international relations theory, integrating the relevant scholarship of the English School and realism, especially structural realism. The latter’s systemic perspective provides the basis for arguing that small states are structurally irrelevant. It is this feature of the small state, its irrelevance with regard to the power-based structure of the state system, which has caused the small state to “struggle for existence” in the past, and which has allowed small states to proliferate during the bipolar Cold War.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Political Science and International Relations