Small states: Survival and proliferation

Matthias Maass

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


How can the wide fluctuations in the number of small states over the past 350 years be explained? Rejecting the notion that the deaths of over 150 states can be properly explained by poor statecraft, incompetent leadership or major faults in foreign policy decision making of small states, the article claims that vast numbers of state deaths and large-scale state creation are most properly explained at the system level. An argument is developed that describes small state death and proliferation as heavily impacted by the state system. By investigating the core operating principles of the international state system since 1648 in light of their impact on the survivability of small states, the argument emerges that larger rates of survival and proliferation of small states are shaped by broad systemic factors. The article contributes a new facet to the study of the small state and offers a new and general explanation of small state death, creation and proliferation. The findings also challenge International Relation Theory's traditional focus on great powers. It is suggested that the study of the major structuring actors in international politics may be complimented fruitfully by better understanding the system's impact on weak and small states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-728
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Politics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Nov 11

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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