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The Essence of Power and Interdependence


The understanding of power and dependence or interdependence can be described as complexity of international relations, while explaining the interactions among states. To understand and notice the importance of this term is essential for defining the interdependence, how it compounds and expands around states.

In the past, military power was determining the super powers in responsibility to control the world, nonetheless this situation has been changing throughout the history especially in last quarter of 20th and 21th century, with the new era of modern world, new elements appeared on the same issue. In today’s world, importance of military forces are reducing and the other elements such as economic relations, equilibrium, cultural interactions have major role to understand interdependence of today’s world, anymore military power is insufficient  dynamic to explain those things, since soft power politics have emerged and diplomacy has begun to rise, instruments of super powers has been changed to control all over the world. The idea of high politics of military security dominates the low politics of economic and social affairs[1] has been changed by complex politics among states and soft power requires to use economic power, cultural power besides to able to deal with world’s general issues. In these days nuclear powers are also used for deterrence or gaining alliances, further power of bargaining process can be directly affected by nuclear powers.[2]

There are some ideas on interdependence, for instance modernist school asserts that telecommunications and jet travel creating as a global village, on the other hand increasing of social and economic transactions and interactions are building world without borders. Furthermore, traditionalist perspective perceives the interdependence as ‘’globaloney’’[3]. Both approaches have not adequate framework for understanding the interdependence of world politics. [4]

Explanation of Power and Interdependence

The first question should be what is the most non-negotiable thing for states, answer is obvious; their existence, this term has been using by explaining problems and mandatory relations between states.

The terms has been used for mutual interactions among states, interdependence particularly depends on economic growth of a state, economic power leads to other developments and used as a device to control other states in the world. However, this explanation does not mean that economic power is determinative for hegemonic state as a strongest factor, in fact that means power is turning out a different form by establishment of multinational corporations, transnational actors such as international organizations United Nations, Shangai Cooperation Organizations, European Union, NGOs etc. while expanding those actors into underdeveloped and developing countries besides developed countries, are gaining much influence on politics or decision making process both domestic and external issues. On the other had they become heavily interdependent to those countries for their production process, does not matter what is the product itself. Interdependence should be mutually beneficial, by this way states can survive their presence in international relations.

According to Immanuel Wallerstein, all states is linked to each other somehow and in fact periphery, semi-periphery and core states divisions indicate that there is interdependency among states and they have mutual dependence with each other. The main reason of this situation is they are involved in production processes all together.[5]

There are two main things for understanding the role of power in interdependence, we must distinguish between two dimensions, sensitivity and vulnerability. Sensivity means that how quickly do changes in one country bring costly changes in another and how great its affect on that country. Vulnerability is also crucial because, the impact of a country on the embargo or any other change is still important. According to this situation, the first priority of the state can change its survival, which makes it less dependent on its weaker opponent against the strong state. Oil crisis in 1975 and the collapse of Bretton Woods system can be a few examples for investigating sensivity and vulnerability for states.[6]

The characteristics of Complex Interdependence can be divided into 3 categories;

  • Multiple channels: That element connects to society non-governmental elites of society, briefly represents transnational actors.
  • The agenda of interstate relationship consists of multiple issues: The absence of hierarchy among issues both domestic and external generates conflicts, and military security does not apply for domestic hierarchy, coordination needs to be provided by hierarchy with interstate relations.
  • Military forces: In 21th century military forces not effective to provide security for states and needs to be supported by alliances and cooperations between states.

For the new elements we should refer to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and he said:

‘’Progress in dealing with the traditional agenda is no longer enough. A new and unprecedented kind of issue has emerged. The problems of energy, resources, environment, population, the uses of space and the seas now the rank with questions of military security, ideology and territorial rivalry which have traditionally made up the diplomatic agenda.’’[7]

There is another elements obligatory to mention on it, regarding third world, international organizations play a significant role for complex interdependence and their purpose to provide a balance between developed and underdeveloped countries in terms of complex interdependence. In general international organizations are congenial institutions for relatively weaker states.[8]


To sum up, complex interdependence and power, which is binding to interdependency among states, will be affected much more by interactions in the future. Military force and its effectiveness is decreasing over the century and the other elements replaces military forces and security, from now on we should focus on economic security and cultural security mainly besides military security and to explain this change we should refer to Joseph Nye and Robert Keohane.

According to Joseph Nye and Keohane, military force has a analysis according to Keohane and Nye’s ideas there are three elements for this argument:[9]

  • A power oriented analysis of the politics of interdependence, drawing on bargaining theory;
  • An analysis of an ideal type that we called complex interdependence and of the impact of the processes that it encompassed;
  • An attempt to explain changes in international regimes – which we defined as ‘’sets of governing arrangements that affect relationships of interdependence.

Complex interdependence will take form of many elements such as cultural, economic etc. Discussion about the rate of expansion of military security will be continued by academics, but high politics now turning out to economic and cultural power, on the other hand military security will be the relatively less dependent element in this case.



  • Kissinger, Henry, ‘’A New National Partnership,’’ Department of State Bulletin, February 17, 1975, p. 199.
  • Keohane Robert, Nye Joseph, Power and Interdependence, Longman Press, 2012, 4th Edition, p. 3-31.
  • Keohane Robert, Nye Josephe, Power and Interdependence Revisited, The MIT Press, International Organization, Vol. 41, No: 4, (Autumn, 1987), p.728
  • Keohane Robert, Nye Joseph, Power and Interdependence, The Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, Published online: 3th Mart 2008, p. 159.
  • Wallerstein, Immanuel, The Capitalist World Economy, Cambridge University Press, 1979, pp. 1-130.


[1] Robert Keohane, Joseph Nye, Power and Interdependence, Longman Press, 2012, p. 19.

[2] Joseph Nye and Robert Keohane, Power and Interdependence, The Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, Published online: 3th Mart 2008, p. 159.

[3] Ibid, Keohane and Nye, (Book), p. 3

[4] Ibid, Keohane and Nye, (Book), p. 4

[5] Immanuel Wallerstein, The Capitalist World Economy, Cambridge University Press, 1979, pp. 1-130.

[6] Ibid, Keohane and Nye, (Book), p. 10.

[7] Henry A. Kissinger, ‘’A New National Partnership,’’ Department of State Bulletin, February 17, 1975, p. 199.

[8] Ibid, Keohane and Nye, (Book), p. 30.

[9] Joseph Nye and Robert Keohane, Power and Interdependence Revisited, The MIT Press, International Organization, Vol. 41, No: 4, (Autumn, 1987), p.728

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