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14 Seton Hall J. Dipl. & Int'l Rel. 36 (2013)
The Concept and Role of Middle Powers during Global Rebalancing

handle is hein.journals/whith14 and id is 172 raw text is: The Concept and Role of Middle Powers
during Global Rebalancing
by Matthew Stephen
During the bipolar Cold War era, middle powers were considered important
sources of stability in international politics. Lacking the global interests and
ideological crusades of the superpowers, middle powers were associated with
attempts to bridge or mediate between the two antagonistic global powers. In the
post-Cold War phase, middle powers have been seen as strong supporters of
multilateralism and compromise in the face of the unilateral excesses of Washington,
or as mediators between the contending demands of North and South. Today the
situation is more ambiguous, with some former middle powers having been
promoted to great power rank, while other traditional middle powers find their roles
being squeezed by a global shift of power and wealth favoring large developing
countries. A process of global rebalancing has begun, signifying a shift of the
economic center of gravity away from the Atlantic and towards Asia, leading to a
changing international hierarchy of which 'rising powers' are the major beneficiaries.
The process of global rebalancing is reconstituting the middle power category and
changing its membership.
Yet despite the widespread use of the concept of middle powers in world
affairs, there is little consensus over what exactly a middle power is. Compounding
the problem of an elusive definition, it is also unclear exactly which countries qualify
as middle powers in contemporary world politics. This raises conceptual, empirical,
andsubstantive questions about middle powers during global rebalancing. This article
therefore develops a definition of middle powers as states that have both middling
power capabilities and who adopt the behavioral traits of middlepowermanship.
Based on such a definition, we turn to the empirical question of who might qualify
as a middle power in the contemporary phase of multipolarization. Using a variety
of empirical indicators, I argue that it is by no means self-evident which states qualify
as a middle power in the contemporary international distribution of power. Former
middle powers such as India and Brazil are challenging international hierarchies,
while squeezed middle powers such as Canada and Australia are hanging on to their
middle power statuses. Moreover, as international politics becomes more issue-
Matthew Stephen is a research fellow at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
36
Seton Hall Journal of Dplomag and International Relations

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