Spheres of Influence: A Reconceptualization
Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Vol. 29.2, Summer 2015.
17 Pages Posted: 29 May 2015
Date Written: May 27, 2015
Spheres of influence (SOI) – defined as formations in which one nation exercises an intermediate level of control over others through ideational and economic rather than coercive means – may contribute to international stability by reducing the risk of conflict. From a realist viewpoint, a superpower has no reason to oppose other powers forming an SOI as long as its core interests are not harmed. SOI may not only serve as a physical buffer between regional powers, but also provide a psychological sense of security. At the same time, SOI may be reconciled with the liberal international order as long as they are non-coercive in nature. Thus, SOI may play a role in helping a prevailing global superpower (such as the United States) adapt to a rising regional power (such as China).
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