University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

Understanding American Power: Conceptual clarity, strategic priorities and the decline debate

Quinn, Adam and Kitchen, Nicholas (2019) Understanding American Power: Conceptual clarity, strategic priorities and the decline debate Global Policy, 10 (1). pp. 5-18.

Understanding American Power.pdf - Version of Record
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (717kB) | Preview


What does it mean for the United States to be powerful? The prospect of a decline in American power, especially relative to a rising China, has attracted considerable scholarly and political attention. Despite a wealth of data, disagreements persist regarding both the likely trajectory of the US-China balance and the most effective strategy for preserving America’s advantage into the future. This article locates the source of these enduring disputes in fundamental conceptual differences over the meaning of power itself. We map the distinct tracks of argument within the decline debate, showing that competing positions are often rooted in differences of focus rather than disputes over fact. Most fundamental is a divide between analyses dedicated to national capabilities, and others that emphasise mechanisms of relational power. This divide underpins how strategists think about the goal of preserving or extending American power. We therefore construct a typology of competing understandings of what it means for America to be powerful, to show that a strategy suited to bolstering American power according to one definition of that goal may not support, and may even undermine, American power understood in other ways.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Politics
Authors :
Quinn, Adam
Date : 27 February 2019
DOI : 10.1111/1758-5899.12609
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2018 The Authors. Global Policy published by Durham University and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Uncontrolled Keywords : United States; Power; Balance of Power; Capabilities; China
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 11 Oct 2018 07:32
Last Modified : 08 Apr 2019 14:20

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800