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R.R. Subramanian

By Partha Chatterjee
Macmillan, New Delhi, 1975, 292, 60.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 4 July-August 1977

This is a study that attempts to deal with too many topics. Although there is much to the argument that an under­standing of the current international system presupposes a knowledge of his­tory, Chatterjee has put together an incoherent mixture of ideas. To begin with, Chatterjee has started with a historical perspective on the ‘balance of power’ notion. His first chapter itself has quotations from various historians and then he goes on to the theories of structural equilibrium. He says, ‘given the assumption that stabi­lity in terms of the relative power posi­tions of the nations is the goal of the international system, equilibrium and balance of power become synonymous’. This is a standard Morgenthauan mode of thought and if this and other biographical compilations were the objective of the author there would be no argument. Chatterjee has however attempted to bring in a systemic type of model in his analysis of the contemporary inter­national system. His contention is that equilibrium may be defined in terms of a set of arbitrarily chosen variables whose values stay within arbitrary limits for a certain length of time when subjected to disturbing forces. Then by this concep­tion of equilibrium the international system is ‘ultrastable’. This is his analy­sis of the ‘classical international system’. It is also discussed from an ideological perspective a fa Marx and capitalistic mode of thought; the arguments, how­ever, fail to bring out an intimate con­nection between ideology and the equili­brium of the international system. In the second chapter of the book the theory of systemic change in inter­national politics is discussed. The sys­tem is defined, as also its possible stabi­lity in terms of the actors constituting it. It appears that a game theoretic ap­proach would have delineated some of the aspects more clearly. 'Capability' as a factor in a nation's foreign policy objectives is introduced. Although the author has resorted to the definitions of Modelski and Puchala, no definite crite­rion emerges. For instance, he goes on to say that ‘actors make subjective estimates of capabilities.’ This is un­tenable in all cases, for, in determining one's military capabilities one has a rather quantitative mechanism available to determine one's abilities to wage war. There is an interesting discussion on ‘rational behaviour’ in international decision making. The author attempts to introduce the rational choice model as an abstract ...

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