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Between dominance and decline: status anxiety and great power rivalry



This article investigates the role of status considerations in the response of dominant powers to the rise of emergent states. Accordingly, the hypothesis explored is that dominant actors are prone to fear that they will lose their upper rank, and, due to this status anxiety, resist the efforts of emergent powers to match or surpass them. The article begins by explaining why political actors deem status important and puts forward a theory of status anxiety in world politics. The more pronounced is this anxiety across status dimensions (economic and military capabilities as well as prestige), the higher the likelihood of conflict. This argument is then tested against competing theories of dominant power behaviour in two cases: the relations between France and Britain from the 1740s to Napoleon and those between Britain and Germany from the 1880s to World War One.



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1 Lindemann, Thomas and Ringmar, Erik (eds), The International Politics of Recognition (Boulder: Paradigm, 2011); Volgy, Thomaset al. (eds), Major Powers and the Quest for Status in International Politics: Global and Regional Perspectives (New York: MacMillan, 2011); Wolf, Reinhard, ‘Respect and Disrespect in International Politics: The Significance of Status Recognition’, International Theory 3 (February 2011), pp. 105–42; Larson, Deborah and Shevchenko, Alexei, ‘Status Seekers: Chinese and Russian Responses to US Primacy’, International Security, 34 (Spring 2010), pp. 6395; Wohlforth, William, ‘Unipolarity, Status Competition, and Great Power War’, World Politics, 61 (January 2009), pp. 2857; Lebow, Richard Ned, Cultural Theory of International Relations (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

2 Lebow, Richard Ned, Why Nations Fight: Past and Future Motives for War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 171–2.

3 See inter alia Larson and Shevchenko, ‘Status Seekers’; Volgy et al., Major Powers.

4 DiCicco, Jonathan and Levy, Jack, ‘The Power Transition Research Program’, in Elman, Colin and Elman, Miriam Fendius (eds), Progress in International Relations Theory: Appraising the Field (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003), p. 138.

5 Exceptions who raise the point of the impact of status (or foreign policy role) for dominant states, but do not elaborate are Lebow, Cultural Theory; and Doran, Charles, Systems in Crisis: New Imperatives of High Politics at Century's End (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Morrow, James, ‘The Logic of Overtaking’, in Kugler, Jacek and Lemke, Douglas (eds), Parity and War: Evaluations and Extensions of the War Ledger (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996).

6 Gilpin, Robert, War and Change in World Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 197–8; Copeland, Dale, The Origins of Major War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), esp. pp. 4, 22. Power transition and global war are not considered among these alternative theories because they argue that wars are initiated by the contender, not by the dominant state, or/and depend on the degree of satisfaction of the rising power. On power transition see Organski, A. F. K., World Politics (New York: Knopf, 1968); Organski, A. F. K. and Kugler, Jacek, The War Ledger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Kugler and Lemke (eds), Parity and War; Tammen, Ronaldet al. (eds), Power Transitions: Strategies for the 21st Century (New York: Chatham House Publishers, 2000); on global war see Rasler, Karen and Thompson, William, The Great Powers and Global Struggle, 1490–1990 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1994).

7 Wohlforth, ‘Unipolarity’, pp. 29–30.

8 This argument is emphasised both by power transition theory critics, who contend that the dominant state is more likely to initiate war, and by power transition proponents, who, with the exception of Organski's original formulation, argue that the contender will initiate war either post-transition or at the time of parity. Organski, World Politics, p. 333; Organski and Kugler, War Ledger, pp. 27–8; Daniel Geller, ‘Relative Power, Rationality, and International Conflict’, in Kugler and Lemke, Parity and War, pp. 132–3, 138–9; Levy, Jack, ‘Power Transition Theory and the Rise of China’, in Ross, Robert and Feng, Zhu (eds), China's Ascent: Power Security and the Future of International Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008), pp. 26–7; Chan, Steve, China, the US, and the Power Transition Theory: A Critique (New York: Routledge, 2008).

9 Lebow, Cultural Theory, pp. 546–7, 549–50; Lebow, Why Nations Fight, pp. 93–5.

10 The rising power is eager to offer concessions knowing it is going to recoup them once it is stronger. Levy, Jack, ‘Declining Power and the Preventive Motivation for War’, World Politics, 40 (October 1987), pp. 82107, 96.

11 Lebow, Richard Ned, The Tragic Vision of Politics: Ethics, Interests, and Orders (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

12 Lebow, Why Nations Fight, pp. 95–6; Lebow, Richard Ned and Valentino, Benjamin, ‘Lost in Transition: A Critical Analysis of Power Transition Theory’, International Relations, 23:3 (2009), pp. 389410, 400–1,406. For the definition of inadvertent wars distinguishing them from unauthorised wars see George, Alexander (ed.), Avoiding War: Problems of Crisis Management (Boulder: Westview Press, 1991), p. 8. George mentions at least four possible causal sequences leading from crisis to inadvertent war: (1) the participants come to see the war as the inevitable; (2) a premium is placed on striking first; (3) the crisis constitutes the opportunity and legitimacy cover for preventive war; (4) one of the parties seeks to confront the other with a fait accompli. Ibid., pp. 545–50.

13 For Lebow, hegemonic wars, meaning wars involving most of the great powers, are inadvertent (accidental) and are started by the intervention of either the dominant state or the rising power against a third party. However, wars originating in rivalries of status seem more likely to occur after an intervention from the rising power, which the dominant state then resists, because rising powers would not risk a serious clash imperilling their further ascension over a dominant state's intervention.

14 Vasquez, John, The War Puzzle Revisited (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Jervis, Robert, ‘Cooperation under the Security Dilemma’, World Politics, 30 (January 1978), pp. 167214.

15 This definition is a synthesis of the definitions for enduring rivalry and strategic rivalry. For the former see Diehl, Paul and Goertz, Gary, War and Peace in International Rivalry (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), pp. 1826; for the latter see Colaresi, Michael, Rasler, Karen, and Thompson, William, Strategic Rivalries in World Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press), pp. 25–8.

16 Ibid., pp. 78–80; Vasquez, War Puzzle Revisited, pp. 80–2.

17 This may add to the literature on causes of rivalries, since so far the initiation of rivalries has been attributed to a political shock, whether at the systemic level or concerning one side of the rivalry, or to territorial contiguity. Diehl, Paul, ‘Introduction’, in Diehl, Paul (ed.), The Dynamics of Enduring Rivalries (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), p. 14; Diehl and Goerz, War and Peace, pp. 149–51.

18 Wohlforth, ‘Unipolarity’, pp. 97–103; Brooks, Stephen and Wohlforth, William, World Out of Balance: International Relations and the Challenge of American Primacy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).

19 The British-German rivalry appears on both data sets constituted by operationalising rivalry as the occurrence of a given number of disputes in a certain number of years; and in data sets based on the mutual perception of the states as contenders/enemies. Colaresi, Rasler, and Thompson, Strategic Rivalries, p. 57; Diehl and Goertz, War and Peace, p. 145. The French-British rivalry does not appear in the Diehl and Goertz data set that only begins in 1815, but qualifies unambiguously, since from the 1740 to the 1810s, the parties were involved in about one war per decade. Moreover, the French-British rivalry figures in the recent list of rivalries compiled by Thompson, who argues that Paris and London remained rivals between 1731 and 1904. Thompson, William and Dreyer, David, Handbook of International Rivalries, 1494–2010 (Los Angeles: Sage, 2012), pp. 46–8, also see pp. 48–9 on Britain and Germany.

20 Hyman, Herbert Hiram, The Psychology of Status (New York: Arno Press, 1980), p. 5.

21 Hogg, Michael and Dominic, Abrams, Social Identifications: A Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations and Group Processes (London: Routledge, 1988), chap. 2. For applications of social identity theory to International Relations see inter alia Larson and Shevchenko, ‘Status Seekers’; Volgy et al. (eds), Major Powers; Mercer, Jonathan, ‘Anarchy and Identity’, International Organization, 49 (Spring 1995), pp. 229–52.

22 Turner, John, ‘Social Identification and Psychological Group Formation’, in Tajfel, Henri (ed.), The Social Dimension: European Developments in Social Psychology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), vol. 2, pp. 518–38, esp. 526–7; Tajfel, Henry and Turner, John, ‘The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior’, in Worchel, Stephen and Austin, William (eds), Psychology of Intergroup Relations (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1986), pp. 724.

23 Ibid., p. 16.

24 O'Neill, Barry, Honor, Symbols, and War (Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 1999), pp. 190–3; Turner, Brian, Status (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), pp. 58.

25 Rosen, Stephen Peter, War and Human Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 73.

26 Ibid., pp. 92–3; Frank, Robert, Luxury Fever: Why Money Fails to Satisfy in an Era of Excess (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1999); Huizinga, Johan, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (New York: Roy Publishers, 1950), esp. p. 50; Gould, Roger, Collision of Wills: How Ambiguity About Social Rank Breeds Conflict (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).

27 Wendt, Alexander, ‘The State as a Personal in International Theory’, Review of International Studies, 30:2 (2004), pp. 289316; Lebow, Cultural Theory, pp. 116–7.

28 Turner, ‘Social Identification’, pp. 528–9; Brown et al., ‘Social Comparison and Group Interest’, pp. 190–1. This tendency is so pronounced that individuals discriminate in favour of their group even in contexts when they have no information or interaction with other group members.

29 Cialdini, Robertet al., ‘Basking in Reflected Glory: Three (Footbal) Field Studies’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34:3 (1976), pp. 366–75; Deschesne, Market al., ‘Terror Management and the Vicissitudes of Sports Fan Affiliation’, European Journal of Social Psychology, 30 (2000), pp. 813–35; Lebow, Cultural Theory, p. 134.

30 Greenfeld, Liah, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992). Horowitz made a similar case, based on social identity theory, that ethnic conflict is motivated by the desire to protect or enhance one's group status relative other groups. Horowitz, Don, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley: University of California, Press, 1985), esp. chap. 4.

31 It may even be the case that decision-makers are more concerned about their state's status than ordinary citizens because they constitute symbols of the state, because they are more status-sensitive due to their pursuit of public office, and because of their involvement in close interactions with foreign leaders against whom they measure their own status. Reinhard Wolf, ‘Recognition and Disrespect between Persons and Peoples’, in Lindemann and Ringmar (eds), Struggle for Recognition, p. 46.

32 Ibid., pp. 46–7.

33 Mercer, Jonathan, Reputation and International Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995); Press, Darryl, Calculating Credibility: How Leaders Assess Military Threats (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005).

34 Kull, Steven, Minds at War: Nuclear Reality and the Inner Conflicts of Defense Policymakers (New York: Basic Books, 1988).

35 See for the link between soft power and status Volgy et al. (eds), Major Powers, p. 10.

36 On Iraq see Lebow, Cultural Theory, pp. 459–80; on soft power see Nye, Joseph, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (New York: Public Affairs, 2004).

37 Hogg and Abrams, Social Identifications, pp. 21–3; Tajfel and Turner, ‘Social Identity Theory’, p. 16.

38 Hyman, Psychology of Status, pp. 5, 35–9, 91.

39 Lenski, Gerhard, ‘Status Crystallization: A Non-Vertical Dimension for Social Status’, American Sociological Review, 19 (August 1954), pp. 405–13; Galtung, Johan, ‘Structural Theory of Aggression’, Journal of Peace Research, 1:2 (1964), pp. 95119.

40 Ibid., p. 99. Numerous quantitative studies link status inconsistency and war. Wallace, Michael, War and Rank among Nations (Lexington, DC: Heath and Company, 1970); East, Maurice, ‘Status Discrepancy and Violence in the International System’, in Rosenau, Jameset al. (eds), The Analysis of International Politics (New York: Free Press, 1972), pp. 299319; Midlarsky, Manus, On War: Political Violence in the International System (New York: Free Press, 1975), chaps 5 and 6.

41 Hofstadter, Richard, The Age of Reform (New York: Vintage, 1955), pp. 131–73; Doherty, Robert, ‘Status Anxiety and American Reform: Some Alternatives’, American Quarterly, 19 (Summer 1967), pp. 329–37; de Botton, Alain, Status Anxiety (New York: Pantheon Books, 2004).

42 Galtung, ‘Structural Theory’, pp. 96–7.

43 Tajfel and Turner, ‘Integrative Theory’, p. 45.

44 It is not capabilities, but their perception (correct or mistaken) that affects decision-making. Wohlforth, William, ‘The Perception of Power: Russia in the pre-1914 Balance’, World Politics, 39 (April 1987), pp. 353–81.

45 Prestige is not identical to status. Status refers to social rank, while prestige is defined as success in peace and war. Prestige is therefore one of the dimensions, in addition to military or economic capabilities, that confer status to a state internationally.

46 Gilpin, War and Change, pp. 32–3.

47 Volgy et al. (eds), Major Powers, p. 5; Levy, Jack, War in the Modern Great Power System, 1495–1975 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1983), pp. 1013; Small, Melvin and Singer, David, ‘The Composition and Status Ordering of the International System: 1815–1940’, World Politics, 18 (January 1966), pp. 236–82, 238–9; Singer, David, ‘Reconstructing the Correlates of War Data Set on Material Capabilities of States, 1816–1985’, International Interactions, 14:2 (1988), pp. 115–32, 119–20.

48 This operationalisation of status discrepancies is DISTINCT from the models of Midlarsky, Gilpin, and Volgy, which ultimately are reducible to two dimensions: capability (a sum of various resources) and prestige (usually measured by the number of accredited diplomatic missions in a state's capital). Here it should be pointed out that Volgy and contributors actually argue that multiple dimensions – economic and military capabilities, foreign policy activities, and status attribution – confer status internationally. But when operationalising status, they conflate capabilities and activities in one category, which they then contrast with status attribution (the equivalent of prestige,) de facto reaffirming the familiar two dimensional model. Thus, for these authors, status inconsistency leads to both status underachievers, whose prestige is less than their capabilities, and to status overachievers, whose prestige exceeds their capabilities. By contrast, in this article's model, which follows Lenski and Galtung, status discrepancies occur when economic, military capabilities, and prestige, understood as success in peace and war, are misaligned. Hence, in this latter model, there are more than just two scenarios of possible discrepancies. Volgy et al., (eds), Major Powers, pp. 7, 10–2, 16–20; Gilpin, War and Change, p. 33; Midlarsky, On War, pp. 94–7, 116–7.

49 Wohlforth, ‘Unipolarity, Status, Great Power War’, p. 39, fn. 25.

50 Lebow, Why Nations Fight, pp. 94–5.

51 It is conceivable that a state may resent simultaneously status inconsistency AND status anxiety, which makes it important to tell these two drives apart since they lead to different policies toward different actors. Germany before World War I was in the peculiar situation of seeking advancement due to status inconsistency because of the rise of its capabilities compared to Britain's; but, at the same time, may have also been exhibiting status anxiety by being worried of falling behind a rising Russia. Accordingly, Germany was conciliatory towards Britain, engaging for all intents and purposes in a détente from 1912 onwards, and belligerent towards Russia. See for a similar argument in which Germany's ‘sudden rise turned to decline’, Doran, Systems in Crisis, pp. 79–89, 121–40; Charles Doran, ‘World War I From the Perspective of Power Cycle Theory’, in Lindemann and Ringmar (eds) International Politics of Recognition, pp. 119–21.

52 Since equality implies loss of status, it will also be resisted by the dominant power. For an illustration of this reluctance to accept equality see Leffler, Melvin, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992).

53 See for the application of prospect theory to standing Lebow, Cultural Theory, p. 31, 537–9; Taliaferro, Jeffrey, Balancing Risks: Great Power Intervention in the Periphery (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004).

54 Tajfel and Turner, ‘Social Identity Theory’, pp. 16–7, 21.

55 Festinger, Leon, ‘A Theory of Social Comparison Processes’, Human Relations, 7:2 (1954), pp. 117–40, 121–3, 135–6; Tajfel and Turner, ‘Integrative Theory’, pp. 35–8.

56 For a similar point of view see Thompson, William, ‘The Evolution of a Great Power Rivalry: The Anglo-American Case’, in Thompson, William (ed.), Great Power Rivalries (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999), pp. 201–21.

57 Perkins, Bradford, The Great Rapprochement: England and the United States, 1895–1914 (New York: Atheneum, 1968), pp. 89; Bagwell, Philip and Mingway, G. E., Britain and America, 1850–1939: A Study of Economic Change (New York: Praeger, 1970), pp. 153–6, 158–64; Kennedy, Paul, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Contest From 1500 to 2000 (New York: Random House, 1987), pp. 243–4.

58 Ibid., pp. 244–5; Perkins, Great Rapprochement, pp. 122–6, chap. 7.

59 Bourne, Kenneth, Britain and the Balance of Power in North America, 1815–1908 (London: Longmans, 1967), pp. 339, 347–8; Perkins, Great Rapprochement, pp. 14–5, chap. 7.

60 Perkins, Great Rapprochement, pp. 121–2.

61 Friedberg, Aaron, Weary Titan: Britain and the Experience of Relative Decline, 1895–1905 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), p. 153; Kennedy, Great Powers, p. 203.

62 Perkins, Great Rapprochement, pp. 184–5.

63 Bourne, Britain and the Balance of Power, pp. 342–3. As Bourne writes: ‘the growth of American power in the late nineteenth century… was at first by no means welcome to the policy-makers in Britain; rather its existence had to be accepted in a world where crucial dangers loomed elsewhere’.

64 Ibid., pp. 362, 385; Friedberg, Weary Titan, pp. 185–8.

65 For the point that economic rivalry is not sufficient for militarised rivalry to emerge, see Jack Levy and Salvatore Ali, ‘From Commercial Competition to Strategic Rivalry to War: The Evolution of the Anglo-Dutch Rivalry, 1609–52’, in Diehl (ed), Dynamics, pp. 29–63.

66 Gilpin, War and Change, pp. 123–5, 162–5.

67 Fearon, James, ‘Counterfactuals and Hypothesis Testing in Political Science’, World Politics, 43 (January 1991), pp. 169–95, 178. As Fearon contends: ‘arguments about the relative importance of possible causes become arguments about the relative plausibility of different counterfactual scenarios’.

68 Wohlforth, William, The Elusive Balance: Power and Perceptions During the Cold War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 138, 24–5, 135–6, 304–6.

69 Ibid., pp. 11–14; Wohlforth, William, Kaufman, Stuart, and Little, Richard, ‘Introduction: Balance and Hierarchy in International Systems’, in Wohlforth, William, Kaufman, Stuart, and Little, Richard (eds), The Balance of Power in World History (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), pp. 1819; Levy, Jack, ‘War and Peace’, in Carlsnaes, Walter, Risse, Thomas, and Simmons, Beth (eds), Handbook of International Relations (London: Sage, 2002), pp. 354–5.

70 Crouzet, François, ‘The Second Hundred Years' War: Some Reflections’, French History, 10 (1996), pp. 432–50.

71 For assessments of French preeminence see McKay, Derek and Scott, H. M., The Rise of the Great Powers, 1648–1815 (New York: Longman, 1983); Black, Jeremy, From Louis XIV to Napoleon: The Fate of a Great Power (London: UCL Press, 1999), pp. 90, 124.

72 Crouzet, François, Britain Ascendant: Comparative Issues in Franco-British Economic History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Blanning, Tim, The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648–1815 (New York: Penguin Books, 2007); Schroeder, Paul, The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1815 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 3541. However, France's economic advantage was undermined by a venal and antiquated taxation system, which led to a higher British extraction capacity. Britain also surpassed France in industrial and technological development as well as number of ships. Thus, as Crouzet argues, while France might have been the stronger country from a mercantilist production perspective, Britain was, nonetheless, the more developed, richer country.

73 Dziembowski, Edmond, Un Nouveau Patriotisme Français, 1750–1770 (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1998), pp. 224–32, also see pp. 83–6; 232–3; 238–40.

74 , Robert and Tombs, Isabelle, That Sweet Enemy: The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present (New York: Knopf, 2007), pp. 109–10.

75 Schroeder, Transformation, pp. 226–30.

76 Crouzet, Britain Ascendant, p. 125; Dziembowski, Nouveau Patriotisme Français, pp. 267–311.

77 Ibid., pp. 227–41; Crouzet, Britain Ascendant, pp. 129–30; Baugh, Daniel, ‘Withdrawing from Europe: Anglo-French Maritime Geopolitics, 1750–1800’, International History Review, 20 (March 1998), pp. 132, 14–16.

78 Ibid., pp. 18–9; ‘Mémoire de Monsieur de Choiseul Remis Au Roi en 1765’, in Bourgeois de Boyne, Pierre Étienne, Journal Inédit, 1765–1766 (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2008), pp. 447–77; Dziembowski, Nouveau Patriotisme Français, pp. 258–9.

79 Ibid., p. 214.

80 Tombs, That Sweet Enemy, p. 116.

81 Dziembowski, Nouveau Patriotisme Français, p. 232.

82 Chaussinand-Nogaret, Guy, Choiseul: Naissance de la Gauche (Paris: Perrin, 1998), p. 63.

83 Tombs, That Sweet Enemy, p. 156.

84 Ibid., pp. 158, 161.

85 Hampson, Norman, The Perfidy of Albion: French Perceptions of England during the French Revolution (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998), chaps 5 and 7.

86 Schroeder, Transformation, pp. 113–16.

87 Ibid., pp. 238–41; Napoleon, , Pensées Politiques et Sociales (Paris: Flammarion, 1969), pp. 313–20. Napoleon entertained a lifelong Anglophobia arguing that Britain should have ended up as an appendage to France, not much different from Corsica.

88 Pluchon, Pierre, Histoire de la Colonisation Française: Le Premier Empire Colonial (Paris: Fayard, 1991), pp. 135–9, 161–2.

89 The budget of the French navy tripled from 1728 to 1740, while still representing half of Britain's expenses. Dorn, Walter, Competition for Empire: 1740–1763 (New York: Harper, 1940), pp. 115–16.

90 Black, From Louis XIV to Napoleon, pp. 91–5, 124.

91 Ibid., pp. 27–32; Tombs, That Sweet Enemy, pp. 110–14.

92 Ibid., pp. 199–209, 254–62; Pluchon, Histoire, chap. 5; Dorn, Competition, pp. 102–21.

93 Jeremy Black, ‘Enduring Rivalries: Britain and France’, in Thompson (ed.), Great Power Rivalries, pp. 254–68, 264.

94 McKay and Scott, Rise of the Great Powers, pp. 101–31; Black, From Louis XIV to Napoleon, pp. 70–84.

95 Schroeder, Transformation, pp. 174–6, 296–8; Black, From Louis XIV to Napoleon, p. 180.

96 Blanning, Pursuit of Glory, pp. 109–11.

97 Dorn, Competition, p. 117. Also see fn. 79.

98 Black, From Louis XIV to Napoleon, pp. 120–1.

99 Joseph Chamberlain, ‘Opening Speech at Colonial Conference, London, June 30, 1902’ quoted in Amery, Julian, The Life of Joseph Chamberlain, vol. 5 (London: Macmillan, 1969), p. 31.

100 Kennedy, Great Powers, pp. 148–9, 154–5; Kennedy, Paul, The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism (London: Allen & Unwin, 1980), p. 292.

101 Kennedy, Great Powers, p. 231. This argument contradicts Copeland, for whom World War One was a preventive war initiated by the dominant power: Germany. Copeland, Origins, chaps 3–4.

102 Kennedy, Great Powers, pp. 200–3, 224–32; Correlates of War Project, ‘National Material Capabilities Data’, at: {}; Wright, Quincy, A Study of War (2nd edn, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), pp. 670–1; Porter, Bernard, The Lion's Share: A Short History of British Imperialism, 1850–1970 (London: Longman, 1975).

103 Albertini, Luigi, The Origins of the War of 1914, vol. II (London: Oxford University Press, 1953), pp. 445–6, 514–20; Fischer, Fritz, Germany's Aims in the First World War (New York: W. W. Norton, 1967), pp. 6482; Lebow, Richard Ned, Between Peace and War: The Nature of International Crisis (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 131–46.

104 Murray, Michelle, ‘Identity, Insecurity, and Great Power Politics: The Tragedy of German Naval Ambition Before the First World War’, Security Studies, 19 (November 2010), pp. 656–88; Herwig, Holger, ‘Luxury’ Fleet: The Imperial German Navy, 1888–1918 (London: George Allen & Unwyn, 1980); Lambi, Ivo Nikolai, The Navy and German Power Politics, 1862–1914 (Boston: Allen & Unwyn, 1984).

105 It may be more plausible to argue for a German case of status anxiety towards Russia. For a similar interpretation see Copeland, Origins; Doran, Systems in Crisis.

106 This reaction was the notorious war council of 8 December 1912 in which the German army leaders advocated war ‘the sooner, the better’. The deliberations included an attack against Britain, but Tirpitz argued that the navy was not yet ready. However, opposition from Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg led to the projected war on Britain to be abandoned on favour of rapprochement. Röhl, John, The Kaiser and His Court (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), chap. 7; Padfield, Peter, The Great Naval Race: The Anglo-German Naval Rivalry, 1900–1914 (New York: David McKay Company, 1974), pp. 276312; Marder, Anthony, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, vol. I (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), chap. 11.

107 Herwig, Holger, ‘Imperial Germany’, in May, Ernest (ed.), Knowing One's Enemies: Intelligence Assessment before the Two World Wars (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), pp. 87, 81–7; Herwig, Luxury Fleet, 78, 90–2; Steiner, Zara and Neilson, Keith, Britain and the Origins of the First World War (2nd edn, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 104–5.

108 Kennedy, Antagonism, p. 466.

109 Seeley, John R., The Expansion of England: Two Courses of Lectures (Boston: Little, Brown, 1905), pp. 349–50.

110 Porter, Lion's Share, chap. 3.

111 Chamberlain, Joseph, ‘Speech at Bringley Hall, July 9, 1906’, in Boyd, Charles (ed.), Mr. Chamberlain's Speeches (London: Constable & Company, 1914), vol. 2, pp. 361–72, 368.

112 Nielsen, Keith, Britain and the Last Tsar: British Policy and Russia, 1894–1917 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995); on the navy see Friedberg, Weary Titan, pp. 153, 144–51, 161–73.

113 Memorandum by Mr. Eyre Crowe on the Present State of British Relations with France and Germany’, in Gooch, G. P. and Temperley, Harold, eds, British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898–1914, vol. III (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1928), pp. 403, 407, 417.

114 Padfield, Naval Race, p. 219.

115 Otte, Thomas, The Foreign Office Mind: The Making of British Foreign Policy, 1865–1914 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 343, 348, 352.

116 Barlow, Ima, The Agadir Crisis (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1940), pp. 298–9.

117 For this reason, British decision-makers, who were noticing an absolute growth, doubted that Britain, which after all was still ahead in trade, was in decline after all. This impossibility of demonstrating objectively the British economic decline led to the eventual electoral defeat of Chamberlain, who proposed the introduction of tariffs. Friedberg, Weary Titan, pp. 67, 44–5, 26–30, 57–62, 68–72.

118 Steiner and Neilson, Britain, pp. 63–72.

119 Friedberg, Weary Titan, p. 153.

120 Padfield, Great Race, p. 153.

121 Kennedy, Antagonism, pp. 163–6; Marder, Dreadnought, pp. 159–71.

122 Kemp, P. K., The Papers of Admiral Sir John Fisher, vol. 1 (London: The Navy Records Society, 1960), pp. 1819; Padfield, Great Race, pp. 184, 182–5.

123 Kennedy, Antagonism, p. 416.

124 Steinberg, Jonathan, ‘The German Background to Anglo-German Relations, 1905–1914’, in Hinsley, F. H. (ed.), British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977), p. 213.

125 As Gray argues, it is not easy to draw a distinction between a future security threat from Germany, even though a present one was ruled out, and the threat to the British rank as number one naval power, for which there was ‘eloquent proof’. Gray, Colin, ‘The Urge to Compete: Rationales for Arms Racing’, World Politics, 26 (January 1974), pp. 207–33, 224, esp. fn. 42.

126 ‘Memorandum by Mr. Crowe’, in Gooch and Temperley (eds), British Documents VI, pp. 534–5.

127 Anderson, Eugene, The First Moroccan Crisis (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1930); Barlow, Agadir.

128 Albertini, Origins, pp. 632–3.

129 Steiner and Neilson, Britain, pp. 72–5; Kennedy, Antagonism.

130 Woodruff, William, Impact of Western Man: A Study of Europe's Role in the World Economy, 1750–1960 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1967), pp. 284, 288–9.

131 Germany wanted improved relations with Russia and British support against France, while Britain wanted Germany to help it against Russia. Kennedy, Antagonism, pp. 388–9.

132 Marder, Dreadnought, pp. 348, 350, 356, 345–58.

133 Lynn-Jones, Sean, ‘Détente and Deterrence: Anglo-German Relations, 1911–1914’, International Security 11 (Fall 1986), pp. 121–50.

134 Paul Kennedy, ‘Great Britain Before 1914’, in May (ed.), Knowing One's Enemies, p. 173.

135 Ibid., pp. 194–5.

136 See for this argument Levy, Jack, ‘What Do Great Powers Balance Against?’, in Paul, T. V., Wirtz, James, and Fortmann, Michel, Balance of Power: Theory and Practice in the 21st Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), pp. 43–4.

137 ‘Memorandum by Lord Sanderson’, in Gooch and Temperley, British Documents, III, p. 430; also see Padfield, Naval Race, pp. 308–9.

138 I am grateful to the anonymous reviewers for this suggestion.

139 See inter alia Larson and Shevchenko, ‘Status Seekers’; Volgy et al. (eds), Major Powers.

* I would like to extend my warmest thanks to Dr Richard Ned Lebow, Dr William Wohlforth, and Dr Stephen Brooks for their excellent comments and fantastic support. I would also like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for generously providing me with the funds for undertaking this research.

Between dominance and decline: status anxiety and great power rivalry



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