Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

State Power and the Structure of International Trade

  • Stephen D. Krasner (a1)

The structure of international trade, identified by the degree of openness for the movement of goods, can best be explained by a state-power theory of international political economy. This theory begins with the assumption that the nature of international economic movements is determined by states acting to maximize national goals. Four goals—aggregate national income, political power, social stability, and economic growth—can be systematically related to the degree of openness in the international trading system for states of different relative sizes and levels of development. This analysis leads to the conclusion that openness is most likely to exist when there is a hegemonic distribution of potential economic power. Time-series data on tariff levels, trade proportions, regional concentration, per capita income, national income, share of world trade, and share of world investment are then presented. The first three are used to describe the degree of openness in the trading system; the last four, the distribution of state power. The data suggest that the state-power theory should be amended to take into consideration domestic political constraints on state action.

Hide All

* I would like to thank Robert Art, Peter Gourevitch, Samuel Huntington, Robert Keohane, Rachel McCulloch, Joseph Nye, Ronald Rogowski, and Robert W. Tucker for their comments. My greatest intellectual debt, and one not adequately reflected in the footnotes, is to Robert Gilpin. Completion of this paper was made possible by support from the Washington Center of Foreign Policy Research of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.

1 Johnson, “Optimum Tariffs and Retaliation,” in Johnson Harry, International Trade and Economic Growth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1967), 3161.

2 See, for instance, Hagen Everett, “An Economic Justification of Protectionism,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 72 (11 1958), 496514; Johnson Harry, “Optimal Trade Intervention in the Presence of Domestic Distortions,” in Baldwin Robert and others, Trade, Growth and the Balance of Payments: Essays in Honor of Gottfried Haberler (Chicago: Rand McNally 1965), 334; and Bhagwati Jagdish, Trade, Tariffs, and Growth (Cambridge: MIT Press 1969), 295308.

3 This notion is reflected in Hirschman Albert O., National Power and the Structure of Foreign Trade (Berkeley: University of California Press 1945); Tucker Robert W., The New Isolationism: Threat or Promise? (Washington: Potomac Associates 1972); and Waltz Kenneth, “The Myth of Interdependence,” in Kindleberger Charles P., ed., The International Corporation (Cambridge: MIT Press 1970), 205–23.

4 Hirschman (fn.3), 13–34.

5 Kuznets Simon, Modern Economic Growth: Rate, Structure, and Spread (New Haven: Yale University Press 1966), 302.

6 See Calleo David P. and Rowl Benjamin and, America and the World Political Economy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1973), Part II, for a discussion of American thought; Heckscher Eli, Mercantilism (New York: Macmillan 1955); and Coleman D. C., ed., Revisions in Mercantilism (London: Methuen 1969), for the classic discussion and a collection of recent articles on mercantilism; Frank Andre Gunder, Latin America: Underdevelopment or Revolution (New York: Monthly Review 1969); Emmanuel Arghiri, Unequal Exchange: A Study of the Imperialism of Trade (New York: Monthly Review 1972); and Galtung Johan, “A Structural Theory of Imperialism,” Journal of Peace Research, VIII, No. 2 (1971), 81117, for some representative arguments about the deleterious effects of free trade.

7 See Haberler Gottfried, International Trade and Economic Development (Cairo: National Bank of Egypt 1959); and Diaz-Alejandro Carlos F., “Latin America: Toward 2000 A.D.,” in Bhagwati Jagdish, ed., Economics and World Order from the 1970s to the iggos (New York: Macmillan 1972), 223–55, ff some arguments concerning the benefits of trade.

8 See Johnson Harry, Economic Policies Toward Less Developed Countries (New York: Praeger 1967), 9094, for a discussion of nominal versus effective tariffs; Belassa Bela, Trade Liberalization among Industrial Countries (New York: McGraw-Hill 1967), chap. 3, for the problems of determining the height of tariffs; and Schmitt Hans O., “International Monetary System: Three Options for Reform,” International Affairs, L (04 1974), 200, for similar effects of tariffs and undervalued exchange rates.

9 Kindleberger Charles P., “The Rise of Free Trade in Western Europe 1820–1875,” The Journal of Economic History, xxxv (03 1975), 2055; Pollard Sidney, European Economic Integration 1820–1875 (London: Thames and Hudson 1974), 117; Condliffe J. B., The Commerce of Nations (New York: Norton 1950), 212–23, 229–30.

10 Kindleberger Charles P., “Group Behavior and International Trade,” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 59 (02 1951), 33; Condliffe (fn. 9), 498; Pollard (fn. 9), 121; and Gourevitch Peter A., “International Trade, Domestic Coalitions, and Liberty: Comparative Responses to the Great Depression of 1873–1896,” paper delivered to the International Studies Association Convention, Washington, 1973.

11 Kindelberger Charles P., The World in Depression (Berkeley: University of California Press 1973), 171; Condliffe (fn. 9), 478–81.

12 Condlifle (fn. 9), 498; Gilpin Robert, “The Politics of Transnational Economic Relations,” International Organization, xxv (Summer 1971), 407; Kindelberger (fn. 11), 132, 171.

13 Evans John W., The Kennedy Round in American Trade Policy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1971), 1020.

14 Figures are available in United Nations, Yearbook, of National Account Statistics, various years.

15 Savage Richard I. and Deutsch Karl W., “A Statistical Model of the Gross Analysis of Transaction Flows,” Econometrica, XXVIII (07 1960), 551–72. Chadwick Richard and Deutsch Karl W., in “International Trade and Economic Integration: Further Developments in Trade Matrix Analysis,” Comparative Political Studies, VI (04 1973), 84109, make some amendments to earlier methods of calculation when regional groupings are being analyzed. These are not reflected in Table I. I am indebted to Professor Deutsch for giving me access to the unpublished data presented in the table.

16 League of Nations, Industrialization and Foreign Trade (1945, II.A.10), 13; Wilkins Mira, The Emergence of Multinational Enterprise (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1970), 4565.

17 Gallagher John and Robinson Ronald, “The Imperialism of Free Trade,” Economic History Review, 2nd Series, VI (08 1953), 115.

18 Kindleberger (fn. 9), 41.

19 Triffin Robert, The Evolution of the International Monetary System (Princeton: Princeton Studies in International Finance, No. 12, 1964), 220; Hawtrey R. G., The Gold Standard in Theory and Practice (London: Longmans, Green 1947), 6980; Yeager Leland, International Monetary Relations (New York: Harper and Row 1966), 251–61; Rolfe Sidney E. and Burtle James, The Great Wheel: The World Monetary System, a Reinterpretation (New York: Quadrangle 1973), 1011; Condliffe (fn. 9), 343–80.

20 Aron Raymond, The Imperial Republic (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall 1973), 191; Gilpin (fn. 12), 409–12; Calleo and Rowland (fn. 6), chap. 3.

21 Gardner Lloyd, Economic Aspects of New Deal Diplomacy (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press 1964), 389; Gilpin (fn. 12), 409.

22 Triffin (fn. 19), 22–28; Rolfe and Burtle (fn. 19), 13–55; Yeager (fn. 19), 278–317; Kindleberger (fn. n), 270–71.

23 Kindleberger (fn. 11), 199–224; Yeager (fn. 19), 314; Condliffe (fn. 9), 499.

24 Triffin (fn. 19), 22.

25 Kindleberger (fn. 11), 296.

26 Condliffe (fn. 9), 494–97.

27 Evans (fn. 13), 7.

28 Gilpin Robert, American Power and the Multinationals: The Political Economy of Foreign Investment (New York: Basic Books 1975), chap. 3; Kindleberger (fn. 11), 294.

29 Yeager (fn. 19), 279.

30 Condliffe (fn. 9), 347.

31 This draws from arguments made by Lowi Theodore, particularly his “Four Systems of Policy, Politics and Choice,” Public Administration Review, XXXII (07-08 1972), 298310. See also Schattschneider E. E., Politics, Pressures and the Tariff: A Study of Free Enterprise in Pressure Politics as Shown in the 7929–7930 Revision of the Tariff (New York: Prentice-Hall 1935).

32 See Kelly Janet, “American Banks in London,” Ph.D. diss. (Johns Hopkins University 1975), for a study of the overseas expansion of American banks in the postwar period.

33 Schattschneider (fn. 31), 288.

34 See Katzenstein Peter J., “Transnational Relations and Domestic Structures: Foreign Economic Policies of Advanced Industrial States,” International Organization, XXX (Winter 1976), for a suggestive discussion of the impact of the relative power of state and society on foreign economic policy. See also Huntington Samuel P., “Paradigms of American Politics: Beyond the One, the Two, and the Many,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 89 (03 1974), 1617, as we as Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press 1968), chap. 2.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

World Politics
  • ISSN: 0043-8871
  • EISSN: 1086-3338
  • URL: /core/journals/world-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 103 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1698 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.