Three Logics of "Major Power Rivalry" in the World-System: A Footnote to a Pentagon study

Tieting Su


A vast body of social science literature on long waves and major power wars has greatly enriched our knowledge about the rhythms and violent transitions of the modern world-system. The correlations between long waves and major power clashes in the past has been established. What are the structural causal mechanisms between these two historical and cyclical movements? Using trade network patterns as an indicator of a deep structure, this article summarizes a longitudinial study attempted to construct one of the missing links between the two historical cycles. Based on a structural analysis of world trade networks in 1938, 1950, and 1990, and a quantitative study of U.S.--Japanese commercial rivalry in the Asia-Pacific region, this study considers three logics of "major power rivalry" in the past and its implication for the future: (1) the logic of rivalry over "life spaces"; (2) the logic of rivalry for global domination; and (3) the logic of imperial intervention. I contend that these three logics are related, and that changes in one logic result in changes in others.

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