The Rising Powers and Globalization: Structural Change to the Global System Between 1965 and 2005

Lindsay Marie Jacobs, Ronan Van Rossem


This article sets out to critically assess the increasingly prevalent claims of rapidly changing global power relations under influence of the ‘rising powers’ and ‘globalization’. Our main contention is that current analyses of countries’ degree of global power (especially for the BRICS) has been dominated by the control over resources approach that, though gauging power potential, insufficiently takes into account how this potential is converted into actual global might. By drawing on a unique and extensive dataset comprising of a wide array of political, economic and military networks for a vast number of countries between 1965 and 2005, we aim to 1) reassess alleged changes in the structure of the world-system since 1965 and 2) to analyze whether these changes can be attributed to ‘globalization’. Significant attention is paid to the trajectories of the BRICS and to the possibly divergent structural evolutions of the political and economic dimensions that constitute the system. Our results show that despite a certain degree of power convergence between countries at the sub-top of the system, overall, divergence continues to take place between the most and least powerful, and stratification is reproduced. Globalization is further shown to exacerbate this trend, though its effect differs on the political and economic dimensions of the system. Overall, though the traditional ‘core powers’ might have to share their power with newcomer China in the future, this hardly heralds a new age in which the global system of power relations are converging to the extent that stratification is being undermined.

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