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Uncertainty, Shifting Power, and Appeasement


  • Powell, Robert


Great Britain faced an immensely complicated strategic problem in the 1930s, and important aspects of it can be stylized as a situation in which a state that is declining in power is unsure of the aims of a rising state. If those aims are limited, then the declining state prefers to appease the rising state's demands rather than go to war to oppose them. If, however, the rising state's demands are unlimited, then the declining state prefers fighting. And, given that the declining state is becoming weaker over time, it prefers fighting sooner rather than later if there is to be a war. This situation creates a trade-off: The earlier a state stands firm, the stronger it will be if war ensues, but the higher the chance of fighting an unnecessary war. In equilibrium, the declining state generally tries to appease the rising state by making a series of concessions.

Suggested Citation

  • Powell, Robert, 1996. "Uncertainty, Shifting Power, and Appeasement," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 90(4), pages 749-764, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:90:y:1996:i:04:p:749-764_20

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    Cited by:

    1. Francesco Caselli & Massimo Morelli & Dominic Rohner, 2015. "The Geography of Interstate Resource Wars," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(1), pages 267-315.
    2. Beviá, Carmen & Corchón, Luis C., 2010. "Peace agreements without commitment," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 469-487, March.
    3. Hee Min Kim & Jun Choi, 2002. "Uncertainty in foreign policy making: A Bayesian game analysis of Korea," Global Economic Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(3), pages 25-40.
    4. Sivanathan, Niro & Pillutla, Madan M. & Keith Murnighan, J., 2008. "Power gained, power lost," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 135-146, March.
    5. Morelli, Massimo & Rohner, Dominic, 2015. "Resource concentration and civil wars," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 32-47.
    6. Francesco Caselli, 2012. "The Geography of Inter-State Resource Wars," 2012 Meeting Papers 1174, Society for Economic Dynamics.

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