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Thorsteinn Kristinsson


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Webs of World Order : A Relational Theory of Rising Powers and the Evolution of International Order


  • Thorsteinn Kristinsson

Summary, in English

This dissertation advances a relational theory of rising powers and their influence on international order. The emergence of new great powers and the relative decline of incumbent ones is an inherent feature of world politics. In the modern world, these power transitions have taken place against the background of a core- periphery shaped structure of global relations. Great powers vied for dominance while at the same time expanding their reach across the globe, incorporating smaller states into the empires and spheres of influence in a ‘hub-and-spoke’ manner. Today, however, this core-periphery structure is unravelling. A unique feature of the current power transition is that it takes place against the backdrop of a dense and decentred structure of global relations. This dissertation argues that this transformation in the global structure of relations has profound implications for the nature of great power competition, as well as the nature and evolution of international order. To grasp those implications, this dissertation advances a relational theory of international order.
Article 1 provides the basis. It argues that the global structure of relations should be posited as the ‘subject’ of international order. The reach of international order is thus neither ubiquitous nor self-evident, but follows the dynamic structure of global relations between states over time. Today, the subject of international order is growing beyond the reach of the old liberal order.
Article 2 assesses the state of the Liberal International Order in East Asia. Its core argument is that we need to theorise international order independently of the power and preferences of hegemonic states such as the US. International order is thus construed as a supranational political construct. Despite relative US decline, it finds strong support for the liberal order in East Asia.
Article 3 discusses the influence of relational structures on the nature of great power competition. It argues that the dense and decentred structure that is emerging reduces the incentives for aggressive great power competition compared to the previous core-periphery structure. It also argues that this decentred structure gives rising powers more ‘space’ for international building without impinging on the home turf of existing powers.


  • Statsvetenskapliga institutionen






Lund Political Studies






Lund University


  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


  • Rising powers
  • international order
  • relational IR
  • great power competition




  • Kristina Jönsson
  • Martin Hall


  • ISSN: 0460-0037
  • ISBN: 978-91-8039-476-5
  • ISBN: 978-91-8039-475-8


16 december 2022




Eden's auditorium, Allhelgona kyrkogata 14, Lund


  • Trine Flockhart (Professor)