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Does size really matter? : a theoretical and empirical analysis of the argument that middle powers are qualitatively different from other states in the system Bendiksen, Lise Merete


This thesis examines the argument that middle powers in their foreign policies are qualitatively different from other states. Over time, what started as a term referring to states of medium capabilities has come to imply a certain type of state behavior. In common language today, it is typical for a middle power to engage in mediating, peacekeeping, cooperation-building and the like. The aim is to perform a critical analysis of both the theoretical and empirical substances of such statements. Theoretically, this involves discussing how the argument of the qualitative difference is constructed. What exactly is a middle power, and what are the behavioral characteristics commonly ascribed to such states? Empirically, it involves using this theoretical structure to locate possible middle powers in the system, and to evaluate their behavior on a few variables against the performance of other states. The results indicate that the idea of the qualitatively different middle power can be subject to more theoretical rigor than has previously often been the case. When this framework is tested empirically, the results show a weak basis for some of the most commonly claimed examples of middle power behavior. Overall, this investigation finds little empirical support for the argument that middle powers are qualitatively different.

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