A Twenty-First Century Concert of Powers

Even though we tend to not recognize it, today’s world is in peril: While the number and type of actors has multiplied in the process of globalization, great powers retain their dominant role in international security. The central element of global security governance, the one factor that presents a road fork between the paths to peace and to war and which also is a precondition to successful management of several other important issues, thus concerns the relations between the major powers. If they cooperate, global security governance becomes a viable opportunity. If they don’t, security cooperation is impossible and the likelihood of major violent conflicts will rise.

The starting point of our research consists of the actual positions, attitudes, and policies of the great powers of the 21st century: What are their interests, values, aims and practices? In particular what kinds of justice claims are incorporated in their foreign and security policy? Historically, these claims have been especially present in eras of power transition. During these periods the leading power tends to defend its dominant position which according to its beliefs belongs justly to itself, while the rising states strive, justified as they believe, for their own “place in the sun”. In such situations the following factors play a prominent role: a) supposedly justifiable claims of status and participation rights articulated by the great powers regarding their relations and interactions amongst themselves; b) conceptions of a just world order; and c) national interests.


On the basis of such an inventory of national positions - material interests as well as ideas - we can approach the question about which norms, procedures, and institutions are necessary to foster an arrangement of peaceful cooperation among the great powers of the current international system. To be adequate, such an arrangement has to include provisions which are able to incorporate great powers into a joint project of war prevention, even if they have different systems of political rule, competing justice claims, and diverging ideological backgrounds that are embedded in their national political cultures and reflected by their societal norms.

Our project “A Twenty-First Century Concert of Powers” utilizes the „European Concert“ of the nineteenth century as a template for such a new security arrangement which shall be capable of fostering peace, mitigating conflict, and most notably be able to manage the upcoming power transition in the international system in terms of Just Peace Governance.

The “European Concert” is one of the few examples of successful governance strategies aimed at maintaining peace in a multipolar system. The Concert was able to incorporate liberal (Great Britain and France after 1830) and conservative (Austria-Hungary, Prussia, and Russia) powers even in a time of rapid social, economic and political change and friction. For more than one generation it was able to prevent the outbreak of great power wars in Europe. Furthermore, it provided a framework for the management of limited political change emerging from socio-cultural developments, notably nationalist movements, at least to some degree. These achievements made it possible to spatially confine later great power wars and allowed for moderately successful crisis management in the period between the formation of the Second German Reich and the eve of World War I.

Since it is not possible to adopt a concept from a different historical and cultural context one-to-one to the contemporary system, it is an important task of the project to identify the conditions for the (early) success as well as the later decline and ultimate failure of the “European Concert” in order to derive possible lessons for the world of today. There is extensive academic historical literature on the „European Concert” that can be used as a basis for secondary data analysis. Each condition for success, which can be deduced from this literature, has to be examined concerning its applicability to a “Twenty-First Century Concert”. Where mere adoption is not possible or feasible, functional equivalents should be identified. Likewise, each condition for failure has to be thoroughly analyzed in order to find ways to minimize its influence. This is especially important for conditions of failure which we expect to play a role in contemporary great power relations.

For a successful adaptation of features of the historical Concert to today’s circumstances, several crucial questions must be answered. First, how to deal with the fact that, in contrast to the regional historical framework, a contemporary concert has to be conceived globally, with no “empty spaces” remaining into which expansionary ambitions can be directed. Second, how to tackle the crucial issue of military security and balance which was left unregulated in the European Concert? Third, how to grant ownership in the international order to middle powers and the international community as a whole, that is, how to add a certain legitimacy to the intended efficiency of great power cooperation?

The final question that has to be addressed concerning the construction and impact of a “Twenty-First Century Concert” revolves around the precarious relation between established formal principles and responsibilities arising from international law (e.g. the Security Council of the United Nations and regional organizations) and the chances of rather informal great power cooperation (e.g. a “concerted” version of the G8) to interfere with these competencies. Other factors to be taken into account are: claims by great powers to special responsibilities and rights within the international community; the role of socialization into existing international organizations in the course of a power transition; and the role which informal coalitions (e.g. in the UN) might play to mitigate negative consequences of great power policies to some degree.

This research project is conducted by a study group consisting of experts from China, France, Germany, India, Russia, the UK and the USA.

This research project has been funded by the Volkswagen Foundation in cooperation with the Riksbankens Julileumsfund and the Compagnia di San Paolo within the scope of the program “Europe and Global Challenges”.

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1
Just a Concert or a Just Concert: The Role of Justice and Fairness Considerations | 2018

Müller, Harald/Müller, Daniel/Rauch, Carsten (2018): Just a Concert or a Just Concert: The Role of Justice and Fairness Considerations, in: Müller, Harald/Rauch, Carsten (eds), Great Power Multilateralism and the Prevention of War. Debating a 21st Century Concert of Powers, Abingdon: Routledge, 144–159, www.routledge.com/(...).

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2
Great Power Multilateralism and the Prevention of War | 2018

Müller, Harald/Rauch, Carsten (eds), (2018): Great Power Multilateralism and the Prevention of War. Debating a 21st Century Concert of Powers, Abingdon: Routledge, www.routledge.com/(...).

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3
The Exclusion Problem and the Need for Legitimacy | 2018

Jüngling, Konstanze/Mallavarapu, Siddarth (2018): The Exclusion Problem and the Need for Legitimacy, in: Müller, Harald/Rauch, Carsten (eds), Great Power Multilateralism and the Prevention of War. Debating a 21st Century Concert of Powers, Abingdon: Routledge, 160–175, www.routledge.com/(...).

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4
The concert of powers and competing government models | 2017

Spanger, Hans-Joachim (2017): The concert of powers and competing government models, in: Müller, Harald/Rauch, Carsten (eds), Great Power Multilateralism and the Prevention of War, Abingdon: Routledge, 125–143, https://www.routledge.com/(...).

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5
Machtübergänge und Machtübergangstheorie | 2017

Rauch, Carsten (2017): Machtübergänge und Machtübergangstheorie, in: Ide, Tobias (Hg.), Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, Stuttgart: UTB GmbH, 161–192.

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Managing Power Transitions: Towards a 21st Century Concert of Powers | 2016

Müller, Harald/Rauch, Carsten (2016): Managing Power Transitions: Towards a 21st Century Concert of Powers, in: Journal of International Security Studies, 34:4, 36-37.

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7
Make Concert, Not War: Power Change, Conflict Constellations, and the Chance to Avoid Another 1914 | 2015

Harald Müller/Carsten Rauch, Make Concert, Not War: Power Change, Conflict Constellations, and the Chance to Avoid Another 1914", in: Herberg-Rothe, Andreas (Hg.), Lessons from World War I for the Rise of Asia, Stuttgart: ibidem, 2015, S. 39-68.

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8
Realität oder Chimäre: Indiens Aufstieg in der Weltpolitik | 2015

Carsten Rauch, Realität oder Chimäre: Indiens Aufstieg in der Weltpolitik, HSFK-Report Nr. 4/2015, Frankfurt/M.

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9
Machtübergangsmanagement durch ein Mächtekonzert | 2015

Harald Müller/Carsten Rauch, Machtübergangsmanagement durch ein Mächtekonzert. Plädoyer für ein neues Instrument zur multilateralen Sicherheitskooperation, in: Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, 4 (1), Juni 2015, S. 36-73. Online: www.nomos-elibrary.de/index.php.

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10
Beyond Peace and War | 2015

Carsten Rauch, Beyond Peace and War: Towards a Typology of Power Transitions, in: Air and Space Power Journal - Africa and Francophonie, 6(3), 2015, S. 4-15. Online: http://www.au.af.mil/au/afri/aspj/apjinternational/aspj_f/article.asp?ID=155.

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Großmächtebeziehungen | 2014

Harald Müller, Großmächtebeziehungen. Abschreckung und nukleare Abrüstung: Ein Perspektivwechsel, in: Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, Jg. 3, Nr. 1, 2014, S. 99-130. 

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A Twenty-First Century Concert of Powers | 2014

The 21st Century Concert Study Group, A Twenty-First Century Concert of Powers – Promoting Great Power Multilateralism for the Post-Transatlantic Era, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, Frankfurt/M., 2014.

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13
Ein Mächtekonzert für das 21. Jahrhundert | 2014

Harald Müller/Konstanze Jüngling/Daniel Müller/Carsten Rauch, Ein Mächtekonzert für das 21. Jahrhundert, HSFK-Report Nr. 1/2014, Frankfurt/M.

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14
Das Konzept des friedlichen Machtübergangs | 2014

Carsten Rauch, Das Konzept des friedlichen Machtübergangs. Die Machtübergangstheorie und der weltpolitische Aufstieg Indiens, Studien der Hessischen Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung (Bd. 26), Baden-Baden (Nomos), 2014

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Großmächtige Worte? | 2013

Konstanze Jüngling, Großmächtige Worte? Zur Wirkung verbaler Menschenrechtskritik auf Russland im Falle des Grosny-Ultimatums, in: Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen Jg. 20, Nr. 2, 2013, S. 35-63.

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Making the World Safe for Power Transition | 2013

Carsten Rauch/Iris Wurm, Making the World Safe for Power Transition. Towards a Conceptual Combination of Power Transition Theory and Hegemony Theory, in: The Journal of Global Faultlines Jg. 1, Nr. 1, 2013, S. 50-69.

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Die EU als weltpolitischer Spieler: | 2011

Matthias Dembinski/ Harald Müller/ Carsten Rauch, Die EU als weltpolitischer Spieler: zwischen Renationalisierungstendenzen und Supermachtsphantasien, in: Margret Johannsen/ Bruno Schoch/ Corinna Hauswedel/ Tobias Debiel/ Christiane Fröhlich (Hg.), Friedensgutachten 2011, Münster (LIT), 2011.

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Donors

Funding initiative "Europe and Global Challenges" of the VolkswagenStiftung
Funding initiative "Europe and Global Challenges" of the VolkswagenStiftung
www.volkswagenstiftung.de/en/funding/international-focus/europe-and-global-challenges
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond
www.rj.se/en
Compagnia di San Paolo
Compagnia di San Paolo
www.compagniadisanpaolo.it/eng