ISBN: 978-1-00-918681-0

Torbjørn L Knutsen

Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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Some rising powers upset the world order, others do not. Under which conditions do rising powers challenge international norms and rules? And why would they want to alter the very order which enabled their rise? These are timely questions in an age when China is catching up with the USA and the liberal world order is under stress. Ascending Order addresses these questions through ‘Institutional Status Theory’ (IST), which seeks to explain the behavior of rising powers seeking recognition. If extant great powers meet their demand for recognition, rising powers will obey established rules. If they do not, rising powers will challenge the established order. Three chapters apply IST to three cases of rising powers: late 19th-century USA, Japan during the interwar era, and India during the Cold War. A final chapter discusses China’s contemporary struggle for recognition. Ascending Order is meticulously researched. IST offers a credible alternative to established IR approaches by arguing that sovereign states constitute a hierarchical society (not an anarchical system). It highlights the importance of social status (rather than just material capabilities and power). It draws on social theories – notably social psychology, sociology, and economics (but eschews the simple rational-actor models of neorealism). Curiously, the book also avoids references to the long tradition of continental thinkers (from Plato to Rousseau, Hegel and Nietzsche) who paved the way for the core concept of the book: the struggle for recognition. If Mukherjee is correct, seeing the rise of China merely as a competitor and a challenge to the established, US-dominated international order is both misconceived and dangerous.