Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
In This Section

Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy

Editor-in-Chief: Caruso, Raul

Ed. by Böhmelt, Tobias / Bove, Vincenzo / Kibris, Arzu / Sekeris, Petros

4 Issues per year

CiteScore 2016: 0.39

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.182
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 0.224

See all formats and pricing
In This Section
Volume 19, Issue 3 (Dec 2013)


Volume 17 (2011)

Volume 4 (1996)

Volume 3 (1995)

Volume 2 (1994)

Volume 1 (1993)

Major Power Status (In)Consistency and Political Relevance in International Relations Studies

Renato Corbetta
  • Corresponding author
  • Government, University of Alabama at Birmingham, HHB 411 1401 University Blvd, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA
  • Email:
/ Thomas J. Volgy
  • Department of Government and Public Policy, University of Arizona, Social Sciences 330, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
/ J. Patrick Rhamey Jr.
  • Department of International Studies and Political Science, Virginia Military Institute, 435 Scott Shipp Hall, Lexington, VA 24450, USA
Published Online: 2013-12-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/peps-2013-0046


Political relevance is frequently used as a sample selection criterion to limit massive data frames in which most dyads have little or no probability of interaction. Because political relevance may introduce bias in both sample composition and empirical findings, several studies have proposed alternative operationalizations. Yet, major power status appears in every definition of political relevance. This practice may be problematic for two reasons. First, authors often use major power status as a proxy for capabilities, while status itself may have an effect separate from capabilities. Second, popular operationalizations of major power status – including the Correlates of War classification – treat all great power states as having equal status and, consequently, as being equally predisposed towards various political behaviors and interactions. We suggest, instead, that the opportunity and willingness for political action vary among great powers as a function of their status consistency. Using the classification developed in [Volgy, Thomas J., Renato Corbetta, Keith A. Grant, Ryan G. Baird, (2011), Major Powers and the Quest for Status in International Politics: Global and Regional Perspectives, Palgrave MacMillan, New York], we propose that (1) major power states differ in their baseline probability for political interaction based on whether they are status consistent, status inconsistent overachievers, or status inconsistent underachievers and, therefore, that (2) politically relevant dyads may differ depending on the status consistency of the major power they contain. Using the 1950–2001 period as our empirical domain, we explore the implications of selecting politically relevant dyads based status (in)consistency for studies on conflict onset, conflict joining, and foreign intervention.

Keywords: status; major powers; political relevance; conflict


  • Azar, Edward E., (1980), The Conflict and Peace Data Bank (COPDAB) Project, Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 143–152.

  • Bennett, D. Scott, (2006), Exploring Definitions of Political Relevance, Conflict Management and Peace Science, vol. 23 no. Fall, pp. 245–261. [Crossref]

  • Bennett, D. Scott and Alan Stam, (2000), EUGene: A Conceptual Manual, International Interactions, vol. 26, pp. 179–204. [Crossref]

  • Bond, Doug, Joe Bond, Churl Oh, J. Craig Jenkins, Charles Lewis Taylor, (2003), Integrated Data for Events Analysis: An Event Typology for Automated Events Data Development, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 40, pp. 733–745. [Crossref]

  • Braumoeller, Bear F., Austin Carson, (2011), Political Irrelevance, Democracy, and the Limits of Militarized Conflict, Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 55, no. 2, pp. 292–320. [Crossref] [Web of Science]

  • Bremer, Stuart A, (1992), Dangerous Dyads: Conditions Affecting the Likelihood of Interstate War, 1816–1965, Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 36, pp. 309–341. [Crossref]

  • Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce, (1981), The War Trap, Yale University Press, New Haven.

  • Cederman, Lars-Erik, Halvard Buhaug, Jan Ketil Rød, (2009), Ethno-Nationalist Dyads and Civil War: A GIS-Based Analysis, Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 53, no. 4, pp. 496–525. [Crossref] [Web of Science]

  • Clark, David H., Patrick M. Regan, (2003), Opportunities to Fight: A Statistical Technique for Modeling Unobservable Phenomena, Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 47, pp. 94–115. [Crossref]

  • Cline, Kirssa, Patrick Rhamey, Alexis Henshaw, Alesia Sedziaka, Aakriti Tandon, Thomas J. Volgy, (2011), Identifying Regional Powers and Their Status, in Thomas J. Volgy, Renato Corbetta, Keith A. Grant, Ryan G. Baird, (eds.), Major Powers and the Quest for Status in International Politics, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY.

  • Corbetta, Renato, William J. Dixon, (2005), Danger Beyond Dyads: Third-Party Participants in Militarized Interstate Disputes, Conflict Management and Peace Science, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 39–61. [Crossref]

  • Galtung, Johann, (1964), A Structural Theory of Aggression, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 1, pp. 95–119. [Crossref]

  • Ghosn, Faten, Glenn Palmer, Stuart A. Bremer. 2004. The MID3 Data Set, 1993–2001: Procedures, Coding Rules, and Description, Conflict Management and Peace Science, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 133–154.

  • Goldstein, Joshua, (1991), A Conflict-Cooperation Scale for WEIS Events Data, Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 36, pp. 369–385.

  • Jones, David M., Stuart A. Bremer, J. D. Singer, (1996), Militarized Interstate Disputes, 1816–1992: Rationale, Coding Rules, and Empirical Patterns, Conflict Management and Peace Science, vol. 15, pp. 163–213. [Crossref]

  • King, Gary, Langche Zeng, (2001), Explaining Rare Events in International Relations, International Organization, vol. 55, no. 3, pp. 693–715. [Crossref]

  • King, Gary, Will Lowe, (2003), An Automated Information Extraction Tool for International Conflict Data with Performance as Good as Human Coders: A Rare Events Evaluation Design, International Organization, vol. 57, pp. 617–642.

  • Kisangani, Emizet F., Jeffrey Pickering, (2008), International Military Intervention, 1989–2005. Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, Data Collection No. 21282, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

  • Larson, Deborah Welch, Alexei Shevchenko, (2003), Shortcut to Greatness: The New Thinking and the Revolution in Soviet Foreign Policy, International Organization, vol. 57, pp. 77–109.

  • Larson, Deborah Welch, Alexei Shevchenko, (2010), Status Seekers: Chinese and Russian Responses to U.S. Primacy, International Security, vol. 34, pp. 63–95. [Crossref] [Web of Science]

  • Lemke, Douglas, (2002), Regions of War and Peace, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

  • Lemke, Douglas, William Reed, (2001), The Relevance of Politically Relevant Dyads, Journal of Conflict Resolutions, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 126–144. [Crossref]

  • Levy, Jack S, (1983), War in the Modern Great Power System, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington.

  • Mansfield, Edward D., Jack Snyder, (2002), Incomplete Democratization and the Outbreak of Military Disputes, International Studies Quarterly, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 529–549. [Crossref]

  • Maoz, Zeev and Bruce M. Russett, (1993), Normative and Structural Causes of the Democratic Peace: 1946–1986, American Political Science Review, vol. 87, no. 3, pp. 624–638.

  • Maoz, Zeev, (1996), Domestic Sources of Global Change, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI.

  • Maoz, Zeev, (2010), Networks of Nations: The Evolution, Structure, and Impact of International Networks, 1816–2001, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

  • Marshall, Monty G., Keith Jaggers, Ted Robert Gurr, (2010), Polity IV Project: Political Regimes Characteristics and Transitions, 1800–2010. Typescript. Available at http://www.systemicpeace.org (last visited on 3/18/2013).

  • Mercer, Jonathan, (1995), Anarchy and Identity, International Organization, vol. 49, pp. 229–252. [Crossref]

  • Mercer, Jonathan, (1996), Reputation and International Politics, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.

  • Mitchell, Sara McLaughlin, Brandon C. Prins, (2004), Rivalry and Diversionary Uses of Force, Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 48, no. 6, pp. 937–961. [Crossref]

  • Most, Benjamin, Harvey Starr, (1989), Inquiry, Logic and International Politics, University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC.

  • Pearson, Frederic S., Robert A. Baumann, (1993), International Military Intervention, 1946–1988. Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, Data Collection No 6035, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

  • Quackenbush, Stephen L., (2006), Identifying Opportunity for Conflict: Politically Active Dyads, Conflict Management and Peace Science, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 37–51. [Crossref]

  • Ray, James Lee, (2003), Explaining Interstate Conflict and War: What Should be Controlled For? Conflict Management and Peace Science, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 1–32.

  • Sarkees, Meredith Reid, Frank Wayman, (2010), Resort to War: 1816–2007, CQ Press, Washington, DC.

  • Savun, Burcu, (2008), Mediator Types and the Effectiveness of Information Provision Strategies in the Resolution of International Conflict, in Jacob Bercovitch, Scott Sigmund Gartner, (eds.), International Conflict Mediation: New Approaches and Findings. Routledge, New York, NY.

  • Singer, David J, (1988), Reconstructing the Correlates of War Dataset on Material Capabilities of States, 1816–1985, International Interactions, vol. 14, pp. 115–132. [Crossref]

  • Singer, J. David, Stuart Bremer, John Stuckey, (1972), Capability Distribution, Uncertainty, and Major Power War, 1820–1965, in Bruce Russett, (ed.), Sage, Peace, War, and Numbers, Beverly Hills, pp. 19–48.

  • Small Melvin and J. David Singer, (1982), Resort to Arms: International and Civil Wars, 1816–1980, SAGE, Beverly Hills, CA.

  • Sylvan, David, Corinne Graff, Elisabetta Pugliese, (1998), Status and Prestige in International Relations, Presented at the Third Pan-European International Relations Conference, Vienna, Austria, September 16–19.

  • Tures, John A., (2002), The Dearth of Jointly Democratic Interventions, International Studies Quarterly, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 579–589. [Crossref]

  • Volgy, Thomas J., Renato Corbetta, Keith A. Grant, Ryan G. Baird, (2011), Major Powers and the Quest for Status in International Politics: Global and Regional Perspectives, Palgrave MacMillan, New York.

  • Weede, E., (1976), Overwhelming Preponderance as a Pacifying Condition among Contiguous Asian Dyads, 1950–1969, Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 20, pp. 395–411.

  • Wohlforth, William C., (2009), Unipolarity, Status Competition, and Great Power War, World Politics, vol. 61, pp. 28–57. [Crossref] [Web of Science]

  • Wohlforth, William, David C. Kang, (2009), Hypotheses on Status Competition, Presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Toronto.

  • Xiang, Jung, (2010), Relevance as a latent Variable in the Dyadic Analysis of Conflict, Journal of Politics, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 484–498. [Web of Science]

About the article

Corresponding author: Renato Corbetta, Government, University of Alabama at Birmingham, HHB 411 1401 University Blvd, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA, Tel.: +205-934-2336, Fax: +205-975-5712, E-mail:

Published Online: 2013-12-17

Published in Print: 2013-12-01

An unwanted consequence is that researchers drop dyads that experience conflict even if states are neither major powers nor geographically proximate. Some scholars have tweaked the defining traits of political relevance in order to make the concept more flexible (e.g., Bennett 2006; Quackenbush 2006).

For instance, COW considers the People’s Republic of China as having major power status starting in 1950 and through a period of enormous weakness in Chinese capabilities and a lack of assertiveness outside its immediate neighborhood. The same is true of Italy prior to the Second World War (Singer 1988).

The COW measure of major power status is only twice briefly defined (Singer 1988; Small and Singer 1982) and the methodology used in its operationalization remains vague.

Similar to the COW indicator, this approach rests on the assumption that members of the international system observe the same attributes as researchers when they consider which states should be attributed major power status. It differs however in specifying those attributes systematically.

We look at military size, military reach (spending for uniformed unit), size of the economy (GDP), and economic reach (trade as a proportion of global trade). The values of the four capability indicators and the following willingness measures should exceed a threshold of one standard deviation above the annual mean for all states.

We use events data are from COPDAB (Azar 1980), WEIS (Goldstein 1991), and IDEA (Bond et al. 2003; King and Lowe 2003), separated into dimensions of conflict and cooperation using Goldstein’s scale.

Diplomatic contacts data are from COW’s diplomatic exchange data (http://www.correlatesofwar.org/), updated in the DIPCON data (http://www.arizona.edu/~volgy/data.html). State visits are extracted from the three events data sources previously noted.

We again refer readers to Volgy et al. (2011) for further examples and discussion of issues concerning the validity of SAM compared to COW.

MID joining refers to third parties becoming actively involved in an ongoing militarized dispute between two states with the intent to aid one side in the dispute. Foreign interventions apply to outside states’ intervention into a target state’s territory in the absence of an ongoing interstate conflict (Kisangani and Pickering 2008).

The data frame and control variables were produced with EUGene software (Bennett and Stam 2000). Capability ratio refers to the weakest-to-strongest ratio in a dyad and is based on the Correlates of War’s Composite National Capability Index (CINC) (Singer 1988; Singer, Bremer, and Stuckey 1972). Shared alliance is a dichotomous variable capturing whether the two members of a dyad share any alliance pact. Shared democratic ties is a dummy variable coded 1 if both members of a dyad are considered mature democracies, scoring 6 or higher on the Polity Index (see Marshall, Jaggers, and Gurr 2010).

Data on dispute onset are from the COW Militarized Interstate Disputes (MID) project (Ghosn, Palmer, and Bremer 2004; Jones, Bremer, and Singer 1996); data on war onset are from COW’s Inter-State War data set (Sarkees and Wayman 2010); data on MID joining are from Corbetta and Dixon (2005); and data on foreign interventions are from Kisangani and Pickering (2008) and Pearson and Baumann (1993).

As contiguity is operationalized identically in either population of politically relevant dyads, differences between the two groups in the models are due to differences in the operationalization of status. We are mindful that the limited number of controls yields some degree of under specification bias, but our goal is to identify a minimum set of explanatory variables that are commonly associated with all of conflict events under consideration in order to improve comparability across models. Due to space limitations, we refrain from commenting on individual results from Tables 36. A more extensive discussion in included in the full version of the paper available from the authors on request.

In this case politically relevant dyads with a major power overachiever are more likely to experience foreign intervention than those containing an underachieving major power across all values of capability ratio. Recall, however, such a difference is not statistically significant.

Citation Information: Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy, ISSN (Online) 1554-8597, ISSN (Print) 1079-2457, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/peps-2013-0046. Export Citation

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

J Patrick Rhamey, Michael O Slobodchikoff, and Thomas J Volgy
Journal of International Relations and Development, 2014

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in