Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Hierarchy: Great, Middle and Emerging States

According to Kenkel’s unoriginal model, middle powers are state actors that can influence the international stage in certain situations, and are usually steered by national interests while relying on multilateral organizations (IGOs and NGOs), multilateral trade relationships (trade blocs) and multilateral negotiations (2010).  If there are emerging states on the international stage, then it is only plausible to acknowledge that there are declining states as well.  Mexico, despite its large amounts of trade agreements and natural resources, is technically a declining middle power due to the effects of private sector exploitation through the North American Free Trade Agreement, government corruption and ineffectiveness, and “Mexico’s subordinate role to the U.S.” (Villarreal, 2012).  Mexico no longer impacts the international stage as a global actor, as it once did when it served as a link between “Third World countries and the United States” (Villarreal, 2012) during the bipolar Cold War years.  There is no longer bipolarity, balanced between two great powers, to the international stage under globalization as the great states influence and regulate the multi-national IGOs and NGOs, organizations such as the UN Security Council, the World Bank, the IMF, the World Trade Organization and NATO, which bind the middle and emerging states in their hierarchical positions on the international stage.  

While great state powers influence all levels of international areas and middle powers are considered as occasional global actors, states identified as emerging powers are labeled by Kenkel as regional actors (2010).  This is understandable from Kenkel’s point of view, because these emerging states are considered subset actors (2010).  Therefore, you have subset actors, emerging states, acting regionally under globalization and middle power states acting globally under globalization, with the great state (or states with the most accumulated capital and technology) controlling the IGOs and NGOs.   It was Kenkel himself that differentiated great states from middle and emerging states by explaining that great powers, such as the United States, can basically influence any international situation (2010).  Interestingly enough, Kenkel doesn’t acknowledge a category for private sector entities or private sector actors and, under globalization, leaves his analysis lacking.  After all, Kenkel’s theory is basically the same theory that Giovanni Botero used in the 16th century “when he divided the world into three different types of states – grandissime (empires), mezano (middle powers), and piccioli (small powers)” (Turner, 1903, p. 143).

The same consolidation of capital (and therefore technology) that has currently developed is nothing new.  It has been occurring within the borders of capitalist state entities for centuries, and now on an international model has created a global hierarchy of states:  great, middle, emerging.  The great power, with its mass capital and technology, influences all multilateral organizations, which are made up of the middle and emerging states who are constantly vying for better positioning.   

While Mexico has been identified as a declining state, Brazil is certainly a legitimate emerging state; the new Latin American girlfriend for international capital investment.  In fairness, it depends on how the government of Brazil handles the opportunity in currently finds itself in.  Certainly, it’s political past of military government rule has delayed Brazil’s emergence onto the global market long enough to be very beneficial for its current emergence.  Regional peacekeeping is one characteristic of an emerging state under the Kenkel model, and Brazil also plays the role of an emerging power on this level.  Increased involvement in UN peacekeeping missions has taken Brazilian contributions and influence outside of Latin America to an international level (possibly emerging into a middle power in the decades ahead).  Brazil’s increased involvement under MUNUSTAH (the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) is a perfect example (United Nations, 2014).  Between 2008 and 2011, peacekeeping contributions from Central and South American states have been consistent and “Brazil’s contribution has doubled, making up for smaller decreases by several other countries” (Gowen and Gleason, 2012, p. 13).  Although, these peacekeeping missions are usually aimed to enforce stability and globalization-friendly regime support (or building) in order to open the natural resources of an unstable area to the global market.


Gowan, Richard and Gleason, Megan.  2012.  UN Peacekeeping: The Next Five Years.  New York University Center on International Cooperation.  Accessed on February 19, 2014.

Kenkel, Kai. 2010. South America’s emerging power: Brazil as a peacekeeper. International Peacekeeping 17, no.5: 644-661

United Nations.  2014.  MINUSTAH United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.  Accessed on February 19, 2014.

Villarreal, Pablo. 2012. Mexico’s foreign policy: a new opportunity. The Wagner Review. 7 December 2012.


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