Gatekeeping the Great Power Club, GREATKEEP

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Pål Røren


Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge


DKK 850,000




Internationalisation Fellowships


My research is centered on what kind of status-seeking activities generates recognition within the top tier status club of world politics: the great powers. To be recognized as a great power is the biggest accolade world politics has to offer. It follows therefore, that major powers are eager, and sometimes desperate, to seek entry to the great power club. In this project my aim is to map the membership composition of the great power club, what generates status within it, and how these dynamics have evolved over time. In the project I explore what kind of attributes, behavior, or actions that merits great power status. I do this by analyzing the established great powers' discursive reasoning for barring, including, or excluding existing members or entrants from the club.


While we know that major powers are obsessive status seekers, we know little about whether these bids for status actually lead to great power status. This gap is puzzling given the high stakes. If major powers were and are willing to sacrifice their citizens' wealth, kill people, or even destroy other states to become a great power, then we must understand whether these actions - however ethically alarming they might be - lead to status. My project fills this gap by analyzing actual concessions of status recognition. In doing so, the project offers a rigorous theoretical and methodological approach to analyzing status recognition and membership composition within the great power club. It also provides guidelines for strategic thinking about avoiding great power conflict.


In the project, I conceptualize the United States as the gatekeeper of the great power club. United States discursive recognition here serves as a litmus test for inclusion to the club. I apply a combination of two methodologies on data from United States newspaper editorials and op-eds and on debates in the United States congress from 1945 to 2020. First, I use explorative content analysis to trace the club's compositional boundaries and measure the saliency of status symbols associated with the club. Second, I use discourse analysis to explore the specific rhetorical strategies used change or maintain the compositional boundaries and relevant status symbols of the club. In this way, the project can identify who the members of the club are and the status symbols needed to enter it.

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