ABSTRACT. At a time in which enormous shifts in power are taking place worldwide power transition theory (PTT) once again rises into prominence and scholars increasingly use PTT as a template to analyze future US–China relations. From this vantage point the questions when the People’s Republic will reach parity with the United States and whether China is satisfied with the international order are of paramount importance. In this article I argue, however, that PTT is in need of adjustments regarding both aspects and namely that it is necessary: a) to discard the notion of satisfaction as a dichotomous variable and b) to correct PTT’s tendency to approach complex power relations as if they were simple bilateral stand-offs. I illustrate my arguments utilizing the empirical case of Weimarian Germany. For PTT Germany offers a crucial case. Three wars initiated by Germany/Prussia (the War of 1870/71, World War I and World War II) are among the chief vindications of PTTs central insight, that power transitions are prone to great power wars. In all three instances, Germany/Prussia was not only a rising power but also dissatisfied with the prevalent international order just as PTT expects. However, there are two further periods in which Germany reached parity with the dominant power in the 1920s. Peace prevailed according to the PTT account because Germany was satisfied with the status quo of the international order at the time. In this article I thoroughly analyze the European power constellations and the German (dis-)satisfaction with the international order throughout the different periods of the Weimar Republic. My results show that Weimarian Germany is in fact at odds with standard PTT, as it was not clearly satisfied; but in line with my adjusted version of PTT, as the German dissatisfaction varied throughout the investigation period while Germany was always less powerful than the defenders of the status quo combined. This finding has important ramifications for the current global power shifts and a possible future power transition involving the U.S. and China. pp. 127–158

Keywords: IR theory; international order; satisfaction with the status quo; power shifts; interwar period; Weimar Republic

How to cite: Rauch, Carsten (2016), “Adjusting Power Transition Theory – Satisfaction with the Status Quo, International Power Constellations, and the Case of the Weimar Republic,” Geopolitics, History, and International Relations 8(2): 127–158.

Received 15 February 2016 • Received in revised form 24 March 2016
Accepted 25 March 2016 • Available online 10 April 2016


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Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF);
Goethe University Frankfurt

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