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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchWhy Nations Rise: Narratives and the Path to Great Power

Why Nations Rise: Narratives and the Path to Great Power

Author: Manjari Chatterjee Miller (Boston University)

Reviewer: Xiaofeng Liu (Department of Geography, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, SAR, China)

Organization/Publisher: The AAG Review of Books/ American Association of Geographers

Date/Place: April 7, 2022/London, the UK

Type of Literature: Book Review

Number of Pages: 3



Keywords: Rising Powers, Reticent Powers, Narratives




This book explores the question of why some nations are becoming rising powers and others are not. The material explanation falls short to answer this question, because while some states have a great economic power potential, they are still not able to reach the levels of great powers. The author argues that it is not the international order that defines the trajectories of the great powers, but the convincing narratives of their rise and rightful place in the international system. Those who lack this potential of constructing a powerful narrative fall short of becoming a rising power, despite having all other resources. Miller further argues that the countries becoming rising powers should be equipped with three elements: acquiring economic and military power, intentionally obtaining global authority, and pursuing both internal and external recognition while assimilating with the established world order. Those who only acquire one of these, particularly economic and military power, remain reticent. The book proposes the notion of idea advocacy to understand how a rising power manages its own rise through its beliefs of changing status. For instance, Japan created the slogan of enrich the country, strengthen the military and the purpose of being modernized and civilized to legitimize its imperialist expansion in Asia. This book uses the non-material approach to the understanding of rise of powers. But Xiaofeng’s critical review of the book is that the state is not a monolith and that narratives are dynamic. He finds it problematic that even though the author answers how narratives are constructed, she does not explain why they are constructed and successfully deployed. He further puts his concerns around the question that even though Miller makes a comparison between rising Meiji Japan and the reticent Cold War Japan, and rising America and reticent Netherlands, the author has not conceptualized the transition of why a country rises in one period and falls silent in other eras. 


By: Ruby Clayton, CIGA Research Associate



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