American Sociological Association

The Social Sources of Geopolitical Power: French and British Diplomacy and the Politics of Interstate Recognition, 1689 to 1789

Why did France influence the geopolitical system of eighteenth-century Europe more effectively than did Britain? Explanations pointing to states’ military and economic power are unable to explain this outcome. I argue that durable geopolitical influence depends on states’ symbolic capacities to secure recognition from competitor states, in addition to their coercive and economic capacities. And I show that states are liable to secure recognition to the extent that their agents embody social dispositions congruent with those of competitor agents. France converted military and economic power into durable influence in eighteenth-century Europe because French agents and most of their European counterparts shared courtly standards of competence, and they were invested in the common stakes of patrimonial sovereignty. By contrast, Britain failed to convert its greater material power into similar influence because British agents tended to lack courtly manners and they were uninterested in patrimonial stakes.


Jonah Stuart Brundage





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