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In The Great Powers and Global Struggle, Karen A. Rasler and William R. Thompson focus on two themes: the rise and fall as well as the relative decline of major world powers over the past five hundred years, and the way in which these processes have set the stage for the outbreak of global war. Their interdisciplinary approach encompasses political science, economics, sociology, geography, and history. The most significant wars occur when regional leaders—historically in Western Europe—challenge global leaders. By studying the wars of Napoleon, Louis XIV, Phillip II and the Italian/Indian Ocean wars of the sixteenth century through World Wars I and II to the present, the authors challenge the long-held idea that prosperity leads to over-consumption and underinvestment and thus decline—a theory, traceable to ancient times, that remains the principal explanation for global decline today. Arguments about global structural change and its implications abound, but rarely is the abstract translated into concrete historical terms with emphases on specific actors and empirical documentation. Rasler and Thompson reinterpret the past five hundred years of major-power warfare and provide extensive tests of the eighteen generalizations critical to their argument. They conclude that those who argue that global war and repositioning are no longer a concern among the major powers lack critical understanding of the behavior that contributes to such conflict.

Karen A. Rasler is associate professor of political science at Indiana University.

William R. Thompson is professor of political science at Indiana University.

"Rasler and Thompson's analysis is unique among long cycle theorists because of their concentration on the role of rising regional leaders in the cycle of concentration-deconcentration-reconcentration in the distribution of power in the international system."—Choice

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






World politics, Geopolitics, European history


European History

The Great Powers and Global Struggle, 1490-1990
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