Prestige in world politics: History, theory, expression

Steve Wood*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Prestige recurs through history, in all societies and as a direct, incidental or implicit theme in social and natural sciences. However, aside from relatively few exceptions the academic attention it has attracted as an influence in politics has been sporadic or tangential rather than large scale and intensive. This article argues that: prestige is an enduring and protean feature of political behaviour, compatible with and a potential confluence for diverse approaches and interpretations; if not overlooking it, International Relations tends to treat prestige as subordinate to material and strategic goals, or as an ideational construct for which instrumental aspects are extraneous; prestige resides in the background of many analyses, neither repudiated nor explored; prestige is distinct but not isolated from power: material, social or imagined; and empirical bases to support these claims can be drawn on from almost every age and culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-411
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


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