According to Organski: Natural and Social

According to Palmer and Perkins: Tangible and Intangible

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Broadly speaking there is following elements of power:

(1) Geography:

Among the geographical elements of power size, location, climate, topography and boundary are important ones. The exponents of geographical elements include.

(a) Size:

The large size of a country enables it to accommodate large population. It can also be a source of large and varied natural resources. The military advantages of a country’s size were even acknowledged by Hitler.

A large size can help the country to defend itself. It was the largeness of size that enabled China to defeat Japan and Russia to defeat the armies of Napoleon and Hitler.

As Mohinder Kumar observes, “In- a time of war a large country can retreat and yet have space left in which to mobilize power and prepare for counter­attack.” It enables location of strategic industries at safer places away from easy targets of attack from enemy.

(b) Location:

England’s supremacy in sea was perhaps due to its location. A favourable location can be a strength to a nation’s power and an unfavourable location can hinder such prospects. Land locked countries often suffer in prospects for power in comparison to a country’s location along sea.

(c) Climate:

The role of climate in a nation’s power is emphasized by Stephen B. Jones in his article “The power Inventory and National Strategy” and Nicolos J. Spykman in his “Geography and Foreign Policy”. Generally it is assumed that extreme climate is not favourable for a nation’s power.

As Mohinder Kumar observes “A country must have a temperate climate to be a major power because it is climate which conditions its population to engage in the kind of activity required for a modern industrial nation”.

(d) Topography:

It constitutes the existence of geographical/physical features in a state. Natural boundaries have a decisive importance in determining the power of a state.

For example the Himalayas in India, Pyrenese in Spain, and English Channel in England provide strength and security to these countries. However, these features are not exclusive in themselves. They have to be adequately garrisoned and vigilance must be kept along these fronts.

(e) Boundary:

Boundary disputes and conflict has been a major irritant in securing harmonious relation between two countries. Consequently, if boundaries are well defined and clearly marked, they can be a significant factor in nation’s power.

A severe limitation of geographical elements of power is highlighted by Padelford and Lincoln, who observe “The astronomical impact of technology in areas such as communication, air mobility, ICBM (Inter Continental Ballistic Missile) systems, nuclear weaponry, intelligence gathering, and satellite has drastically collapsed the strategic (Geographic) obstacles to the projections of national power”.

In today’s world, geography does not remain an independent variable of national power. Its role must be examined in relation to other factors. As Robert Richow remarks “Although it is well to recognize the contribution of geography to the destiny of state, it is well also not to over-rate it

Men are not trees wholly at the mercy of the environment. Instead men may perversely thrive on obstacles.

A nation without a coast or good harbor can hardly become a sea power by the same token it is more than rain, sunshine to make crops-someone has to cultivate the soil”.

(2) Natural Resources:

Natural resources remain a crucial element of a nation’s power. They have crucial significance for economic as well as military power of a nation.

As Mohinder Kumar observes “A strong nation without resources can obtain them by one or the other method of power, whereas a weak nation even with abundant resources is likely to lose not only its resources but even its freedom. History is full of examples to show the lack of natural resource limiting the power of a nation.

Deposits of oil in the Arab States remain the most crucial element of their power in international relations. Likewise, the self-sufficiency of United States in respect of key materials has contributed to its industrial and military strength.

However, the existence of raw materials/natural resources cannot be the sole guarantee of a nation’s power.

The ability to exploit the raw materials is a factor, almost as important as the existence of raw materials.

Apart from raw materials, food is also an important ingredient of national power. As Morgenthau observes, “Nations self sufficient in food are better placed than nations which import food”.

The problem of food shortage has remained a big handicap for the developing countries. They have to depend upon grants and import which limits their own power.

(3) Population:

Population plays a crucial role in the power of a country. As Mussolini observed “Let us be frank with ourselves

What are 40 million Italians compared with 90 million Germans and 200 million Slaves”. Its implication is also acknowledged by Voltaire, who observed that “God is always on the side of the biggest battalions”. Role of population has been highlighted by Organski and Davis in their “Population and International Relations”.

The obvious advantages of population are that it can provide basis to military power, help build sound and progressive economy through labour force, it can be a source of other material and psychological advantages.

However, a large population by itself is no guarantee for a nation’s power. An illiterate population without the knowledge of modern methods is a poor base of power.

Its contribution to military or economic power as Mohinder Kumar observes “depends upon many factors, particularly, upon the degree to which a nation has industrialized and modernized its military forces and productive machinery”.

Similarly, Palmer and Perkin’s remarked “Large population may be a source of weakness or a source of strength in the modern world.

The test is whether or not a state can utilize its human resources effectively, can support them at tolerable standards of living, and can provide constructive outlet for their talents and energies.

In developed countries, large numbers are usually a source of strength, whereas in underdeveloped countries the opposite is usually the case”.

(4) Economic Development:

The level of economic development and effective economic organization has remained a factor of pivotal importance for a nation’s power.

This has become more pronounced than ever. On the one hand it supplements military power, on the other hand it provide basis for welfare and prosperity of the people.

A nation which produces surplus of production uses it in many ways. It can act as means of persuasion and punishment giving the nation leverage in international relations.

Even Morgenthau acknowledged the role of advanced industries, as he remarked “The technology of modern warfare and communications has made the over-all development of heavy industries an indispensable element of national power.

The quality and productive capacity of the industrial plant, the know-how of the working man, the skill of the engineer, the inventive genius of the scientist, the managerial organization-are those factors upon which industrial capacity of a nation and hence its power depends”.

(5) National Morale:

National morale is an important element of national power.

Definitions of National Morale


“The degree of determination with which a nation supports the foreign policies of its government in peace and war, it permeates all activities of a nation, its agriculture and industrial productions as well as its military establishments and diplomatic service”.


“The extent to which the people support their leaders, believe in the superiority of their state and in the Tightness of their cause”.

Mohinder Kumar:

“The sum-total of the individual qualities of men in a nation in the form of their willingness to put the nation’s welfare above their own personal welfare”

National morale is based on people’s willingness to sacrifice. As such, it can be a great ingredient in nation’s power.

(6) Ideology:

Ideology has a great role in nation’s power. History provides ample proof as to how the ideology of communism and nationalism has affected the power positions of nations. The role of ideology as an element of national power has been emphasized by V.V. Dyke, who observes “To be strong, a government must stand for ideas which command support at least at home, and it will be stronger if they also command support abroad”. A broad analysis of ideological elements of power has been undertaken by Bertrand Russell in his “Power: A New Social Analysis”.

However, the ideology can be both; positive and negative source for a nation’s power. If it can minister power, it can also weaken states. Nazism weakened Hitler’s Germany and Fascism did the same to Mussolini’s Italy.

(7) Political Structure:

Like other elements of power, political structure also serves as an element of power. Moreover, it acquires crucial importance in view of its being an agency for steering and coordination.

A well organized, efficient government always remains strength for a nation. As V.V. Dyke observes “Effectiveness of government organization and administration within a state is another element of national power

It is required for a judicious and proper use of resources and exercise of power. Government alone can effectively mobilize the elements of national power and thereby increase it. Lack of effective and well organized government can seriously limit the power of a state”.

The contemporary experiences reveal that democratic governments serve as a better ingredient of power than dictatorial ones. The democratic governments have been able to harness power that has been durable and effective in international relationships.

(8) Military Preparedness:

It remains a crucial element of national power. According to Robinson, “Military preparedness is the most important and tangible factor capable of supporting the foreign policy and promoting national interest”.

The methods of war and quantity and quality of arms, ammunition and soldiers have vibrant impact on nation’s power.

A country with high degree of warfare techniques has obvious advantages. The advent of nuclear bombs and intercontinental missile technology has completely altered the domain of power equations.

Similarly, skilled, trained, experienced, dedicated, energetic and disciplined military leadership help in effective use of available weapons, equipment and manpower.

(9) Leadership:

The quality and wisdom of leadership is an invaluable element of power. For, other factors remain irrelevant; if they are not utilized effectively and efficiently. Sprout and Sprout in “Foundations of National Power” have pointed out the advantages of a wise and strength-full leadership.

Similarly, M.R. Singer in his “Weak States in a World of Powers” argues that leadership is inevitably connected to the strength of a nation. A mature leadership can be source of power, as V.V. Dyke observes “Political leadership determines in what proportion to allocate resources between military and civilian programmes, that is, how great the military power should be.

They allocate appropriations among the branches of the armed services. They determine when to seek alliances, with which states and on what terms!”

The different elements of power have their own strengths and weaknesses. But, it must be realized that no single factor is complete in itself. Different elements contribute in different ways towards the power of the nation. They do not contribute equally.

Moreover the nature of relationship among them is very complex and complicated one. Nevertheless, we may agree with Mohinder Kumar who says, “The various elements of power are interrelated and the value of each of them depends upon the presence of others”.

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