Lateral Pressure Theory

Lateral Pressure Theory

Lateral pressure theory is a concept in international relations that describes the effects of growth (typically economic/industrial) on a state's relations with other states. The theory, first formulated in 1975 by Robert North and Nazli Choucri, in their book "Nations in Conflict", suggests that as states advance economically, they must acquire new resources to meet growing demand and sustain growth. The pursuit of such resources is a potential source of conflict between the expanding state and other states. Because resources are limited, the situation is a zero-sum game in which one nation's gain is another's loss. Also, since powerful states have better access to resources, states compete for power and influence beyond the original scope of the conflict. The development of Japan and its subsequent involvement in World War II is an historical example of lateral pressure contributing to conflict. More recently, neoconservative theorists have predicted that China's rapid economic advancement will jeopardize Sino-American relations; however, liberal theorists maintain that relations between states are not always based on competition, emphasizing the ability of economic interdependence, international institutions, and the spread of democratic ideas to encourage cooperation and make violent conflict less desirable. Additionally, expanded forms of lateral pressure theory have been cited to describe environmental issues such as deforestation.


*Choucri, Nazli and Robert C. North. 1993. "Growth, Development, and Environmental Sustainability: Profile and Paradox." In Nazli Choucri, ed., "Global Accord: Environmental Challenges and International Responses", Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
*Choucri, Nazli and Robert C. North. 1975. "Nations in Conflict: National Growth and Industrial Violence", San Francisco: Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-0773-X
* Goldstein, Joshua S. and Jon C. Pevehouse (2006) "International Relations, 7th Ed.", Pearson Longman ISBN 0-321-35474-5
*Lofdahl, Corey L. 2002. "Environmental Impacts of Globalization and Trade: A Systems Study". Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-12245-6

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