Ascending Order: Rising Powers and the Politics of Status in International Institutions, Rohan Mukherjee

Reviewed by Deborah Welch Larson

In the current era of power transitions, with some states rising and others declining, there is much uncertainty over how the competition will play out. Will India replace China’s as the world’s second-largest superpower? Historically, rising powers sought victory in a war against another major power to establish their great power credentials, but nuclear weapons and economic interdependence make such strategies prohibitively costly. Further removing the need for war, international institutions have not only proliferated, they have become much more like “clubs,” as indicators of a state’s relative standing.

Accordingly, analysts want to know whether aspiring powers will seek to enhance their status within existing international organizations, establish their own clubs, or act as “spoilers” in obstructing global governance. In Ascending Order, Rohan Mukherjee provides insights into this question by highlighting rising powers’ desire for symbolic equality. Regardless of whether their military or economic power measures up to that of the dominant states, rising powers want to be recognized as equals. Membership in elite international institutions and the opportunities for influence conferred by the rules of the organization are indicators of a state’s symbolic equality.

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