The Enduring Legacy of Robert Gilpin

How He Predicted Today's Great Power Rivalry

Chinese and U.S. flags in Washington, January 2011. Hyungwon Kang / REUTERS

Robert G. Gilpin, one of the leading realist scholars of international political economy, passed away on June 20. When Gilpin began his career, the field of IPE, which is the study of how politics and economics interact in the global system, was in its infancy. He helped define the subject, and his realist vision established one of the primary lenses through which scholars have studied the field ever since. His clear and precise writing made his ideas accessible to a larger public. Today, the resurgence of nationalism, the rise of China, and the ascension of populist leaders in advanced industrial democracies have given his work renewed relevance.

For Gilpin, realism meant that the state was the primary actor in world politics and economics, that power and the use of force were the ultimate instruments of statecraft, that war was the major mechanism of change in international affairs, and that politics was

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