In This Review
Ascending Order: Rising Powers and the Politics of Status in International Institutions

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

By Rohan Mukherjee

Cambridge University Press, 2022, 336 pp.

The most dangerous moments in international affairs occur when rising states emerge to challenge the dominance of a reigning great power. In this excellent study, Mukherjee shows that these power transitions do not inevitably culminate in great-power conflict or hegemonic war. He argues that what drives the choice of rising states to either cooperate or seek to overturn the existing order hinges on perceptions of status. As the United States grew powerful in the late nineteenth century, Washington rejected maritime and commercial agreements that relegated it to the status of a secondary power while embracing international law that gave it equal standing among Atlantic powers. By contrast, imperial Japan’s struggles to secure peer status alongside Western great powers, coupled with the U.S. ban on Japanese immigration, turned Tokyo against the existing order, setting the stage for the Pacific War. Mukherjee also looks at India’s post-independence nuclear diplomacy, attributing its refusal to join the 1968 nonproliferation treaty to the treaty’s failure to accord New Delhi symbolic equality as a great power. Looking at China today, the book argues that Beijing is also aggressively engaged in the search for status, driven by a sense that Western powers have not granted it the recognition it deserves.