International Political Earthquakes

Michael Brecher

A preeminent scholar examines the global causes and consequences of international conflict


International Political Earthquakes is the masterwork of the preeminent scholar Michael Brecher. Brecher, who came of age before World War II, has witnessed more than seven decades of conflict and has spent his career studying the dynamics of relations among nations throughout the world.

When terrorism, ethnic conflict, military buildup, or other local tensions spark an international crisis, Brecher argues that the structure of global politics determines its potential to develop into open conflict. That conflict, in turn, may then generate worldwide political upheaval. Comparing international crises to earthquakes, Brecher proposes a scale analogous to the Richter scale to measure the severity and scope of the impact of a crisis on the landscape of international politics.

Brecher's conclusions about the causes of international conflict and its consequences for global stability make a convincing case for gradual, nonviolent approaches to crisis resolution.

Michael Brecher is R. B. Angus Professor of Political Science at McGill University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Brecher makes a significant contribution to our knowledge about international crises and about the relationships among crisis, conflict, and system structure."
    —Zeev Maoz, Professor of Political Science and Director of the International Relations Program, University of California, Davis

  • "This authoritative study represents a point of culmination for three decades of research. It is essential reading in International Relations."
    —Patrick James, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Center for International Studies, University of Southern California

  • "This is a highly original study that makes a major and enduring contribution to the scientific study of crisis and foreign policy decision making. It is of immense importance and will be seen as the capstone work of Brecher's International Crisis Behavior (ICB) project."
    —John A. Vasquez, Thomas B. Mackie Scholar in International Relations, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  • "Thirty-three years after launching the International Crisis Behavior Project (ICBP), and still marching on with yet another entourage of graduate students, Brecher said this book may well be his 'last word' on the project...Brecher and ICBP co-founder Jonathan Wilkenfeld of the University of Maryland blended their academic strengths – qualitative case studies and quantitative data analysis, respectively – to strike a rare balance. As a result, the ICBP reveals distinct patterns and commonalities in crisis behaviour. One insight that runs counter to conventional wisdom is that people, regardless of culture, belief system, language and other differences, cope with crises in essentially the same way. 'It is taken for granted that the Chinese act differently than Canadians under the stress of an international political earthquake,' Brecher said. 'They don't.'"
    —Daniel Spitberg, McGill Reporter

Look Inside

Copyright © 2008, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Classroom Resources

Discussion Questions | Word doc

Product Details

  • 8.5 x 11.
  • 352pp.
  • 9 figures, 69 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2008
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07001-5

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  • $109.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2008
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05001-7

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  • $46.95 U.S.

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  • international crisis/international political earthquake, decision-making, coping, stress, protracted conflict, comparative case studies, commanality-the principle of shared response by diverse decision-makers to perceived threat, time pressure and likelihood of war, findings on twentieth-century international political earthquakes, ten-point scales to measure the severity and impact of international political earthquakes, unified model of crisis (UMC)