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Specifically, it is possible for a state to rise in power, even to the point of becoming the most powerful state in the world, yet remain dissatisfied with the international status quo, because the state in question might have experienced such dramatic growth in spite of the current status quo. Lemke and Reed offer the example of Soviet growth initiated under Stalin. The Soviet Union, as mentioned above, experienced tremendous economic advance and did so in relatively short order. However, all of this growth originated domestically.

It is represented by questions of the timing of wars relative to power transitions between great powers. In his original statement of power transition theory, Organski suggests dissatisfied challengers are most likely to initiate war prior to actually catching up with or overtaking the dominant state (Organski 1958: 333). He offers this claim because it helps him understand why the challengers he has in mind (Germany in the two twentieth-century world wars and France in the Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon) proved unsuccessful in their bids to overturn the then existing status quo.

Recently John Vasquez (1997, 1998) has applied Lakatosian standards to realist theory, and found it sorely wanting. According to Lakatos a scientific research program is progressive, among other things, if it is extended and updated in a way which allows users of the theory to understand the occurrence of additional phenomena while still understanding the occurrence of previously explained phenomena. This is referred to as excess empirical content. Like many researchers within the sub-field of international war studies, I accept Lakatos’s standards for scientific progress.

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