Alliance is one of the most traditional and heavily studied concepts in international relations. Yet, the alliance literature is still evolving. In recent years, the alliance literature has become more systemic and dynamic by incorporating network theory. Traditionally, alliance was understood and analyzed as a state behavior. However, by incorporating network theory—the so-called “network turn”—alliance began to be conceived as a network structure. The network turn has changed the emphasis of the literature, and the new framework is more focused on associations among states. Furthermore, it captures influences of the current alliance structure on future alliance choices, an often overlooked factor in traditional alliance literature. This paper analyzes this transition by cataloguing the ways in which scholars defend their choice of network theory over a traditional approach, and judges the utility of conceptualizing alliance in network-theoretic terms.
Key Words: alliances, balance of power, network analysis, political similarity/dissimilarity, homophily/heterophily, preferential attachment