Imagination or Reality? Pluses and minuses of the indicators

The strength or power of a state is a multi-dimensional phenomenon, and the more dimensions a phenomenon has, the more difficult it is to measure them. Because of this, the creation of each indicator requires some simplification—and to some degree arbitrary—assumptions about which factors are important for the measured phenomenon, and which are more important and which are less. Based on these assumptions, a working, simplified model of reality is created1. Only by accepting it as the valid one is it possible to create a measure of the components of power that the indicator is to capture.

In case of the state power indicator, the chosen model assumes decisions about what are its concrete components (military, economic, diplomatic, cultural, etc.) and what are their weights, or to what degree they should be treated as relevant for the issue2. What the indicator will show depends, in a sense, on the questions that will be put forward by its creator. But there is no escape from this type of arbitrariness.

Nevertheless, it is a risk worth taking. First, any indicator is better than none and, as we show in the next chapters, the state power indicators existing in Poland have their shortfalls. Second, it is worth to create indicators because they capture difficult to quantify reality—and thanks to this enables the comparison between objects and to draw conclusions. Indicators such as a state power indicator is useful in prognostication—it makes it easier to create branching out scenarios of events based on conclusions about the strength of a given country and possibilities that it holds because of this, and also based on assumed random variables3. Moreover, thanks to having such indicators, it is possible to algorithmise the prognostication, or the use the model and numerical values to model international relations within game theory. In addition, the indicators suggest in which sphere of activity a country may invest in order to expand its might.

Barbara Szatur-Jaworska4 highlights that the proper selection of factors does not only constitute the theoretical question, but also, indirectly, practical and persuasive one. Often it is the indicators are used to formulate strategies, the goals of different social programmes and monitoring of their implementation5. Meanwhile, Danuta Strahl6 recommends that the indicators be measurable and complete data be obtained for all the years being measured, which provides for a wide comparability in time and space. When creating the indicators, we kept these positions in mind.

  1. Cf. A. Gelfert, The Ontology of Models [in:] L. Magnanii, T. Bertolotti (ed.), Springer Handbook of Model-Based Science, Springer 2016.
  2. More about the assumptions on state power in different theories of international relations: A. Wojciuk, 2010, op. cit.
  3. See for example W. Orłowski, Stulecie chaosu. Alternatywne dzieje XX wieku, Warsaw 2006.
  4. B. Szatur-Jaworska, Diagnoza i diagnozowanie w polityce społecznej [in:] G. Firlit-Fesnak & M. Szylko-Skoczny (ed.), Polityka społeczna, Warsaw 2008.
  5. A. Kurowska, Wskaźniki społeczne w polityce społecznej. Historia, teoria i zastosowanie w praktyce, Warsaw 2011.
  6. D. Strahl, Metody oceny rozwoju regionalnego, Wydawnictwo Akademii Ekonomicznej im. Oskara Langego we Wrocławiu, Wrocław 2006.