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Publication Date



UM campus only

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


International Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Roger E. Kanet

Second Committee Member

Bruce M. Bagley

Third Committee Member

William C. Smith

Fourth Committee Member

Astrid Boening


This dissertation’s central focus explains why weak states exist as separate political units within the international system. The work argues that, if a state is weak and vulnerable, then it can practice an unexpected degree of relative autonomy unfettered by great powers. Given systemic vulnerability stemming from underdevelopment, weak states pursue economic development in order to survive; security is a secondary concern. This unthreatening behavior allows weak states to conduct business with great powers at opposite ends of the balance of power. If a weak state is to gain economically from great powers, it must then trade some of its foreign policy autonomy. This may lead great powers to compete over weak state support, especially within forums of global governance. These arguments will build upon established theory and data for the purpose of explaining weak state behavior and subsequent changes in great power grand strategy.


weak states; small states; structural realism; neoclassical realism; economic development; autonomy; St. Kitts and Nevis; Armenia; Lebanon; Cambodia