How Much Is Enough? The Politics of Technology and Weaponless Nuclear Deterrence

  • Anne HarringtonEmail author
  • Matthias Englert
Part of the Global Power Shift book series (GLOBAL)


This chapter contributes to the literature on nuclear proliferation by bringing theoretical resources from political philosophy and science and technology studies (STS) to bear on perennial questions for scholars of international relations (IR): “Why do states build nuclear weapons?” and “How many nuclear weapons are enough to sustain a credible nuclear deterrent?” We argue that states build nuclear weapons when they perceive the benefits of creating and maintaining a nuclear arsenal as outweighing the costs. If, therefore, a state is able to reap the benefits of having a nuclear weapon without actually creating one, it will have no reason to forego membership in the Nonproliferation Treaty. Furthermore, states with latent nuclear weapon programs are already actively engaging in a form of “weaponless” nuclear deterrence. Far from existing only in imagination, the “virtual” arsenals of the future are already observable in the nuclear security strategies of non-nuclear weapon states today. In making this argument, we draw on emergent theories of nuclear technopolitics that focus on the ambivalence of nuclear technology in constituting the political field of interactions.


Nonproliferation Deterrence International Relations Uranium enrichment Centrifuge Technopolitics 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.American Political Science AssociationWashington DCUSA
  2. 2.Ianus InstituteTechnical University DarmstadtDarmstadtGermany

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