Thucydides Trap in the Business World: Corporate Strategy for a New Geopolitical Reality

Item Type Journal paper
Abstract When a rising power threatens the position of an incumbent power, historically the result has been war. This conjecture derived from the analysis of the Peloponnesian War by Greek historian Thucydides (460-400 BC) has borne out up to modern times. Statistically, three out of four such situations ended in war according to Graham Allison who has characterized observations of this type of conflict and their underlying dynamics as Thucydides’ Trap. This concept is of primary relevance today for policymakers worldwide, as China and the United States intensify their rivalry. In the present paper, we extend Thucydides’ Trap to the world of business. First, we explain that the underlying dynamics of the trap are at play in the business world as well. Rising companies constantly threaten the position of incumbent market leaders. Unlike politicians, however, managers have several strategic options to avoid falling into Thucydides’ Trap. Nevertheless, this changes in the new geopolitical landscape which is characterized by the Sino-American rivalry as well as intensified nationalism and de-globalization. We point out how the managerial strategy space is narrowed by a new geopolitical reality: aggressive corporate responses are more likely in world dominated by two superpowers caught in Thucydides’ Trap. We discuss the implications of this new contextual reality for the strategy of multinational firms.
Authors Legge, Stefan & Casas Klett, Tomas
Journal or Publication Title SSRN
Language English
Subjects business studies
HSG Classification contribution to practical use / society
HSG Profile Area SoM - Business Innovation
Refereed No
Date 17 April 2020
Official URL
Depositing User Dr. Tomas Casas Klett
Date Deposited 20 Oct 2020 20:32
Last Modified 20 Jul 2022 17:43


[img] Text

Download (379kB)


Legge, Stefan & Casas Klett, Tomas (2020) Thucydides Trap in the Business World: Corporate Strategy for a New Geopolitical Reality. SSRN,

Edit item Edit item