Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Unipolar, Bi-polar, Multipolar International Systems
Unipolar, Bi-polar, Multipolar International Systems Introduction The international system or global governance is one area that has been researched a lot since the end of the World War II. There are conflicting arguments in the role that the concept will continue to play in the 21st century, with some authors arguing that the concept will remain relevant in this century others suggesting that the international system as developed after the World War II will be completely unrecognizable by the year 2025 (Lane & Maeland, 2008). This is because of the trends that have been noted in the international arena since then. There are different developing powers, globalization of the economy, transfer of economic power and wealth from the western nations to the developing world, and the developing influence of the non-state players. Derryberry (1999) elucidates that by the year 2025, the global economy will have become a global multipolar one. This means that the world will be characterized by continued narrowing of the gaps in national power between the developed and developing world. It is predicted that the nations in the developing world will be involved in the global affairs. Some of the countries from the developing world that have shown evidence in the achievement of this include China and India. Historical review of power systems among nations of the world The power systems of different societies around the world have its origin in ancient civilizations. Various powers have been evident in the world since the ancient days. Some examples of ancient powers include: Ancient Near East; Ancient Africa; Greek powers; Hellenistic Kingdoms; Carthage; Ancient India; Ancient China; Xiongnu; Roman Empire; and Hunnic Empire. The Medieval Powers were such powers as: Medieval Middle and Near East; Medieval China and Far East region; Medieval Europe; Medieval Africa; Medieval India; Medieval Southeast Asia; and American Precolumbian Empires. Some of the modern powers include France, Great Britain, and empire of Japan, Spanish Empire and the United States among others (Lane & Maeland, 2008). The terminology “Great power” represents the most significant powers in the world. In the modern perspective, recognized great powers started in Europe during the period of post-Napoleonic. It was to represent the most significant nations in Europe that the term “Great Powers” was coined. The “Great Powers” comprised the “Concert of Europe” as well as maintained the right to joint enforcement of the post-war agreements. This was through the development of a division between great powers and small powers which emanated from the passage of the Treaty of Chaumont in the year 1814. Thus, a great power can be defined as a state or nation that is able to exert influence and power over it region of the world as well as to other nations, through its political, military and economic strength. The historical phrase “great nation” has been used to tell apart groups of people residing in a certain nation or territory (Mearsheimer, 2001). A great power refers to a state which is identified as having the capability to influence others on an international scale. Such powers typically have economic and military strength as well as diplomatic and soft power which may render the small powers to adopt the opinions of the great powers in their own decisions. The status of great powers in the world can be typified into spatial aspects, power capabilities, and status dimensions. At times the great power status can be officially recognized in conventions like the Congress of Vienna or a global structure like the United Nations Security Council (Mearsheimer, 2001). Origin and definition of the terms polarity and polarization In international relations, polarity defines the different ways of power distribution within the global system. The term defines the character of the international system at a particular period of time. The term polarity emanates from the fact that the definition of the international system is by its ordering principle as well as by its distribution of powers. The ordering principle in this case is the anarchy and the powers are measured by the amount of great powers in the international system. The anarchic principle of ordering of the system is decentralised, without any legitimate central authority. This means that the participants in the international structure are equal independent states. The agents are similar on the basis of the needs, rather than the abilities to achieve those needs. The distribution of abilities is determined by the positional placement on the basis of the capabilities. Cooperation among agents is limited by the structural distribution of abilities. This is based on the fears of relative gains that are made by other agents as well as the likelihood of reliance on other states. ‘Balance of power’ constrain on each other resulting from the desire and relative capabilities of each agent to optimise relative power. The international relations are generally shaped by the ‘balance of power.’ This also results in the ‘security dilemma’ that is faced by all states. Internal balancing and external balancing are the two means of balancing power by the states. Internal balancing emanates from the growth of states in terms of economic development and/or the capability to increase military strength. External balancing emanates from entrance into alliances with other states to test the strength of stronger states or alliances (Lane & Maeland, 2008). There are basically three likely types of systems international system on the basis of the changes in distribution of abilities: Unipolar, Bipolar, and Multipolar (Mearsheimer, 2001). The kind of system is totally related to the distribution of influence and power of states in a region or globally. Such are defined by the amount of great powers that are available in the international structure. Unipolar system This kind of system contains a single great power, meaning that only one state has most of the economic, military and cultural influence. Jervis (2009) argues that there are three main features of unipolar system: unipolarity being an interstate system rather than an empire. “Unipolarity implies the existence of many juridically equal non-states, something that an empire denies. In empires, inter-societal divide-and-rule practices replace interstate balance-of-power dynamic” (Jervis, 2009, p. 190); unipolarity is anarchical. Waltz (1964) argues that “a great power cannot exert a positive control everywhere in the world” (Waltz, 1964, p. 887); they have a single great power without any competition. This kind of system has been supported for the lack of competition among great powers and thus absence of war. A good example of a unipolar system according to Monteiro (2011) is the post-Cold War international system: the defense budget for the US is “close to half of global military expenditures; a blue-water navy superior to all others combined; a chance at a splendid nuclear first strike over its erstwhile foe, Russia; a defense research and development budget that is 80 percent of the total defense expenditures of its most obvious future competitor, China; and unmatched global power-projection capabilities” (Monteiro, 2011, p. 190). Bipolar system As the name suggests this kind of system consists of two great powers. This means that there are only two spheres of influence. It is the distribution of power in which only two players have most of the military, economic and cultural influence regionally, or globally. Over and over again, spheres of influence develop. For instance, during the Cold War, most of the western democracies would fall under the influence of the United States, while on the other hand, the communists nations would be under the influence of the Soviet Union. Following this, the great powers would often contrive for the support of those remaining areas that are unclaimed. The bipolar system is considered to be more stable compared to the other two types of system. This is due to the fact that it is less vulnerable to systematic change and great power war. In such a system, there is only the possibility of internal balancing because of the lack of other powers with which to create alliances (Lane & Maeland, 2008). Multipolar system This refers to a system with more than two great powers; a system of distribution of power in which the great powers have almost equal levels of cultural, military and economic influence. There are different opinions as far as the stability of this kind of system is concerned. For example, Classical realists like Hans Morgenthau and E. H. Carr suggests that compared to bipolar system, this system is more stable. This is because in unipolar systems, great powers can have more influence through coming together in alliances but this is not possible with the other kinds of systems. On the other hand, the issues of security of states emerge as a limitation of the unipolar system. In the anarchic system, the states seek survival and self-interests. The states seek survival in the anarchic system through balancing of power. This is the result of the need to survive. Looking at the perspective that the international systems is anarchy and is founded on self-help, the strongest units create the scene for the others and also for themselves. These are the major powers in the system (Waltz, 2000). Nevertheless, because of the intricacy of mutually guaranteed destruction situations, with weapons of mass destruction, multipolar systems may tend to be more stable compared to the other systems even in the analysis of neorealists. Relevance of polarity to how issues of international scope are addressed among nations today Polarity is important in the understanding of global governance and in the dealing with global issues in the current globalised world. It is important to note that the world today is a multipolar system as there are many great powers. In this kind of system, there are regular shifts of alliances. Various alliances have been formed in various situations such as during the United States war on terrorism where other western democracies joined in the cause. The alliances keeps on changing until one these two things occur. Either there is striking of a balance of power, or there is no side that is willing to attack the other, or there is an attack by one side on the other due either to fear of possibility of a new alliance, or there is a possibility that it can overcome the other side. In this kind of system also, the global decisions are normally made for strategic purposes to uphold a balance of power instead of historical or ideological purposes. The world today is argued to be unipolar from two perspectives. One of the perspectives is that a superpower has become an outdated idea. The United States and the Soviet Union are argued to have been superpowers during the Cold War, but because of the multifaceted economic and cultural interdependencies on the global scale as well as the development of the global village, the idea of one or a number of states having enough powers to be considered superpowers is outdated. There is another perspective that even during the Cold War, the two states could not be said to be superpowers. This is because they depended on the smaller states in the war. Prospects for future international relations between countries International relations will continue to be driven by the interdependence of the players in the global arena. For example, while the United States has continued to have a great economic and cultural influence, the dependency on foreign investors as well as dependence on international market will maintain the mutual economic dependence between the actors in the global system, both in the developing and the developed nations. This means that there is no single nation that can be argued to be a superpower as there is none that is self-sufficient and does not depend on the international community to sustain the quality of life of its people. This is also the same case when looking at the point of view of diplomacy. It is also important to consider the fact that some developing nations such as China, India and Japan are developing very first to compete with the US, with some claims that China is in the new future going to overtake the US in terms of economic power. Thus, due to the complicated nature of the international affairs as well as the development and military power of some countries in the developing world, it is hard to engage in foreign policy without the support of other nations. There are economic and diplomatic connections that will continue to bind the globe together, however alliances will continue to be formed and the US will continue to hold a great deal of influence in the international system, but not without the support of other nations. Conclusion This essay has discussed the concept of polarity and polarization and the implications these have on the international system. It is evident that the global economy is changing at a very high rate. More and new great powers are emerging in the global arena and challenging the existing players a lot. The economic power and global wealth is shifting from the west to the east. This is evident when looking at developing nations such as China and India. These are two countries that are expected to perform at the same level with the past superpowers like the United States in just a few years, if the current trend continues. This casts the world as a mutlipolar system where there no single nation that will have all the power and influence in international affairs and in other nations. References Derryberry, J. 1999, What It Really Means to Go Global. Sales and Marketing Management. December 1999. Jervis, R. 2009, Unipolarity: A Structural Perspective, World Politics, 6 (1): pp.188-231 Lane, J. & Maeland, R. 2008, International Organisation as Coordination in N person Games. Political Studies 54 (1): 185–215 Mearsheimer, J. 2001, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, New York: Norton Monteiro, N. 2011, Polarity and Power: U.S. Hegemony and China's Challenge. International Security, 36(3): pp. 9-40 Thompson, K. W. 1980, Masters of International Thought, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, p. 26 Waltz, K. 1964, The Stability of a Bipolar World, Daedalus 93 (Number 3): pp. 881-909 Waltz, K. 2000, ‘Structural Realism after the Cold War’, International Security 25(1) 5-41.
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