Unipolarity and World Order

Unipolarity.com is a forum for discussing the unipolar world order. It focuses on the theorizing of world politics in the case of only one superpower in existence.

You will find theses on unipolarity, a survey of the debate, a bibliography, links to applied research, and news on the world order. Furthermore, you are invited to comment on these issues and to submit articles.

News

Lt. Anders Jønsson on unipolarity and Danish security policy (July 2011)

How has Danish security policy evolved in the post-Cold War era? See analysis under The New World Order

Professor Mearsheimer and the future of IR theory

Professor John J. Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago visited the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, 30-31 March 2011. See Professor Mearsheimer’s analysis below.

New book: Birthe Hansen, Unipolarity and World Politics, London and New York: Routledge, 2011

This new book offers a coherent model of a unipolar world order:

Unipolarity is usually described either as a ‘brief moment’ or as something historically insignificant. However, we have already seen more than twenty years of virtual unipolarity, and this period has been of great significance for world politics.

Two issues have been crucial since the end of the Cold War: How to theorize the distinctiveness and exceptional character of a unipolar international system? And what is it like to conduct state business in a unipolar world? Until now, a comprehensive model for unipolarity has been lacking. This volume provides a theoretical framework for analysis of the current world order and identifies the patterns of outcomes and systematic variations to be expected. Terrorism and attempts by small states to achieve a nuclear capability are not new phenomena or exclusive to the current world order, but in the case of unipolarity these have become attached to the fear of marginalization and the struggle against a powerful centre without the possibility of allying with an alternative superpower.

Supplying a coherent theoretical model for unipolarity, which can provide explanations of trends and patterns in the turbulent post-Cold War era, this book will be of interest to students of IR theory, international security and foreign policy.

Supplying a coherent theoretical model for unipolarity, which can provide explanations of trends and patterns in the turbulent post-Cold War era, this book will be of interest to students of IR theory, international security and foreign policy.

Birthe Hansen is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen.

The model for unipolarity and the Arab (dis-)order

Twenty years after the Cold War termination, political changes and democracy have begun to spread to the Arab World. According to the model for unipolarity, this was most likely a matter of time.

The model’s emphasis on the single option regarding the competitive conditions implies that even the Arab world will eventually adapt to the demands for democratization, leaving hard core Islamists to radicalization and marginalization. This might not be a smooth, quick or straight-forward process but in the long term, neither the current authoritarian regimes, nor the Islamist movements, are able to survive without adaptation.

During the process, changes are anticipated: unipolarity leaves room for international management (even interventions as in the cases of Taliban-Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein-Iraq, and Ghadaffi-Libya), the formation of new states in between international systemic change (the unification of Yemen and the expected formation of Equatoria following the South Sudan vote), and slow/uneven adaptation in peripheral states (such as the economic and modest political steps in small Gulf States / Arab monarchies respectively the recent and sudden transitions in Egypt and Tunisia resulting from popular uprisings).

This will produce huge management challenges to the US and incentives to distribute the costs. Furthermore, if democratization takes off, other regional problems will top the agenda: the demographic development and social inequality.

Professor Mearsheimer and the future of IR Theory

In a presentation at the University of Southern Denmark, 31 March 2011, Professor John J. Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago expressed deep concern about the future of International Relations theory in the United States. He was concerned about both middle range theory and more general theories like constructivism, liberalism and realism. It is commonplace for IR scholars to trash the “isms” these days. Professor Mearsheimer pointed to several studies that document a trend in American Political Science towards quantitative analysis and the testing of hypotheses (Mead 2010; Cohen 2010; van Evera 2010). Privileging these approaches, however, is being done at the expense of developing theory, to include formal theory as well as more qualitative theory. Case studies also are getting crowded out with the ascendancy of quantitative methods and relevance appears to get lost as a criterion as well. Professor Mearsheimer explained that this disturbing development is largely the result of the professionalization of the political science discipline and to the mass production of PhDs. Professionalization of the discipline demands a specific language and approach to studying international politics that creates distance from non-professionals, for which purposes quantitative analysis is well suited. The mass production of PhDs demands courses that are manageable and applicable to large numbers of students as well as easy to evaluate. This criterion favours quantitative courses and dissertations over more theoretically oriented ones.