What’s At Stake in the Multipolarity Debate?
The title of this piece is a paean to Dan Nexon and Tom Wright’s classic piece, “What’s At Stake in the American Empire Debate?”
Multipolarity may well be the watchword of 2023.
The two scholars who mounted perhaps the strongest arguments conceptualizing and advocating for unipolarity decades ago are back at it. This time, they have a provocative essay in Foreign Affairs insisting that the world is not multipolar because it never stopped being…unipolar!
I disagree with that on a number of levels (more below), but it was sufficiently controversial that Foreign Affairs ran an “experts poll” on the question of whether the world is still unipolar (that is, one superpower as opposed to two or more “great powers”). The answers were diverse yet skewed decidedly toward judging the world as being not unipolar. See here:
So while multipolarity appears to be at the front of everyone’s minds, that doesn’t mean everyone agrees about 1) what it is, 2) whether and how it matters, or 3) whether it correctly describes the world today.
Let me explain.