The uses and abuses of the polarity discourse in UK foreign and defence politics
in National perspectives on a multipolar order
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This chapter presents the discourse around multipolarity in the United Kingdom as perhaps the ultimate symptom of the contested and often contradictory arguments about power and status that define the current global power transition. Reflecting what is described as ‘the country’s own tortured concerns with power and status’, the chapter pitches discussion around the emergence of a new multipolar order as being a debate about the nature of ‘greatness’ in international relations itself. This chapter examines London’s now decades-long history of attempting to project an image of itself as a pole of power long after the material bases of its formerly unambiguous global status have atrophied. Ultimately, it argues that the United Kingdom’s dogged persistence in attempting to cultivate and maintain a role as one of the great powers at the global level has hampered its ability to pursue more narrowly defined economic and security interests. In particular, it outlines a set of vital interests that can be secured in a post-unipolar era as long as London can become less fixated on a performative identity divorced from material realities.

National perspectives on a multipolar order

Interrogating the global power transition

Editor: Benjamin Zala

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