Unipolar world?
in A history of International Relations theory (third edition)
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The collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War altered the international system. For half a century, its bipolar structure had affected the behavior of the world’s states. Suddenly, the collapse of the USSR left the USA as the world’s only remaining, ubiquitous superpower. The collapse suddenly released a score of states from Soviet dominance; all of them sought to preserve and enhance their new-won independence while scrambling for new alignments to help maximize their wealth and security. The result was realignments and flux. Pessimistic observers saw breakdown of order and increasing uncertainty. Optimistic observers saw new opportunities and a new world order based self-determination. The optimistic attitude prevailed in the West. This chapter explores this optimism. It considers in particular the resurgence of neo-idealist values which informed the liberal-democratic activism of the USA and its Western allies. The prime reflection of this neo-idealist thrust was the theory of the democratic peace, which is presented and assessed in this chapter.

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