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A philosophical and practical understanding
Elena Chebankova

The idea of a multipolar world order has become increasingly popular among politicians and analysts around the world. Practically, the term multipolarity signifies the number of effective centres of global hegemonic influence. This number represents a significant structural factor in international relations that has far-reaching consequences for international affairs. Academic literature often debates the impact that the shift in the number of centres of influence has on international stability, flexibility of domestic political systems, state

in National perspectives on a multipolar order
Interrogating the global power transition
Editor: Benjamin Zala

With the rise of new powers and the decline of seemingly unchallenged US dominance, a conventional wisdom is gaining ground in contemporary discourse about world politics that a new multipolar order is taking shape. Yet ‘multipolarity’ – an order with multiple centres of power – is variously used as a description of the current distribution of power, of the likely shape of a future global order, or even as a prescription for how power ‘should’ be distributed in the international system. This book explores how the concept of a multipolar order is being used for different purposes in different national contexts. From rising powers to established powers, contemporary policy debates are analysed by a set of leading scholars in order to provide an in-depth insight into the use and abuse of a widely used but rarely explored concept.

James Johnson

Does the United States still harbour ambitions to regain its (albeit fleeting) unipolar status? Or is it instead resigned to an existence as simply one of a number of great powers in a multipolar era? 1 In what ways is the increasingly multipolar strategic environment encouraging new forms of competition that may threaten stability? Alternatively, will the increasingly competitive US–China relationship dominate world politics, creating what would therefore be a new bipolarity? International

in National perspectives on a multipolar order
David Rieff

of a multipolar world poses an immediate challenge to the UN and Bretton Woods systems, as well as the Western hegemony they have sustained. And it should be obvious that this will have a profound effect on the relief world, if it hasn’t already. Humanitarian independence has always been a relative concept at best. 3 For despite all their critical thinking about, and intermittently principled resistance to, the demands of major Western powers, relief agencies have operated to a very considerable degree under the direct aegis of these powers. But

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
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Pursuing a multipolar mirage?
Luis L. Schenoni

Introduction In this chapter, I explore the use of the concept of multipolarity in the Brazilian foreign policy debate from 2000 to 2015. To do so, I draw on four sources. First, I analyse documents from Brazilian government agencies to reconstruct how polarity was thought of and what impact this had on actual policy. Second, I rely on a series of in-depth interviews conducted in June 2017 with academics and Brazilian public officials to help unravel their understanding of the term and the interests of different actors. Third, I systematically review the

in National perspectives on a multipolar order
China and the concept of multipolarity in the post Cold War era
Nicholas Khoo and Zhang Qingmin

consistent answer to two specific questions facing them in world politics: Which variant of polarity is the world heading towards? And which variant of polarity is preferred by China? Through the twists and turns of post-Cold War international politics, the mainstream Chinese answer to both questions has been clear. 2 Specifically, the movement towards multipolarity is inexorable, and this development is welcome. This chapter investigates the Chinese discourse on multipolarity and the related concept of multipolarisation

in National perspectives on a multipolar order
H. D. P. Envall

evident in Japanese strategic thinking since the early Cold War. Japan's answers to these normative questions remained consistent throughout the Cold War and into the 1990s – a preference for an American-led order, whether based around a bipolar, unipolar, or multipolar structure. Bipolarity from the 1950s, US primacy within a more multipolar structure in Asia from the 1970s, and unipolarity from the 1990s: all these reinforced Japan's preference for US power in the Asia-Pacific even as these conditions created incentives for Japan to push the regional order in

in National perspectives on a multipolar order
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Seeking multipolarity, favouring multilateralism, pursuing multialignment
Ian Hall

Well before a multipolar world actually came into being, we believed in its desirability and even its inevitability. 1 India has long sought a multipolar international order. The majority view in its foreign and security policymaking elite is that such an order would be more conducive to India's interests and values than the

in National perspectives on a multipolar order
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The utility and limits of polarity analysis
Benjamin Zala

. Polarity analysis focuses on whether the inter-state order is dominated by one (unipolarity), two (bipolarity), or three or more (multipolarity) centres of power. While states remain important actors in world politics, and while their relations remain structurally anarchical yet socially hierarchical, 3 the number – or indeed absence – of major powers (or ‘poles of power’) that exist at any given time will continue to matter. While moments in which major power relations are particularly tense tend to result in an upsurge

in National perspectives on a multipolar order
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Debating the distribution of power and status in the early twenty first century
Benjamin Zala

‘Contestability’ has become a buzzword in government departments and businesses across the world. Phrases such as ‘nothing is off the table’ and ‘everything is up for debate’ bounce around boardrooms as analysts and advisors look to question the conventional wisdoms of their given fields. Yet the level and nature of the contestability that defines the debates over multipolarity found in the previous chapters of this volume raise difficult questions for the existing International Relations (IR) literature on the subject. IR scholars are quite

in National perspectives on a multipolar order