What is meant by multipolarity, bipolarity and unipolarity?
• A unipolar system is where one “pole” or polar actor is identified as the predominant power in the world. It need not be a state but a group of states. An example of a unipolar power is the Holy Roman Empire.
• In a bipolar system two powers control the majority of global power. This was said to be the case in the global war where power surrounded two ‘poles’ – the Soviet Union and the United States. The system was said not to be organized in only terms of power but ideology as well.
• In a multipolar system 3 or more powers are identified as the predominant actors. The post-cold world war is claimed by many to be multipolar, with various powers controlling different areas, however in economic and military terms the US is the strongest.
In what ways is international politics now unipolar?
• Most analysts believe that the world post Cold War is unipolar because the “United States is the only true superpower with global assets in all dimensions of power” (Understanding International Conflicts by Joseph Wye Junior)
• The USA has unrivalled military and nuclear power. The Golf War is often heralded as the moment when the USA truly showed its unipolar hegemony.
• “Military power is largely unipolar”
• However the Gulf War also is said to show that although the world could be unipolar the US doesn’t wish it to be so.
Is international politics now multipolar?
• Some analysts believe the collapse of the Cold