The Rise and Fall of the Unipolar Concert

Thomas Wright
Content Type
Journal Article
The Washington Quarterly
Issue Number
Publication Date
Winter 2015
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Foreign policy experts have struggled to describe the unusual character of contemporary world politics. Much of the debate revolves around the concept of polarity, which deals with how power is distributed among nations, as experts ask if the United States is still a unipolar power or in decline as new powers emerge. The polarity debate, however, obscures more than it clarifies because the distribution of power does not determine the fate of nations by itself. It leaves out strategic choice and does not predict how the United States would exercise its power or how others would respond to U.S. primacy. World politics can take many paths, not just one, under any particular distribution of power. The most remarkable feature of post-Cold War world politics has not been the much-discussed power accumulation of the United States—although that is indeed noteworthy—but rather the absence of counter- balancing and revisionist behavior by other major powers.
Cold War
Political Geography
United States