Last Updated 02 Aug 2020

Can You Imagine a World Without a Superpower?

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Coined by Dutch-American geo-strategist Nicholas Spykman in 1943, the political term ‘superpower’ is used to refer to a country with the ability to influence events or project power on a global scale. ’ It is difficult, if not impossible to envisage a world without a superpower. There are a number of reasons to support this assumption.

We begin with the first and most blaring- It is simply difficult to imagine a world without a superpower because history itself has shown that there has yet to come a time when one or more powers do not rise above its counterparts in terms of economic and/or political factors to the extent that they are able to impact various issues on a global level. From the ancient civilizations such as the Persian, Roman, Mongol, Portuguese and Spanish empires to the Russia during the Cold War and the USSR today, we have yet to observe a period of time when the world has observed an equitable balance of power.

It can be argued that just because it has not happened yet, does not mean it will not happen one day. This is a firm basis for a counter-argument, however, it must be understood that in the foreseeable future, with more and more powers working towards this ‘superpower’ status (examples include China, Brazil, India and Russia), a world without superpowers is merely a sanguine, idealistic idea. Another issue that would make a world without a superpower a seemingly utopian concept is the difficulty of administrating such a world.

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Indeed, if no policing power (such as the USA) had the ability to influence global issues, the world would lack a clear sense of direction. Indeed, major decisions would probably be taken by a representative, multilateral body such as the UN (without a system of permanent seats). In such a scenario, it would be quite difficult to please all the parties involved and a conflict of interest would be inevitable.

In a setup such as today, whereby the United States largely acts as the dominant political enigma, at least decisions are made and issues addressed. For example, in 1991, when the USSR was finally removed from its position as the dominant power of Eastern Europe, its surrounding sphere of influence fell into a spiral of economic and political despair. One can only imagine the repercussions if this happened on global level.

According to Professor Niall Ferguson at New York University’s Stern School of Business ‘power, like nature, abhors a vacuum. In the history of world politics, it seems, someone is always the hegemon, or bidding to become it. ’ This idea proposed by professor Ferguson, is based on the theory that inherently, every country would like power. It is this elusive pull of power and all that it brings with it that would make a world without a superpower merely a product of idealism.

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