Ikenberry- Unipolarity, State Behaviour and Systemic Consequences.docx

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 244
Jason Scott Ferrell

Ikenberry: Unipolarity, State Behaviour and Systemic Consequences  To what extent and how does this distribution of capabilities (distinctive among states in the contemporary global system) matter for patterns of international politics? o The global system today has concentrated power capabilities unprecedented in the modern era Definition and Measurement  Unipolarity: used to distinguish a system with one extremely capable state from systems with two or more great powers (bi, tri or multipolarity)  **Polarity structures the horizon of states’ probable actions and reactions o Should be distinguished from hegemony and empire because these refer to political relationships and influence, not distributions of material capability. o Pole: state that commands an especially large share of the resources or capabilities states can use to achieve their ends and that excel in all the component elements of state capability, conventionally defined as size of population, and territory, resource endowment, economic capacity, military might. o Unipolar System: structure is defined by the fact of only one state meeting these criteria. o United States is the only state now qualifying as a pole (military especially).  Therefore, the concentration of military and overall economic potential in the US distinguishes the current international system from its predecessors  *Author saying the international system we have now is very unipolar in comparison to past bipolar and multipolar systems Unipolarity and Consequences  Offers powerful structural incentives for the leading state to be revisionist (tendency to prefer reform over revolutionary change)  Free-ride problem of public/collective goods – need cooperation. Cooperation in IR requires the leadership of a dominant state o Dominant state: bears disproportionate share of costs to offer international collective goods (eg. Open world economy, stable security order).  Will have an interest in bearing these costs because it benefits (reflecting its values and interests) disproportionately from promoting system-wide outcomes  Shift from bi-polar to unipolar in regards to public goods o Might expect a unipole to take on an even greater responsibility for the provision of international public goods. Should have stronger incentive (as they have stronger capabilities) because it can now influence global international outcomes. o Or; we might expect a unipolar power to under-produce public goods. It’s unthreatened and holds lots of power, will tend to pursue more parochial interests and will be more inclined to force adjustment costs on others.  Logic of balancing, alliance and opposition (suggests unipole might want less power to shape intl system) o Stephen Walt: structural shift to unipolarity removed a major motivation for middle-ranked great powers to defer to the US  Social Logic of Legitimacy: unipole must seek to legitimize its role to use capabilities effectively. However any system of legitimization imposes limits on its ability to translate capabilities into power (eg. Ins
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