Polarity and international stability

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In his article in the June 1991 issue of this Review, Ted Hopf challenged the argument that bipolar systems are inherently more stable than multipolar configurations of power. He reported that the international situation in sixteenth century Europe became only marginally more stable with a shift from a multipolar to a bipolar system. He argued for attention to the offensive-defensive balance, rather than systemic polarity. Manus Midlarsky accounts for Hopf's findings, and for evidence of multipolarity and increased conflict in the early seventeenth and twentieth centuries, by proposing a relationship between polarity and war that is contingent on scarcity of desired international resources. Midlarsky argues for more attention to contingent relationships generally and draws implications for current and future probabilities of conflict in a multipolar world. Hopf responds by pointing out the need for further development of Midlarsky's analysis, the possible compatibility between Midlarsky's formulation and his own focus on the offensive-defensive balance, and the desirability of a productive unity of the two research programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-180
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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