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Polar co-option theory. systemic change in the international system
Polar co-option theory. systemic change in the international system
How and why does systemic change occur in the international system? For realist, power transition theory provides an answer. While the theory is well established, its assumption that a single dominate power organizes the entire international system is not shared by all. Some scholars argue that the system has been managed by a number of polar powers. In order to explain how the system transitions from one polar structure to another, polar co-option theory is introduced. Rather than material capabilities, polar co-option theory argues that the polar powers are identified by their authority over lesser tier states. A unipolar power establishes a nearly global international order. The world is bipolar when it is divided between two poles. A system that is multipolar, has three or more poles with their requisite territorial orders. As a result of the variability of authority, a pole’s territorial order is not static. When a pole loses its authority, a polar competition will take place between at least two prospective co-opting poles. The pole that elicits the least amount of fear and is able to instill its authority over the moribund pole’s lesser tier states will be able to complete the co-option process. A transition in the number of poles occurs when a moribund pole no longer has authority over its territorial order and a co-opting pole extends its authority over its lesser tier states. For example, the post-Cold War unipolar system was the result of the United States’ ability to extend its authority over the lesser tier states that were a part of the Soviet Union’s territorial order.
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Tepper, Justin
2021
English
Universitätsbibliothek der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Tepper, Justin (2021): Polar co-option theory: systemic change in the international system. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Social Sciences
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Abstract

How and why does systemic change occur in the international system? For realist, power transition theory provides an answer. While the theory is well established, its assumption that a single dominate power organizes the entire international system is not shared by all. Some scholars argue that the system has been managed by a number of polar powers. In order to explain how the system transitions from one polar structure to another, polar co-option theory is introduced. Rather than material capabilities, polar co-option theory argues that the polar powers are identified by their authority over lesser tier states. A unipolar power establishes a nearly global international order. The world is bipolar when it is divided between two poles. A system that is multipolar, has three or more poles with their requisite territorial orders. As a result of the variability of authority, a pole’s territorial order is not static. When a pole loses its authority, a polar competition will take place between at least two prospective co-opting poles. The pole that elicits the least amount of fear and is able to instill its authority over the moribund pole’s lesser tier states will be able to complete the co-option process. A transition in the number of poles occurs when a moribund pole no longer has authority over its territorial order and a co-opting pole extends its authority over its lesser tier states. For example, the post-Cold War unipolar system was the result of the United States’ ability to extend its authority over the lesser tier states that were a part of the Soviet Union’s territorial order.