What will follow the American Century?

On 22 May Randall Schweller visited IFS, where he described a massive power shift from the developed to the underdeveloped countries and a transformation towards an increasingly dysfunctional world of disorder.

Professor Randall Schweller, Ohio State University, gave a talk based on his new book Maxwell's Demon and the Golden Apple: Global Discord in the New Millennium

Professor Schweller argued that we have entered "a new age of entropy" characterised by complex network interconnections and global power diffusion.

Going bey
ond the current debate between the (offensive) realist "great power conflict" model and the liberal "great power concert" model, Schweller emphasised a massive power shift from the developed to the underdeveloped countries and a transformation towards an increasingly dysfunctional world of disorder.

Schweller asked what will follow the American century. His answer was nature's time's arrow where new rules get piled on top of old ones. International politics will be a cocktail of multipolarity and multilateralism blended with networked interactions among state and nonstate actors into messy ad hoc arrangements. Systems composed of large numbers of actors tend toward greater randomness and disorder.

Rivalries endure, and conflict short of war abounds in the new age of entropy. The foundation of modern state power has shifted away from traditional military power toward an emphasis on economic production and sustained capacity to generate ideas and innovations that create wealth. In other words, Schweller argued that military power is no longer an essential building block of economic growth and wealth creation. In addition to the nuclear revolution and the rise of globalization, this means that territory is no longer the coin of the realm in terms of power assets. Schweller then contended that the devaluation of territory and the disutility of military attacks as a means to power have profound implications for the coming multipolar system. It means that we should not expect deep and intense security dilemmas – ones that would lead to wars – among the great powers; consequently, we should not expect new-style multipolarity to behave anything like old-style multipolarity.

In the age of entropy, emerging powers are, instead, conflicted states that can play all three roles – spoiler (great power conflict model), supporter (great power concert model), and shirker (a state that desire the privileges of status and prestige but is unwilling to pay for them by contributing to global governance) – depending on the issue and the targeted audience. In accordance with Schweller's thesis of growing di​scord and disorder, emerging powers are more likely to approximate the role of shirker more so than either spoiler or supporter roles. Consequently, a world of deconcentration and diffusion of power and order will emerge.

Report by Øystein Tunsjø

Publisert 22. mai 2014 00:00.. Sist oppdatert 28. juni 2016 11:07.