Images of the Coming International System

The astonishing fact about the end of the cold war is that the events of 1989-92 ushered in a new international system, perhaps for the first time in history, without a hegemonic war. The unraveling of the Soviet empire was, of course, the centerpiece of this change, ending as it did forty-five years of bipolar, global ideologically driven conflict and giving birth to-what? If indeed the present new era of history has any defining feature it is surely the widespread confusion over how to characterize contemporary global politics and project trends and scenarios into the future. Thus, Henry Kissinger recently stated that “never before have the components of world order, their capacity to interact and their goals all changed quite so rapidly, so deeply, or so globally.“ In the same vein, Stanley Hoffman has stated that we live today in “a completely unprecedented world. It’s very difficult to call this world anything. . . when you don’t know what a thing is, you call it post-something else.”

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