Multipolarity is a distribution of power in which more than two nation-states have nearly equal amounts of military, cultural, and economic influence.
Opinions on the stability of multipolarity differ. Classical realist theorists, such as Hans Morgenthau and E. H. Carr, hold that multipolar systems are more stable than bipolar systems, as great powers can gain power through alliances and petty wars that do not directly challenge other powers; in bipolar systems, classical realists argue, this is not possible. On the other hand, the neorealist focuses on security and inverts the formula: states in a multipolar system can focus their fears on any number of other powers and, misjudging the intentions of other states, unnecessarily compromise their security, while states in a bipolar system always focus their fears on one other power, meaning that at worst the powers will miscalculate the force required to counter threats and spend slightly too much on the operation. However, due to the complexity of mutually assured destruction scenarios, with nuclear weapons, multipolar systems may be more stable than bipolar systems even in the neorealist analysis. This system tends to have many shifting alliances until one of two things happens. Either a balance of power is struck, and neither side wants to attack the other, or one side will attack the other because it either fears the potential of the new alliance, or it feels that it can defeat the other side.
One of the major implications of an international system with any number of poles, including a multipolar system, is that international decisions will often be made for strategic reasons to maintain a balance of power rather than out of ideological or historical reasons.
The Eastern Mediterranean Hellenistic kingdoms of the 3rd century BC, which grew out of Alexander the Great's empire, formed a good example of a multipolar political world. Macedonia (Antigonids), Syria (Seleucids), Egypt (Ptolemies) vied with one another and states such as Pergamon, Parthia and the La Tene Celts in shifting alliances for domination of the region. Combinations against the strongest state kept any one from establishing hegemony, but eventually left all weakened enough to be dominated by Rome from the mid-2nd century BC.
The 'Concert of Europe,' a period from after the Napoleonic Wars to the Crimean War, was an example of peaceful multipolarity (the great powers of Europe assembled regularly to discuss international and domestic issues). World War I, World War II, the Thirty Years War, the Warring States Period, the Three Kingdoms period and the tripartite division between Song Dynasty/Liao Dynasty/Jin Dynasty/Yuan Dynasty are all examples of a wartime multipolarity.
Read more about this topic: Polarity In International Relations
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