If we consider realism’s fundamental assumption about status quo states, hegemons, balance of power, challengers, and the like, the question that arises is: how can we accomplish the necessary transition from the present world order that was established at the end of World War II, to a new one without serious disruption to peace and stability.
The last time a challenger (Germany) tried to subvert the status quo, the chaos was quite big. This time around, with a nuclear-powered China on the scene, there will be no easy solution to any persistent challenge that may arise.
In this regard, it is interesting to note that in all the theories of international relations, one has proven quite accurate: realism’s assumption that the international system tends to balance itself when new powers emerge.
Therefore, it would not be wrong to assume that this new distribution of power will happen according to realism’s balance of power theory. In fact, nations such as those that make up BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are already demanding such redistribution, which only confirms the validity of this realist assumption.
With a new distribution of power underway comes a new opportunity to address some serious concerns of mankind, one of which is the urgent issue of poverty and hunger. In this regard, Brazilian diplomacy has proposed recently a world-wide tax on arms trade to finance a hunger eradication plan.
It is worth noting that when the USA rose to hegemony in the first half of the 20th century, replacing old powers such as France and Britain, it was not able to eradicate all inequalities. It managed, nonetheless, to bring down the colonial system and to foster democratic freedom all around the world - no small feat in terms of addressing inequalities.
The point is: re-balancing the international scenario offers unique possibilities for addressing old grievances of mankind.
It is too much to expect that redistributing power will bring about complete equality. It does present, however, a huge opportunity to solve some of the problems associated with today’s enormous inequalities. If anything, it is an auspicious start. If the world could only grasp the revolutionary potential that such changes could bring. Major world threats such as poverty, the spread of pandemics, and global warming could be addressed. The world has the resources for meeting these challenges, however, the will to do so has been missing, particularly on the part of established world powers.
New emerging powers might be willing to pick up those valuable fights in order to advance their own causes, as much as the US and France did. The fact is: the world urgently needs a new revolution to advance the high ideals of justice and to reverse current environmental trends. Challengers to the existing status quo just might offer mankind and its hopes new champions in this endeavor. In this regard, the undergoing re-balancing should be most welcome by developing and developed countries alike. Viva la Revolución.
Other interesting texts on the subject:
1- Baylis, J. (2004), ‘International and Global Security in the Post-Cold War Era’, in Baylis, J. and Smith, S. The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
2- Claude Jr., I. L. (1998), in Kaufman, D. J., Parker, J.M., Howel, P.V., Doty, G.R. Understanding International Relations, The Value of Alternative Lenses (USA: Custom Publishing).
3- Lamy, S. (2004), ‘Contemporary Mainstream Approaches: Neo-realism and Neo-liberalism’, in Baylis, J. and Smith, S. The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
4- Little, R. (2004), ‘International Regimes’, in Baylis, J. and Smith, S. The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
5- Weber, S. (1997), ‘Institutions and Change’, in Doyle, M.W. and Ikenberry, G. J. New Thinking in International Relations Theory (Boulder Colorado: Westview Press).
6- Wendt, A. (1998), Social Theory of International Politics, (Cambridge: Cambridge University press).