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In talking about the Cold War, the term “bipolarity” is frequently used, including in the very definition of the underlying notion of “polarity.” If we are to put things in perspective with a subject that is more complex than it seems, we must first consider that polarity is an exception in the international history, and then learn to distinguish between power polarity and group polarity, two major realities that are often confused. The former describes competition among states that may claim power status, in other words that have the objective resources to do so and are perceived as such by others. What is the use of being objectively powerful if others fail to acknowledge that capacity? This chapter will first consider issues of nuclear reality and ideological antagonism before questioning the transition from antagonism to diarchy. It will examine the erosion of the bipolar system stemming from the South and from so-called peripheral conflicts, the contentious legacy of non-alignment and the fleeting illusion of unipolarity. Finally, the author stresses what an “apolar” world may be and how it may have finally caused the return of the oligarchic club.
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