This Giovanni Grevi paper (via Sven Bishop) from last June, titled, “The Interpolar World: A New Scenario” (.pdf), is a little gem worth reading in full. Grevi manages to distill quite a few of the contemporary interpretations of the changing geopolitical landscape into a thought-provoking argument for what he calls “interpolarity.”
Grevi maintains that a number of trends will prevent emerging powers from truly coalescing into the poles of a multipolar order. Principal among them is the increasing interdependence of the global order. But another is the way in which asymmetries, both military and political, have shifted the balance of power to what Grevi calls “negative power”: the ability to deny others the fulfillment of their objectives.
But in an interdependent world, according to Grevi, the unrestrained use of the resulting veto power to pursue short-term individual gains comes with long-term collective risks. As a result, he calls interpolarity a normative vision of the future based on a realistic diagnosis of today’s geopolitical developments. Institutionally, he suggests that while the various “minilateral” groupings (G-8, G-20, BRIC, etc.) continue to function as agenda-setting arenas, they should be more formally embedded within “thicker” multilateral institutions for execution.
Definitely a compelling vision that warrants adding to the list of possible futures, such as Richard Haass’ “non-polar world” and Fareed Zakaria’s “post-American world,” both of which Grevi references.