Mass and Multipolarity: Qualitative and Quantitative Balancing after Western Hegemony

The international system is returning to multipolarity—a situation of multiple competing major powers—drawing the post-Cold War ‘unipolar moment’ of comprehensive US-led Western political, economic, and military dominance to an end. The rise of China, belligerent assertiveness of Russia, and associated return of multipolarity at the systemic level in turn carry implications for European states’ strategic posture, including that of the UK. In particular, the techno-utopian hope that Britain can achieve its balancing needs through qualitative advantage alone, without significant bolstering of the UK’s quantitative resilience, risks exposure in a world of adversaries capable of their own strategic adaptation and innovation.

David Blagden is Senior Lecturer in International Security at the University of Exeter. He was previously the Adrian Research Fellow in International Politics at Darwin College, University of Cambridge. His research has been published in International Security, International Studies Quarterly, the European Journal of International Relations, Security Studies, International Affairs, Survival, and Foreign Policy Analysis, among other outlets; he has also provided public commentary for the BBC, The Guardian, The Spectator, the New Statesman, and other media. On the policy side, Dr Blagden has served as Specialist Adviser to a Parliamentary Select Committee as well as consulting for several UK Government departments and agencies. He is also an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, and has served at sea and ashore with a number of UK and NATO warships and headquarters. He obtained his BA (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) and DPhil (International Relations) from the University of Oxford, and his MA (International Relations) from the University of Chicago.