What is a Super Power?

  • Superpowers are states or organisations with a dominant position in the international system. They can influence events in their own interests and project power on a worldwide scale to protect their interests.


Attributes of a Superpower

  • Physical size and location with larger countries tending to have more resources.
  • Neighbouring countries have influence such as Russia the largest country.
  • Resources such as energy sources, i.e. through fossil fuels have an influence on the power exerted by the superpowers and this is a result of the dependency on resources. Also, raw, rare materials can be more influential because of their value.
  • Economic indicators, countries with the largest economies often have a significant influence with the 12 largest economies earning 2/3 of the world’s GDP- disproportionate.
  • However, some developing country’s’ resources are ‘owned’ by TNCs in wealthier countries such as oil in Nigeria is managed by Shell and BP such as oil in the middle east.
  • Population is key as economic growth can occur by a large work force. Not necessarily true because of Singapore’s emergence and they have a smaller population than what is defined as a superpower.
  • UK uses immigration to increase labour force with economic power and influence with the top twelve countries accounting for 68% of global GDP.
  • Organisations to discuss economic policies, military force, UN controls world peace members have nuclear weapons and other countries.
  • Global capitalism, role of media in political influence as US channels available globally.
  • Religions, previously long-term Christians were a large majority because of colonisation from the Europeans. Islam is a now established religion and is common in emerging countries. Capitalism is a result of globalisation.
  • Military, a larger military is viewed as more powerful. Also, the access to nuclear weapons can show the influence such as China, UK, USA and India.


Different Types of Power

  • Superpowers maintain their influence in different ways from hard overt to soft subtle mechanisms.
  • Hard means that military is the most threatening mechanism. The USA has a military presence on all continents except Antarctica. Its military is strengthened by membership to NATO.
  • Intermediate is where trade and aids act as mechanisms. The memberships of trade blocs can further extend economic power with respect to resources, as well as imports and exports. Aid is often given with strings attached and favours the superpower donor.
  • Soft is through culture and ideology mechanisms. The media plays an important role in promoting images and messages such as Americanisation cultural superpowers.


Changing Patterns of Powers

  • Unipolar pattern-one dominant power such as the British Empire.
  • Bipolar pattern-two opposing superpowers exist including the USA and the USSR challenged each other for global domination.
  • Multipolar pattern-three or more superpowers which seems to have been evolving since 2010 such as USA, EU and China.


Capitalism and Communism

  • During the cold war, there were hostile relations between the superpowers Russia and USA. Russia was communist, and USA were Capitalist.
  • Capitalism where all factors of production are owned by private individuals or firms who run them for their own profit.
  • Communism where all factors of production are owned by the state for the good of everyone.

Former communist countries: China, USSR, who also owned controlled Poland, E. Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Vietnam, Somalia and current communist countries: partially China.