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Professor Amitav Acharya Sees a “Multiplex” World

Dr. Acharya addresses the ISA

In his new book, The End of American World Order, SIS Professor and UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance Amitav Acharya argues that the hegemonic position of the American-led international order, as we have come to know it, is coming to an end. That is not to imply that America is in decline, he explains, but rather that with increasing global complexity, it will be impossible for any power to hold global hegemony.

Acharya says that “the unipolar moment is over.” He suggests that cooperation and interdependence among nations will become increasingly important. Acharya uses the analogy of a multiplex movie theatre, where the viewer can select from a number of offerings to describe the new world order. In that “multiplex” sense, the new order is neither unipolar nor multipolar, but rather multipolar with significant interdependence. In other words, hegemony under any single power is impossible.

Acharya, the 2014-15 president of the International Studies Association (ISA) recently delivered a presidential address at the annual ISA convention in Toronto, in which he drew parallels to the increasing irrelevance of Western hegemony as a rational framework both in the current world order and in the study of international relations (IR).

“International relations as a discipline has been very Western-oriented, or at least so in terms of the theories and literature of it. With the increasing popularity of this discipline in schools world-wide, I would hope the literature would become more global and inclusive, too,” he says. The “West vs. the rest” divide is an outdated paradigm and one that needs to be supplanted by what Acharya calls “global international relations.”

Acharya explains that he does not want to emerge as a divisive figure in IR, but rather hopes to suggest a new sense of universalism based on diversity. “It is about recognizing diversity and trying to find a common ground,” he says. He predicts that regional studies will become more prominent as a field, reflecting the understanding that diversity is crucial.

“The era of hegemony is over; the multiplex analogy crystalizes the diversity out there,” he concludes.

Follow Amitav Acharya on Twitter @AmitavAcharya