... a state with a leading position in the international system and the ability to influence events and its own interests and project power on a worldwide scale to protect those interests.
Alice Lyman Miller (Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, USA), defines a superpower as "a country that has the capacity to project dominating power and influence anywhere in the world, and sometimes, in more than one region of the globe at a time, and so may plausibly attain the status of global hegemon” (dominant leader or supreme power of others).
It was a term first applied in 1944 to the USA, the Soviet Union and the British Empire. Following WWII, as the British Empire transformed itself into the Commonwealth and its territories became independent, the Soviet Union and the United States generally came to be regarded as the only two superpowers, and confronted each other in the Cold War.
The Cold War (1945–1991) was the continuing state of political conflict, military tension, and economic competition existing after WWII, between the USSR and its satellite states, and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States.
After the Cold War, the most common belief held that only the United States fulfilled the criteria to be considered a superpower.
Since the expanded (now 27 states) European Union is now the world’s largest trading block some would regard it as a superpower.
Many would argue that the BRICs are emerging rapidly as potential superpowers within the next 50 years or so. The BRIC countries are B razil, R ussia, I ndia and C hina.
There are some who doubt the existence of superpowers in the post Cold War era altogether, stating that since Mikhail Gorbachev’s greater openness (‘glasnost’) of the 1985-90 period, which formed a part of his economic and governmental reform for the Soviet Union (‘perestroika’), today's complex global marketplace and the rising interdependency between the world's nations, has made the concept of a superpower an idea of the past with the world now being genuinely multipolar.
Some would argue the major changes in the Soviet Union in the second half of the 1980s has further accelerated the process of globalisation, leading to even greater spreading of companies, ideas and lifestyles round the world.
and then consider which of these nations may be considered superpowers
Canada United States Russia EU Brazil Australia India Japan China UK Germany France Italy South Africa Mexico Countries in black make up the ‘G8’ and those in red the so called ‘Outreach Five’. The EU is a ‘member’ of the G8 but it cannot host the meetings. Australia is not a member of either the G8 or the ‘Outreach Five’.
Population India (2) Pakistan (6) China (1) Japan (10) Brazil (5) Nigeria (8) Russia (9) Indonesia (4) Bangladesh (7) USA (3)
GDP India (12) Pakistan China (4) Japan (2) Brazil (10) Nigeria Russia (11) Indonesia Bangladesh USA (1) UK (5) France (6) Germany (3) Italy (7) Spain (8) Canada (9) How helpful is GDP? China’s 4th position in the league table of ‘percentage of global GDP’ suggests great wealth, but this is shared amongst 1.3 billion people The black entries are the top ten countries for population size
Ore exports Suriname (1) Bahamas (6) Jamaica (3) Botswana (10) Papua New Guinea (5) Australia (2) Jordan (9) Chile (4) Mongolia (8) Mauritania (7) NB: the map shows the top ten nations for the value of exports per head of population. How useful is this map in helping to assess ‘superpower’ status? Why? Are countries with high levels of ore exports economically and/or politically powerful? Why?
Pages 138 to 141 from the text A2 Geography for Edexcel (Oxford University Press) - look at the six factors thought to influence whether or not a nation or block of nations can be considered a superpower
three of these (population, GDP and military spending) are shown on the three previous slides using the maps from the ‘worldmapper.org’ website
the other three are physical size, resources and dominant belief systems
complete activities 1, 2, 3 and 4 page 141 and be ready to discuss responses next lesson