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The Authoritarian Challenge in the new context
of Great Power Politics

New Trends in Geopolitics of the XXI st Century

A conversation with Azar Gat, Professor at National Security at Tel Aviv University, Israel

Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues, editor of, December 2007

Selected article:
Article at Foreign Affairs Magazine (July/August edition): 'The Return of Authoritarian Great Powers'

Selected books by Azar Gat:
'War in Human Civilizations' (Oxford University Press, 2006) - named one of the best books of 2006 by the Times literary supplement (TLS)
'A History of Military Thought: From the Enlightenment to the Cold War' (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Azar Gat, 48, professor at Tel Aviv, specialist in military thought and history, wrote a seminal article at Foreign Affairs about the new world 'design' after the (re)emergence of the new great powers of Orient and Eurasia. He coins a new concept: the new 'Second World', the emergent powers with non democratic regimes. The leaders, China and Russia, although not a "front" or a "bloc", counts for 14% of the world wealth (recent figures for 2007 from IMF. World Economic Outlook). China by itself contributed nearly 27 per cent to global growth in 2007 - it's the true economic engine nowadays.


Do you think this emergence of a "new second world" of big authoritarian capitalist powers will have important impact in the growth of world rivalry between great powers?

I think this is very likely.

Do you think this emergence can have a huge impact in the commodity markets like oil and gas and eventually contribute for growth of "resource wars" from either the supply or the demand side?

It might.

Can we talk also of a "third ring" of totalitarian or authoritarian capitalist regional and medium powers (I am thinking of Iran, Venezuela, others to come on the radar) that inspired by the "new second world" emergence can work as "second hands" or even by its own in the growth of turbulence and War risks?

The liberal hegemony is seen in many parts of the world as alien and oppressive, and may be dropped if there is an alternative that emphasizes, traditional values, particularism and paternalistic order.

About the other two democratic BRICs - India and Brazil (7.5 per cent of the world wealth) - as you mentioned, referring India, it will be critical that they remain democratic. How you "classify" those two regarding the First World and the new authoritarian Second world?

The new 'Second World' means developed economies that are not democratic. Neither China nor India are developed yet (nor is Russia in its present state), but the take off and rapid development of both economies suggest that China (and maybe Russia) can become a developed economy within a generation while remaining authoritarian/totalitarian. Whereas India, if developing and remaining democratic, may join the 'First World'. Brazil is in this respect in the same category as India, but it still has to prove that its growth is not a function of commodity prices alone but can be based on a more advanced economy.

Can we consider as a third ring linked with the authoritarian capitalist great powers, the autocratic or theocratic medium powers of the petrodollar world that have a huge portion of the world liquidity nowadays, with a high percentage of dollar foreign holds (as revealed recently by McKinsey Global Institute)?

The oil producing states are a special category (as they have always been) which is neither 'developed' nor 'developing'. Some of them are rich without being truly developed (yet), in the sense of having developed social and economic infrastructure. So long as oil prices are high they hold a position of strength (as in the past), and, yes, some of them - the theocratic and authoritarian - may form alliances with the authoritarian-capitalist powers, as you say.

©, Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues

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