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Social conflict and the global Cold War



    1. Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary, University of London.
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    • This is one of a group of articles in this issue originating in a workshop held in November 2010 at the London School of Economics in honour of the life and work of the late Fred Halliday, and further developed through a study group held on 12 May 2011 at Chatham House The author would like to thank the other participants for their contributions to the workshop and comments on the article, in particular the organizers Alejandro Colás and George Lawson, as well as Amnon Aran, Barry Buzan and Ronald Dannreuther, the study group's discussants.


This article offers a critical assessment of Fred Halliday's theorization of the Cold War and, in particular, his attempt to offer a more global perspective on it through a greater focus on the role of developments emanating from the Third World as constitutive of the Cold War. The author argues that although Halliday's theorization of the Cold War as ‘inter-systemic conflict’ is a major advance in our understanding of the Cold War—through the attention it pays to the causal linkages between capitalist development and imperialism, revolutionary transformations and superpower geopolitical confrontations—it fails, ultimately, to fulfil its potential as a theory of global Cold War. Halliday's temporalization of the Cold War and his insistence on the autonomy of the superpower arms race and strategic competition end up detaching developments in the Third World from the axis of superpower conflict and, consequently, suggests a residual Eurocentrism within his theory. The article begins by contextualizing the wider theorization of the Cold War and the (absence) place of the Third World in it. It then proceeds to assess critically Halliday's conceptualization of the Third World in the Cold War. The final section outlines an alternative theoretical framework for a theory of global Cold War that builds on elements of inter-systemic conflict focused on how geopolitical confrontations involving the superpowers derived from the revolutionary consequences of uneven capitalist development.