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By Bertrand Badie (auth.)

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The difference here is 40 Diplomacy of Connivance clearly made between a volatile threat, sometimes reducible to a particular national defense policy, and a threat perceived as recurrent, structural, and exceeding the limits of each actor’s defense effort: this is what ushered in bipolarity and devised its code. It was the fact that what Schelling called the “threat of destruction” (Schelling, 1980) could not exist in and of itself that created bipolarity, of course provided that the security community into which one fit was on an equal footing with the one feared.

In that regard, it was a historical exception, conferring an unprecedented role on social parameters to the point that when it A Precarious Polarization 43 disappeared, some naively claimed it was the end of ideology or even the end of history (Fukuyama, 1992). None of that occurred. Bipolarity simply brought the corrupting effects of two regimes in confrontation into full view on the international scene, showing that neither side had managed to accommodate the enormous social transformations that accompanied industrializing and then globalizing societies.

Understandably, the atmosphere at the time was precisely one of colonial conquest, as much at the initiative of a state-centered and soon republican France as a liberal and more civil society–centered England. Significantly, the two exceptions came from the United States, which was not interested in the world of the Concert, and Germany, more moderately hostile to colonization, at least at a time when it was reasserting its attachment to realpolitik and its desire to return to gladiator contests.

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