Changes in the global economic power structure: towards a multipolar world?

February, 2013
Sebastián Laffaye
Federico Lavopa
Cecilia Pérez Llana

Many of the studies that participate in the debate on the “polarity” characterizing the current world usually assume that the global power structure has changed significantly or they adopt a purely conceptual and descriptive approach to the changes that have taken place over the last years. A limited number of studies have attempted to empirically verify the global power redistribution process, and those studies which have tried to do so have restricted their analysis to only very few indicators in order to show trends in a reduced group of countries. This paper intends to stand aloof from this eminently conceptual and descriptive—and, in many cases, prescriptive—debate so as to provide some quantitative elements that serve to contrast, in a more rigorous way, the proposition that the world is heading towards a multipolar configuration.

For this purpose, we will seek to pinpoint a series of indicators of economic power and to assess their performance over the last 30 years for the group of countries having the largest share in the world economy during said period. On the basis of the comparison of the performance of these indicators in the group of countries selected, we will draw some tentative conclusions about the possible reconfiguration of global economic power.