Post Cold War era

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The Post Cold War era is the period in world history from the Collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to the present.[1]

It has mostly been dominated by the rise of globalization (as well as seemingly paradoxically, nationalism) enabled by the commercialization of the Internet and the growth of the mobile phone system. The ideology of postmodernism and cultural relativism has according to some scholars replaced modernism and notions of absolute progress and ideology.[2]

It has seen the United States become by far the most powerful country in the world and the rise of China from a relatively weak third world country to a fledgling superpower. It has also seen the merging of most of Europe into one economy.

Environmentalism has also become a mainstream concern in the Post Cold War era; global warming entered public discourse in 1988 after a very hot summer which burned down 40 percent of the forest land in Yellowstone National Park. Recycling has become common place in many countries and cities over the past 30 years.


During most of the latter half of the 20th century the two most powerful states in the world by far were the United States (formed in 1783) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (formed in 1922). These two federations were called the world's superpowers.[3]

Faced with the threat of growing Japanese, German and Italian fascism and a world war, the western Allies and the Soviet Union made an alliance of necessity during WW2.[3]

The alliance between the USA and USSR was simply against a greater common enemy and the two countries never really trusted each other. After the Axis was defeated these two powers became highly suspicious of each other because of their vastly different ideologies.

This struggle, known as the Cold War, lasted from about 1946 to 1991, beginning with the second Red Scare and ending with the August Coup when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Consequences of the fall of communism[edit]

The collapse of the Soviet Union caused profound changes in nearly every society in the world. Much of the policy and infrastructure of the West and the Soviet Bloc revolved around the capitalist and communist ideologies respectively and the possibility of a hot war.

Government, economic and military institutions[edit]

The fall of communism formed an existential threat for many institutions. The United States Military was forced to cut much of its expenditure, though the level rose again to comparable heights after the War on Terror started in 2001.[4]

Socialist parties around the world saw drops in membership after the Berlin Wall fell and the public felt that free market ideology had won.[5]

The end of the Cold War also coincided with the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Declining Cold War tensions in the later years of the 1980s meant that the Apartheid regime was no longer supported by the West as a bulwark against communism and they were condemned with an embargo. In 1990 Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and the regime made steps to end apartheid, which were on an official basis completed by 1994 with the new election.

Libertarian, neoliberal,[6] nationalist [6] and Islamist [6] parties on the other hand benefited from the fall of the Soviet Union. As capitalism had "won", as people saw it, socialism in general declined in popularity. Socialist Scandinavian countries privatized many of their commons in the 1990s and a political debate on modern institutions re-opened.[7]

The People's Republic of China, already having moved towards capitalism starting in the 1970s and facing public anger after the 1989 killings in Beijing moved even more quickly towards free market economics in the 1990s. McDonalds and Pizza Hut both entered the country in the second half of 1990, the first American chains in China aside from Kentucky Fried Chicken which entered 3 years earlier in 1987. Stock markets were established in Shenzhen and Shanghai late in 1990 as well. The restrictions on car ownership were loosened in the early 1990s, causing the bicycle to decline as a form of transport by 2000.

The move to capitalism has increased the economic prosperity of China, but many people still live in poor conditions, working for companies for very small pay and in dangerous and poor conditions.[8] Pollution has also gotten much worse, killing over a million people per year [9] and the Chinese government has not relaxed its restrictions on freedom of speech.


The end of the Cold War allowed many technologies that were formerly off limits to the public to be declassified. The most important of these was the Internet, which was created as ARPANET by the Pentagon as a system to keep in touch following an impending nuclear war. The last restrictions on commercial enterprise online were lifted in 1995.[10]

In the approximately two decades since, the Internet's population and usefulness have grown immensely. Only about 20 million people (less than 0.5 percent of the world's population at the time) were online in 1995, mostly in the US and several other Western countries. Today in the mid 2010s, more than one third of the world's population are online.[11]


One third of the world's population lived in Eastern Bloc countries, and the dismantling of the Iron Curtain caused their economies to open to the rest of the world. For the first time in history there was an economy that was not only truly global (within the exception of Cuba and North Korea) but thanks to modern communications instantaneous as well.[citation needed]

While capital and economic opportunity now moves almost without regard to national borders, people do not and are subject to immigration laws that are just as strict and sometimes more strict than they were during the Cold War. This has caused human trafficking to become a growing crime.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A Tale of Two Worlds: Core and Periphery in the Post-Cold War Era - CDDRL". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  2. ^ "postmodernism (philosophy) - Encyclopedia Britannica". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  3. ^ a b "Cold War Revision". 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  4. ^ Shah, Anup. "World Military Spending — Global Issues". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  5. ^ "Left and radical :: SWP". Socialist Party. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  6. ^ a b c "The Lost American - Post-Cold War | FRONTLINE". PBS. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  7. ^ "The Age of Social Democracy: Norway and Sweden in the Twentieth Century - Francis Sejersted - Google Books". 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  8. ^ "Apple's Chinese suppliers still exploiting workers, says report". CBS News. 2013-02-27. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  9. ^ "PressTV - Air pollution kills over 1.2 million people in China". 2013-04-02. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  10. ^ Cameron Chapman. "The History of the Internet in a Nutshell". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  11. ^ "One third of the world's population is online : 45% of Internet users below the age of 25". Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  12. ^ "Globality Studies Journal (GSJ) | Human Trafficking: A Call for Global Action". Retrieved 2013-09-21.