The Cold War in retrospect: a continuous international conflict or a world war?

Arie Geronik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay aims to offer a new perspective on the world wars of the twentieth century and its international systems. In this context I argue that the bipolar system, in contrast to its predecessors, was not ended by a world war because this very system–or more precisely, the mode of operation derived from it, namely the Cold War–was in itself a world war. In this sense it differs from the two preceding international systems. In order to confirm this hypothesis, I will first survey the three international systems with which we are familiar from twentieth-century history, including their characteristics and legacies. I will then examine the familiar definitions of war in political- historical scholarship, propose a definition of the term ‘world war’ and finally attempt to demonstrate that the Cold War indeed falls into this category.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2300527
JournalCogent Social Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Cold War
  • Comparative Politics
  • Cristina Elena Popa Tache, Law, Andrei Şaguna University, Bucharest, Romania
  • history
  • International Politics
  • International relations
  • International Relations
  • international systems
  • Military Studies
  • world order
  • world war

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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