For several decades after International Relations (IR) became a fully-fledged field of study at British and American universities, it worked with a relatively simple conceptualisation of ‘politics’ as such. In the international context, ‘politics’ involved an ongoing struggle for power among sovereign states, with war the worst-case outcome of this struggle. Power itself was defined essentially in terms of military and economic ‘capabilities’. The fundamental structural condition of international anarchy meant that, in the absence of the kinds of constraints upon conflict that operate within states, only such crude mechanisms as a balance of power, or fragile institutions such as diplomacy or international law, served to impose some degree of order upon the system as a whole. While the Cold War brought an additional, ideological dimension to this struggle for power, in other respects it also simplified it by making it bipolar. Hence although much more was seen to be at stake in this contest than, for example, the nineteenth-century struggle for power in Europe, which gave the Cold War confrontation a zero-sum quality, the nature of the political processes at work was conceptualised in relatively straightforward terms. The ‘high politics’ of the global strategic contest between the superpowers not only transcended the ‘low politics’ of issues such as trade, they subsumed and gave a particular shape to numerous lesser conflicts in the Third World, which were frequently characterised as Cold War ‘proxies’.