American hegemony has passed its peak. The twenty-first century will see a more multipolar international system. Yet Western European countries may not be the United States’ main foils in upcoming decades. Four new poles of the international system are now known in the business and financial press as the “BRICs economies” (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). Does the concept of “the BRICs” also have meaning within a rigorous political science framework? From the perspective of neoclassical economics, the category’s justification is surprisingly weak. In contrast, a political or economic realist’s framing instructs the United States to focus on states that are increasing their relative material capabilities, as each of the four is. Finally, within a liberal institutionalist’s model, the BRICs are a compelling set, yet one with a deep cleavage between two subgroups: large emerging powers likely to remain authoritarian or revert to that state, and states that are securely democratic.