World Order

Key Concepts
  • power
  • balance of power
  • polarity
  • hegemony
  • nationalism
Syllabus Outline

The main focus of the topic will be on developments in the post-1989 period.

A knowledge of the changing nature of world order in the 20th and 21st centuries, and an ability to discuss the effects of events such as the collapse of communism on the nature of global order, including an awareness of the implications of conditions such as bipolarity, unipolarity and multipolarity.

A knowledge of the differing significance of states in global affairs, of the importance of power (both hard and soft) and why, for instance, some states are classified as great powers or superpowers, or as ‘emerging powers’.

Scheme of Work

Power — the importance of power (hard and soft) in the global system. Concepts such as ‘superpower’ should be understood as well as an awareness of existing and future / former superpowers. Analysis of the role of balance of power in maintaining global security is also necessary.

Polarity — multipolarity, bipolarity and unipolarity. Awareness of the impact of polarity on global security with examples is fundamental to an understanding of polarity, as well as analysis of the post-Cold War global system and US hegemony.

Nationalism — the concept that the nation state is the ultimate base for political loyalty and that nations should be independent and self-governing.

Content Explanation and Advice

Power in Global Politics

Nature of power - power as capacity (military strength; economic development; population size; level of literacy and skills; geographical factors, etc); structural power (ability to affect the "rules of the game", influence via organisations and international regimes); ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power (ability to reward or punish (military / economic power) vs co-optive power; growing importance of soft power; rise of ‘smart’ power), etc.

Classification of states - great powers (features of; examples); superpowers (features of; examples); hegemon and hegemony (features of, examples); emerging powers (features of, examples), etc.

Debating decline of military power – decline of inter-state war and rise of economic power (impact of globalization, etc); difficulty of resolving conflict by military means ('intractable' terrorist threats, insurgency or 'new' wars, etc); military power as irreducible core of state sovereignty; need to respond to new security threats, etc.

Changing Nature of World Order

Cold War world order – Cold War bipolarity; implications of bipolarity (structural dynamics of bipolarity; balance-of-power theory); Cold War "balance of terror"); collapse of the Cold War (role of "new Cold War" and Reaganite anti-communism; structural weakness of Soviet communism; role of Gorbachev and Soviet reformers; significance for realism and liberalism). (Note: historical questions will not be set on the rise and fall of Cold War bipolarity).

Post-Cold War world order – The "new world order" (the "liberal moment"); fate of the "new world order" (rise of ethnic conflict and civil wars, etc.)

US hegemony and world order - nature of hegemony; rise of US hegemony (basis of US power; neoconservative project for unipolar world); implications of unipolarity (tendency towards unilateralism; benign hegemony (hegemonic stability theory, Pax Americana, etc) vs oppressive or "predatory" hegemony (American empire, Chomsky, etc); implications of 'war on terror' for world order; decline of US power? (loss of 'soft' power; ineffectiveness of 'hard' power; decline of relative economic power, etc).

21st century world order – rise of multipolarity; nature and structural dynamics of multipolarity (global conflict and instability (anarchic multipolarity) vs peace and reconciliation (multilateral multipolarity); implications of rise of China and India and revival of Russia tendencies (China as a superpower (the new hegemon?); possibility of conflict between the USA and China; shift from West to East; major powers and "new" Cold War (Russia vs the West?); democracy vs authoritarianism; implications of globalization for world order; impact of global economic crisis on balance of power, etc.