The course will provide a critical understanding of key developments and issues in contemporary world politics for students with no prior background in international relations. Focusing on the period since the end of the Cold War, an era defined by rapid institutional innovation and development, as well as a number of emergent global issues, problems and policy dilemmas, the course locates these in the context of north-south relations. Treating the international system as a dynamic whole, it examines how issues that have become central in international politics including ‘failed states’, nuclear proliferation, armed conflict and terrorism, democratisation, pandemics and the Arab Spring are intimately linked to expanding efforts since the mid-20th century to generate a liberal world order. In doing so it provides analysis of the roles played in contemporary world politics by leading members of the ‘international community’ such as the United States, the European Union, ‘rising’ non-western states China, India and Brazil, non-state actors such as NGOs, transnational corporations and armed groups, and international financial and other institutions.
Specific topics investigated include the centrality of the United States to the post-Cold War international order; the diverse north-south interventions associated with civil wars, terrorism, securitized development and peacebuilding; the rise of global resistance movements (from Seattle to Occupy and the Arab Spring); the politics of migration (refugees, diasporas and workers); the role of transnational corporations in the global political economy; and emergent patterns in the management of global health and the environment. By the end of the course students should expect to have developed a layered and nuanced account of contemporary world politics by which to analyse concrete issues and policies as they impact the global north and south, and the hierarchical relations between them.
As part of the course, students will visit the Imperial War Museum which will help understand relations between mainstream accounts of world history and contemporary world politics. Students will also take part in a negotiation exercise, which enables participants to understand transnational character of political processes and contestations. Teams will represent actors with competing priorities such as security, commercial access, donor conditionality, environmental concerns and workers’ rights and will strive to shape policy direction.