We live in an uncertain and challenging era where global issues increasingly affect our local daily lives. Forty years of uneven globalisation has been accompanied by the rise of corporations, regional and international institutions, and international nongovernmental agencies. As important influencers of decision-making, these agencies have both undermined and transformed the nation state's position as the key actor in world affairs. Despite national, regional and global intergovernmental and multistakeholder governance efforts, the world remains beset with problems. These range from transnational terrorism, pandemic disease, human rights atrocities, war, weapons of mass destruction and global injustices from deep gender inequality to the dramatic, new and daunting sustainability challenges including of climate change that existing institutions seem ill-equipped to resolve. How should these challenges be met? Can states acting alone solve these old and new global problems as the new populist nationalism appears to believe? Or should regional and international institutions and new multistakeholder governance organisations play a larger role? How should we address other important issues such as the world's economic division into the rich, developed 'North' and the poor, developing 'South'?
Tackling these challenges requires understanding as deeply as we can the strengths and weaknesses of different explanations for the nature of world affairs. Is it effectively a struggle for power as IR Realists suggest? Or is it better conceptualised as an evolutionary process of global rule making that makes peace and universal justice possible as IR Liberals argue? Is it based on capitalist exploitation by footloose corporations, a view put forcefully by neo-Marxists? And why do women remain invisible in IR theory despite ‘holding up half the sky’, a critique made be IR Feminists observe? Finally, what is the role of IR discourse itself in the production and reproduction of ideas that shape the way we view the ‘reality’ we purport to study? We will consider these vital questions in this subject as we examine both conventional and new approaches to international relations and world politics.
This subject aims to provide students with an introduction to the process, substance, and changing nature of international relations and world politics, including a basic knowledge of some key theoretical debates in the field. After completing this subject students will have a broad understanding of international relations, which will serve as a useful base for the more advanced international politics subjects offered by the Program in Politics and International Relations.