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Global Politics, Governance and Security


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Tutor: Professor Alex Colas 
  • Assessment: a 4000-word essay (90%) and 1000-word seminar log (10%)

    Module description

    The end of the Cold War ushered in a world characterised by both integration and fragmentation. Economic globalisation and the recharging of international institutions of global and regional governance have been accompanied by the outbreak of 'new wars' within and across states, and the development of fresh geopolitical fractures across East and West that pose distinctive security challenges to state and non-state actors alike. 

    This module considers the multiple tensions between transnational networks and territorial sovereignty, offering an overview of key concepts such as governance, globalisation, development, security, networks, inequality, humanitarianism, justice, legitimacy and geopolitics as they apply to the world today. It challenges the idea of global governance as a residual term for all attempts at policy-making beyond the state, and instead focuses on the de-centralised, non-hierarchical and soft-law approaches that have dominated international decision-making since the 1970s, but especially in the run-up to, and aftermath of, the 2008 global financial crisis. A key concern is where international institutions and fora can secure legitimacy in the absence of democratic accountability and whether the participation of non-governmental actors helps or hinders the pursuit of a pluralist international system. The discussion of international institutions focuses on the origins and evolution of different fora for economic governance (G-8, G-20, OECD), the responses to the global Covid-19 pandemic and climate emergency as well as UN reforms, including the Bretton Woods institutions. A range of policy issues will be explored in this course, including international economic policy coordination, development aid, finance, climate change and human rights. The module also explores the contemporary doctrines and practices of security, geopolitics and humanitarianism, looking at their historical evolution since the nineteenth century to the present, and asking: what has actually changed in global politics since the end of the Cold War?  

    You will learn about the various theoretical approaches to international relations and global governance, and their interaction with notions of sovereignty, regionalism, justice, terrorism, and international conflict and cooperation conflict associated to global politics, past and present. You will also explore a range of policy issues, including international economic policy coordination, development aid, finance, climate change and human rights. The United Nations, the World Bank, the WHO, Médecins Sans Frontiėres and the Red Cross are among the institutions explored on this module.

    Learning objectives

    On completing this course, you will:

    • be familiar with the main concepts and theories applied to the study of globalisation and global governance
    • be conversant with debates concerning the nature and evolution of the idea of sovereignty
    • be able to engage in debates surrounding the emergence of new forms of global governance
    • have grasped the links between contemporary forms of global integration and its historical predecessors
    • be able to assess the validity of analytical distinctions, to give oral presentations and to produce well-sourced argument-driven essays.