This seminar explores the topic of the rise and decline of great powers and aspiring powers in the international system. Is the international system more stable when there is a single great power (i.e., a hegemon) or when there is a balance of power? Why do differential rates of growth occur among great powers and does war occur around the period of power transition between the rising and declining powers? What type of international order do victorious great powers seek to create? Does a special or perpetual peace exist among rising and declining liberal, democratic, and trading states? Why are some great powers more successful in managing their decline or prolonging their great power tenure while other states engage in self-defeat behavior? Will aspiring powers accept or contest the regional order and what are their different regional responses? To address these kinds of questions we will examine how previous great powers (Spain, Britain, Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union/Russia) and aspiring powers (Iran, India, China, Brazil) respond. The conclusion of the course will examine alternatives for American grand strategy in the twenty-first century.
This course asks four core questions: (1) what factors shape and constrain states, actors, governments, or individuals in the international system; (2) how can one explain recurring patterns in history; (3) why do states, actors, governments, or individuals make suboptimal or self-defeating policy decisions; and (4) as good social scientists what is our best prediction about the likelihood of increasing cooperation or conflict in the coming decades.