Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL3282: World Orders: Past, Present, and Future

This module descriptor refers to the 2022/3 academic year.

Module Aims

This module aims to provide students with the analytical tools to critically examine the past, present and future of world order(s). The module will be divided into three parts. The first part addresses the importance of thinking in terms of grand theories and grand narratives about international relations. We will furthermore explore a number of key concepts such as world order, power, and time.

In the second part we will address multiple perspectives on the histories and present characteristics of world orders. We will reflect on how different perspectives are profoundly shaped, among others, by distinct theoretical assumptions about what constitutes order and progress, who are the main actors and social forces in the international system, what constitute key forms of power, and what are the main sources of international change and stability.

In the third part of the module we will interrogate, in critical as well as imaginative ways, the future. We will start by reflecting on how to think about ‘the future’, also through an engagement with ideas of utopia/dystopia and methodologies like scenario planning. Students will carry out case studies and present their visions and scenarios of future world orders to the rest of the class.

This is a highly theoretical module. However, we will not simply approach theory for theory’s sake, but always relate it to the empirical reality around us. The purpose is to unpack how different conceptual and normative assumptions lead to distinct interpretations of world order and what our own place and agency within it is. The starting point is that if we are to “make the world a better place”, as so many aspire to do, we first need to make sense of what this very world we inhabit and are constituted by looks like.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

This module's assessment will evaluate your achievement of the ILOs listed here – you will see reference to these ILO numbers in the details of the assessment for this module.

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to:
Module-Specific Skills1. Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of key concepts and different perspectives on world order
2. Critically assess and evaluate distinct histories and theories of world order
3. Apply the acquired conceptual tools and theoretical frameworks to interpret and explain world ordering dynamics and changes taking place in the international system
Discipline-Specific Skills4. Critically reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of thinking in ‘systemic’ ways about international relations and world politics
5. Analyse and place contemporary issues in the context of larger theoretical frameworks and historical trends
6. Evaluate and problematise conventional narratives and assumptions about international relations
Personal and Key Skills7. Communicate effectively by articulating a clear point of view whether in written format, group presentations, or seminar discussions
8. Work independently and as part of a team
9. Understand, summarise, and evaluate complex arguments and events