Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS

PP5182 Redesigning Models of Global Power Relations
Meetings: Tuesdays 0900h-1200h, MM Seminar Room 2-2 (2016 Sem 1)
Instructor: Danny Quah
Email / Twitter: D.Quah@nus.edu.sg / @DannyQuah
Office: OTH, Wing A, #02-03a; +65.6601.5506
Consultation Hours: Tuesdays 1300h-1500h
Related Pages: PP5182 homepage | Presentations Schedule | Making Presentations | Writing Papers

Synopsis Economies succeed not just from generating ever improved domestic social outcomes, but also by navigating successfully their foreign relations. Nation states commit a dangerous error if they situate injudiciously in world order, not least with the current model of global power relations under constant stress. This course analyzes models of world order from the perspective that the emergence and evolution of world order should not be merely random but need also to be improvements in the system. The course begins by providing a toolkit of global empirical regularities and sketching a background summary of conventional approaches to world order. The module then turns to developing some economic perspectives on world order. It asks what a rational world order is and investigates the role of smaller states in it. The course compares current reality to a rational world order, and analyzes how critical elements of such a new order might emerge.
Learning Outcomes This course introduces students to models of global power relations, with emphasis on understanding:
  1. forces that cause those power relations to shift;
  2. implications of alternative world and regional orders;
  3. roles for small states; and
  4. directions for improving extant world and regional orders.
Students will learn to engage in debate and to write policy briefs based on:
  1. basic international relations theories;
  2. overarching economic ideas, some game theory and mechanism design, Ramsey principles in economic analysis;
  3. empirical analyses and data sources for modelling global power relations;
  4. an improved understanding of the interface between economics and international relations.
Prerequisites This module is self-contained, but some prior knowledge in either economics or international relations (formally acquired or otherwise) will be helpful.  

The most useful background is the ability to consider unconventional perspectives seriously, so long as those can be backed up by rigorous, empirically-falsifiable reasoning.

Some general background references include:

  • Shepsle, Kenneth A. 2010. Analyzing Politics: Rationality, Behavior, and Institutions. Second edition. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.
  • Mahbubani, Kishore. 2013. The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World. London: Public Affairs.
  • Nye, Joseph S. 2015. Is the American Century Over?" Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Mearsheimer, John J. 2014. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W. W. Norton and Company
  • Keohane, Robert O. 1984. After Hegemony. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Gilpin, Robert. 2001. Global Political Economy: Understanding the International Economic Order. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Gruber, Lloyd. 2000. Ruling the World: Power Politics and the Rise of Supranational Institutions. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Nothing is compulsory; just look at those books periodically to see how our discussions in the course align with ideas there.

Teaching Modes Each week's meeting begins with three student presentations, 15 minutes each, on the material of the two-week slot in which that presentation falls. (Thus, for instance, if you're presenting in Week 9, looking below in Schedule Details we see that your presentation will be related to the topic “Power and Legitimacy”.) [Class presentation schedule].

Presenters are invited to submit, by 1700h Friday ahead of their session, some readings they reckon might be useful for what they will say. After the presentations we will have a 15-minute break—just enough to grab a cup of coffee or tea. Then the instructor delivers a one-hour lecture that goes over some other related background material, using that to bring out some of the points that the presenters have themselves made. The sessions then ends with general discussion on the questions arising from the readings, the presentations, and the lecture. I give here some suggestions for how individual presentations might usefully go.

Active participation in the discussions is an integral part of the learning experience in this course. Students will be assessed on both quantity and quality of their interventions; reading the materials beforehand is therefore important. The participation that attracts the highest marks will be one that critically reflects on the readings but then also engages with the thread of the discussion generally.

Although we discuss large-scale international choices, still the end-result needs to be one that policy-makers and observers need to remember concretely and to take forwards in their work. Try to make our discussions thus. When discussing proposals and recommendations, be hard on ideas, not on people (least of all your fellow students!). Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and end up spending too much time on semantics, terminology, and abstract definitions. Try to get to something that works, and then improve from there as needed.

Assessment Both continuous engagement and persuasive writing count for the course grade:
  1. A 1000-word midterm paper/policy brief assessing the one of the key ideas appearing in Weeks 1-6, selected by the student — due at the end of Week 7 (1700h Friday 30 September 2016) (20%);
  2. Class participation (10%);
  3. Class presentation (20%);
  4. A 4,000-word final paper/background briefing, on one aspect of world or regional order, selected in consultation with course instructor — due at the end of Week 14 (i.e., the week after the end of term, 1700h Friday 18 November 2016) (50%).

You're welcome to submit your papers in either PDF or some common editable format (e.g., Microsoft Word). If the format is something where I can't do a wordcount, however, please provide that count somewhere in the paper itself. The midterm and final papers should be submitted by IVLE / Files (Workbin) / Student Submissions. In this folder, only the submitting student and instructor will be able to see the contents of the submission.

Additionally, I have written up some suggestions for implicit rules you might want to follow in writing your papers.


Schedule Details

Topics are sufficiently extensive that more time could easily be devoted to each. But we will keep to a discipline that engages on their key dimensions for just two weeks per topic.

Some readings overlap in coverage and so are repeated in different sections. Just skim the parts that don't apply when you're in a particular topic.

Links that appear below are embedded so please view this document online. If you're reading this only in hardcopy, this document will likely be of less use.

For each section I also provide the lecture slides I will use in 3 per page and full-page formats. The latter should not be printed but are just available if you want to view things online with variable resolution. These lecture slides will be more for certain sections than for others: in particular, for a couple sections the literature remains nascent. (To be clear, the lecture slides are made available so you have a record of key points; what I actually present will often differ from the linear record in the slides for reasons of emphasis and flow.)

Week 01 Shopping Week: Course Introduction and Summary

Weeks 02-03: What Does the World Outside Actually Look Like, that We Seek to Order?

Weeks 04-05: New Models for Global Power Relations? What's Wrong With the Old Ones?

Weeks 06-07: Decision Making When You Can See the Whites of Their Eyes

Weeks 08-09: Power and Legitimacy

Weeks 10-11: The International Financial Architecture and Other Global Public Goods

Weeks 12-13: How Would You Order the World?


Supplementary Information

For those who wish to use ideas here for working with actual data - whether for your other papers or whatever you wish - you are welcome to take data and R code I provide:

Finally, I regularly tweet, blog, and post on Facebook concerning many issues that appear in the course.




Danny Quah
Last modified: Tue Nov 1 05:20:36 Malay Peninsula Standard Time 2016