Not available in 2015/16
EU426      Half Unit
The West: Identity and Interests

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Maurice Fraser COW 1.10


This course is available on the MSc in EU Politics, MSc in EU Politics (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in European Studies: Ideas, Ideologies and Identities, MSc in European Studies: Ideas, Ideologies and Identities (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Relations (Research), MSc in Political Economy of Europe, MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This is a capped course (30 students). Students are required to obtain permission from the teaching department to take this course.

Course content

This course is in two halves: the first will explore the idea of The West, culturally and philosophically; the second will explore the architecture, policies and governance of the contemporary transatlantic relationship. The course will begin by examining The West's central role as a descriptive and normative concept across intellectual disciplines. It will locate its many definitions in their respective cultural and geographical contexts and will examine the claims for an unique and irreducible content which can account for The West's enduring significance in changing geopolitical contexts, notably since the end of the Cold War. The course will consider The West as a foundational idea in the humanities - specifically the emergence of a self-consciousness through the liberal arts and the Western Canon of literature and philosophy; the concept of 'high culture'; the idea of a university; and the importance of criticism , innovation and self-consciousness. The West's position within the grand civilisational narratives will be analysed, including those of decline (Spengler, Toynbee, Freud), triumph or resolution (Bell, Fukuyama), conflict (Huntington), and universal mission (liberal interventionism , neo-conservatism, soft power). The course will describe and critically evaluate the claims of anti-western ideologies such as pan-Islamism, pan-Asianism, 'Negritude', Russian eurasianism and Eastern Orthodoxy, along with the political expression which these have taken, including in the Non-Aligned Movement. It will also examine the continuing coherence of The West as a normative community in light of contemporary claims of radical incompatibility of European and American value systems. The second half of the course will assess the coherence of The West as a geopolitical actor in the post-War period, in the context of centripetal forces such as the opposition to communism, the establishment of collective security through the Atlantic Alliance and growing economic interdependence; and centrifugal forces such as strategic or tactical divergences ( Suez, Vietnam, Balkans, Iraq ), economic tensions ( industrial and agricultural subsidies, GMOs, hormones, climate change ), and attitudes to international norms and multilateral institutions. Finally, the course will review the institutional architecture of the transatlantic relationship in light of the contemporary debates about collective security (future of NATO, burden-sharing, co-ordination in the UN); the US-EU institutional framework; commercial dialogue ( TABD, EABC ); and economic co-ordination ( G20, G8, reform of IFIs). It will conclude by assessing the various proposals for a new 'Transatlantic Bargain'.


20 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Two essays of 1,750-2,000 words; one seminar presentation.

Indicative reading

The Decline of the West, Oswald Spengler; The Western Canon, Harold Bloom; What is Liberal Education? Leo Strauss; The Rise of The West, W.H. McNeill; The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom; The Tyranny of Guilt, Pascal Bruckner; Occidentalism, I. Buruma and A. Margalit; The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel Huntington; The Narcissism of Minor Differences: how America and Europe are alike, Peter Baldwin; The End of the West? Crisis and Change in the Atlantic Order , J. Anderson et al ( eds.). The European Union and the United States, Steven McGuire and Michael Smith.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication