Power Shift: The Decline of the West and The Crisis of the Liberal International Order?

  • Summer schools
  • Department of International Relations
  • Application code SS-IR201
  • Starting 2022
  • Short course: Open
  • Location: Houghton Street, London

At the beginning of the 21st century the world stood on the cusp of what most experts assumed would be a golden age of international peace and prosperity guaranteed by American power and underwritten by an ever-expanding world market dominated by the West. But 9/11 and the financial meltdown of 2008 followed, leaving the United States in crisis, Europe in tatters, and the balance of power rapidly shifting southwards towards the ‘rest’ and eastwards towards Asia and China. Pundits even began to talk of a new world disorder in the making.

Certainly, with renewed tensions between Russia and the West, conflicts in the Middle East, and the uncertainties in Europe arising from BREXIT and the election of Donald Trump in the United States, it did appear as if the international system was fast becoming a much less stable place. Some even wonder whether the Liberal international order itself was now under threat.

But how have all these major changes come about? What has been their impact on international affairs? Is the West in decline and are we heading toward a new world dis-order? These are at least three of the big questions we will be seeking to answer in this course.

Session: Two
Dates: 11 July - 29 July 2022
Lecturer: Professor Michael Cox and Dr Luca Tardelli


Programme details

Key facts

Level: 200 level. Read more information on levels in our FAQs

Fees:  Please see Fees and payments

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: One examination and one essay

Typical credit*: 3-4 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

*Assessment is optional but may be required for credit by your home institution. Your home institution will be able to advise how you can meet their credit requirements.

For more information on exams and credit, read Teaching and assessment


At least one introductory course in either social science (e.g. political science, international relations, sociology, economics), history, law or any other cognate subject in the Arts or Humanities.

Key topics

  • The Rise and Fall and Great Powers in World History

  • War, Revolution, and Global Power Shifts in the 20th Century

  • Globalisation under Threat? 2008 and the Rise of Populism

  • US: From the Unipolar Moment to Joe Biden

  • Emerging Powers: The BRICS Challenge to the West

  • Will China Rule the World?

  • Russia’s Great Power Politics and the War in Ukraine

  • Europe: From Crisis to Strategic Actor?

  • War, Revolution, and Power Shifts in the Middle East

  • The Rise of the Global South?

  • Great Power Conflict in the 21st Century

  • The End of the Liberal International Order?

Programme structure and assessment

This course is delivered via a combination of daily lectures and classes. In class, students will then discuss the weekly topics by critically engaging the assigned questions and readings. Classes will provide the opportunity to refine relevant analytical, presentation, and teamworking skills. Finally, there will be a revision day in the third week of the course.

The course is assessed through one essay (50%) and one final examination (50%). To help prepare for the essay and exam questions, students will also conduct a formative essay-planning exercise in class. This exercise will not contribute to the final grade but will help prepare students for the summative examinations.

*Further details will be provided at the beginning of the course.

Course outcomes

  • Understand the changing distribution of power and the evolution of key great powers across the 20th and 21st century.

  • Critically engage the relevant literature and debates on power shift and the rise and decline of great powers.

  • Analyse the causes and consequences of power shifts in international relations.

  • Produce written analyses on questions related to power shifts in international relations.

Is this course right for you?

The course is designed with several different audiences in mind: undergraduate students at all levels looking for an expert guide through contemporary international issues; policy-makers at all levels seeking an in-depth survey of the main challenges facing the world today; those from any of the major social science disciplines who take the ‘global’ seriously; members of international organisations and NGOs; and anybody with a keen interest in international affairs who wishes to deepen his or her understanding of world issues.

Your department

With a vibrant research culture, the LSE Department of International Relations is one of the oldest and largest in the world, and remains a leading world centre for the development of the subject.

International Relations has been taught at LSE since 1924 when Philip Noel-Baker was appointed to a new Chair of International Relations. The Department, which was set up three years later, was not only the first of its kind, but has remained a leading world centre for the development of the subject ever since. Its reputation for international excellence was recognised in the most recent National Research Assessment Exercise when the IR and Government Departments, assessed as one unit, received one of the highest rankings. The Department of International Relations also ranked 2nd in the UK in the QS World University Ranking by Subject 2021 tables for Politics and International Studies.

On this three-week intensive programme, you will engage with and learn from lecturers from the LSE’s International Relations faculty.

Your faculty

Prof. Michael Cox
Emeritus Professor of International Relations, LSE

Dr Luca Tardelli
Assistant Professorial Lecturer, Department of International Relations

Reading materials

J. Baylis, S. Smith & P. Owens (eds.) (2019), The Globalisation of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 8th Edition (Oxford University Press).

*A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

**Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice


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