Core units: people, power and politics
1. Power, sovereignty and international relations
2. Human rights
4. Peace and conflict
HL extension: global political challenges
Total teaching hours
16 key components
Power is a central concept in the study of global politics and a key focus of the course. Power can be seen as ability to effect change and, rather than being viewed as a unitary or independent force, is as an aspect of relations among people functioning within a social organization. Contested relationships between people and groups of people dominate politics, particularly in this era of increased globalization, and so understanding the dynamics of power plays a prominent role in understanding global politics.
Sovereignty characterizes a state’s independence, its control over territory and its ability to govern itself. How states use their sovereign power is at the heart of many important issues in global politics. Some theorists argue that sovereign power is increasingly being eroded by aspects of globalization such as global communication and trade, which states cannot always fully control. Others argue that sovereign states exercise a great deal of power when acting in their national interest and that this is unlikely to change.
Legitimacy refers to an actor or an action being commonly considered acceptable and provides the fundamental basis or rationale for all forms of governance and other ways of exercising power over others. The most accepted contemporary source of legitimacy in a state is some form of democracy or constitutionalism whereby the governed have a defined and periodical opportunity to choose who they wish to exercise power over them.
Other sources of legitimacy are suggested in states in which such an opportunity does not exist. Within any proposed overall framework of legitimacy, individual actions by a state can be considered more or less legitimate. Other actors of global politics and their actions can also be evaluated from the perspective of legitimacy.
In global politics, the concept of interdependence most often refers to the mutual reliance between and among groups, organizations, geographic areas and/or states for access to resources that sustain living arrangements.
Often, this mutual reliance is economic (such as trade), but can also have a security dimension (such as defence arrangements) and, increasingly, a sustainability dimension (such as environmental treaties). Globalization has increased interdependence, while often changing the relationships of power among the various actors engaged in global politics.
5. Human rights
Human rights are basic claims and entitlements that, many argue, one should be able to exercise simply by virtue of being a human being. Many contemporary thinkers argue they are essential for living a life of dignity, are inalienable, and should be accepted as universal.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN in 1948 is recognized as the beginning of the formal discussion of human rights around the world. Critics argue that human rights are a Western, or at least culturally relative, concept.
There are a number of different interpretations of the concept of justice. It is often closely associated with the idea of fairness and with individuals getting what they deserve, although what is meant by deserve is also contested. One avenue is to approach justice through the idea of rights, and what individuals can legitimately expect of one another or of their government.
Some theorists also argue that equality not only in the institutions and procedures of a society but also in capabilities or well-being outcomes is required for justice to be realized.
The concept of liberty refers to having freedom and autonomy. It is often divided into positive and negative liberty, with negative liberty defined as individuals having the freedom from external coercion and positive liberty defined as individuals having the autonomy to carry out their own rational will.
Some scholars reject this distinction and argue that in practice, one form of liberty cannot exist without the other. It is also questioned if such an understanding of liberty is sufficient for an interdependent world, in which the seeming freedom and autonomy of some may depend on lack of some forms of liberty for others. Hence, debates on equality inform our understanding of liberty as well.
Egalitarian theories are based on a concept of equality that all people, or groups of people, are seen as having the same intrinsic value. Equality is therefore closely linked to justice and fairness, as egalitarians argue that justice can only exist if there is equality. Increasingly, with growing polarization within societies, equality is also linked to liberty, as different people have differing possibilities to be free and autonomous.
Development is a sustained increase in the standard of living and well-being of a level of social organization. Many consider it to involve increased income; better access to basic goods and services; improvements in education, health care and public health; well-functioning institutions; decreased inequality; reduced poverty and unemployment; and more sustainable production and consumption patterns.
The focus of development debates in contemporary global politics is on issues faced by developing countries, and on the imperative of shifting the focus from modernization (seen as Westernization). However, all societies and communities face questions about how to best promote well-being and reduce ill-being
Globalization is a process by which the world’s local, national and regional economies, societies and cultures are becoming increasingly integrated and connected. The term refers to the reduction of barriers and borders, as people, goods, services and ideas flow more freely between different parts of the world.
Globalization is a process that has been taking place for centuries but the pace has quickened in recent decades, facilitated by developments in transportation and communication technology, and powered by cheap energy. It is now widely acknowledged that globalization has both benefits and drawbacks and that its benefits are not evenly distributed.
Inequality refers to a state of affairs where equality between people or groups of people is not realized and the consequent potential compromises of justice and liberty. Inequality often manifests itself through unequal access to resources that are needed to sustain life and develop individuals and communities.
Consequently, the concept is closely connected to discussions of power and of who holds the rights to these resources and their proceeds. Inequality can be examined both as a phenomenon within and between societies.
Definitions of sustainability begin with the idea that development should meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability today has three fields of debate— environmental, sociopolitical and economic.
In global politics, mechanisms and incentives required for political institutions, economic actors and individuals to take a longer term and more inclusive well-being perspective in their decision making are particularly important.
Peace is often defined as both the absence of conflict and violence as well as a state of harmonious relations. Many also refer to peace as a personal state of nonconflict, particularly with oneself and with one’s relationship to others. Peace is the ultimate goal of many organizations that monitor and regulate social relationships.
Conflict is the dynamic process of actual or perceived opposition between individuals or groups. This could be opposition over positions, interests or values. Most theorists would distinguish between non-violent and violent conflict. In this distinction, non-violent conflict can be a useful mechanism for social change and transformation, while violent conflict is harmful and requires conflict resolution.
Violence is often defined as physical or psychological force afflicted upon another being. In the context of global politics, it could be seen as anything someone does that prevents others from reaching their full potential.
This broader definition would encompass unequal distribution of power that excludes entire groups from accessing resources essential for improved living standards or well-being, and discriminatory practices that exclude entire groups of people from accessing certain resources.
Non-violence is the practice of advocating one’s own or others’ rights without physically harming the opponent. It often involves actively opposing the system that is deemed to be unjust, through for example boycotts, demonstrations and civil disobedience.
Theorists argue that non-violence can often draw attention to a conflict situation and that it could provide a fertile basis for post-conflict transformation.
Realists in global politics view the world in competitive terms. In a realist view, global politics is dominated by states acting in their own self-interest, prioritizing, first and foremost, national security. Relations between states are heavily influenced by the amount of power they have.
Liberals in global politics have a more cooperative view of the world. In a liberalist view, a host of actors influence outcomes in global politics and share a primary concern for justice, liberty and equality.
The economic theory of capitalism is the dominant ideology of production, exchange, distribution and consumption in the modern world, according to which the basis of resource allocation is the generation of profit.
Although there are various interpretations of how political decision-making should be involved in regulating the operation of the profit motive, all models of capitalism agree that the generation of profit is necessary for economic growth and maintenance of the global system, and generally conducive to development.
Neoliberalism is a strand of capitalism that advocates minimum political interference in the market mechanism.
Critical theories is an umbrella term for theoretical foundations that critique one or more major aspects of other theoretical foundations, the current world order and/ or ways of organizing life. Examples of critical theories include communitarianism, constructivism, feminism, Marxism, post-colonialism and environmentalism.
In the context of global politics, the ethical theory of relativism suggests values to be culturally and individually determined. In a relativist view, global agreements on the most fundamental aspects of human life are hence difficult to achieve.
In the context of global politics, the ethical theory of universalism puts forward the notion of a universal human nature that transcends traditional boundaries of identity. In a universalist view, universal values are therefore possible.
LEVEL OF ANALYSIS:
In the context of the global politics course, the term global refers to events and trends that have far-reaching and long-term impact across the world, cutting across national identities and interests. Examples include, but are not limited to, climate change, migration, terrorism, epidemics, etc.
In the context of the global politics course, the term international refers to events and trends that have a narrower impact than global events and trends, but nonetheless have implications for several countries. Examples include, but are not limited to, the operation of various international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multinational corporations (MNCs), international law, etc.
In the context of the global politics course, the term regional refers to events and trends that have implications limited to a particular geographic region, such as the Middle East, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, etc.
Examples include, but are not limited to, the operation of the European Union (EU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), The Arab League, etc.
In the context of the global politics course, the term national refers to events and trends that have a limited impact within the geographical boundaries of a particular country. Examples include, but are not limited to, economic crises or economic change in a particular state, political and legal reforms in a particular state, changes in the governance of a particular state, etc
In the context of the global politics course, the term local is used to refer to the geographic area in which social organization is created and in which culture is transmitted from one generation to the next. Local is defined by its inhabitants and their practices, and so can represent a geographic space as small as a gated community or as large as a city or region.
The idea of community is one of the most debated concepts in the social sciences. Communities were once thought of as geographically based groups of people with similar interests, mutual support and cultural traits.
The most commonly held view was that communities must include not only spatial and ecological definitions, but institutional and emotional ones. Recently, however, processes of globalization have led social scientists to rethink standard definitions.
Advances in communication technologies allow similar interests to be nurtured beyond physical boundaries, and the definition of community has become intertwined with debates about globalization and the role and place of people within it.
Core units: People, Power and Politics
Four compulsory units:
1.power, sovereignty and international relations
1.1 Nature of power
1.2 Operation of state power in global politics
Terminology (eg state, nation, nation-state, stateless nation)
The Westphalian conception of state sovereignty
Present-day status of sources of state sovereignty, eg possession and use of force, international law and norms, recognition by other states due to economic and balance of power considerations, consent (or lack thereof) of the governed through political participation
Present-day challenges to state sovereignty, eg globalization, supranationality, humanitarian, intervention, indigenous rights
Democratic states, eg unitary states, federal states
1.3 Function and impact of international organizations and non-state actors in global politics
The UN,eg Charter of the United Nations,UN principal organs(General Assembly,Security Council,etc) and subsidiary organs and agencies
World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Union (EU), African Union, Arab League, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
NGOs, eg International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Amnesty International (Al), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Greenpeace, BRAC.
MNCs, eg Unilever, Philips, IKEA, Lenovo, Tata.
Trade unions, eg International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Social movements, eg Occupy, Avaaz.
Resistance movements, eg Arab Spring, Orange Revolution in Ukraine.
Violent protest movements, eg Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Hezbollah, Naxalites.
USA’s Republican and Democratic parties, Germany’s Christian
Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD). Communist Party of China (CPC)
G20, The Group of Seven (G7), The Group of Eight (G8), G2, World Economic Forum (WEF), World Social Forum (WSF)
Means of exerting influence
1.4 Nature and extent of interactions in global politics
UN Security Council resolutions, climate change agenda, Basel accords on financial regulation, WTO trade agreements, regional decision-making
Treaties, eg Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Montreal Protocol •Collective security, eg North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organization of American States (OAS)
Strategic alliances, eg China’s alliances in Latin America and Africa, USA-Taiwan, USA
Israel, India-Afghanistan Economic cooperation, eg bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, regional economic integration, facilitation and regulation of international production Informal cooperation, eg extraordinary rendition, technology harmonization,cultural exchange
Interstate war, eg iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, South Sudan
Intrastate war, eg Syria, Ukraine, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Central African
Republic Terrorism, eg Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Quaeda, Boko Haram attacks. 9/11 •Strikes and demonstrations: local examples
2.1 Nature and evolution of human rights
Notions such as inalienability, universality, indivisibility, equality, justice, liberty
Human rights milestones, eg civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, gender rights, children’s rights, indigenous people’s rights, refugee rights, Internationalization of human rights, eg universal jurisdiction, international humanitarian law.
2.2 Codification, protection and monitoring of human rights
Role of custom
Human rights in constitutions, eg South Africa, Brazil International examples, eg International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Rome Statute
National courts and police, International Court of Justice (ICJ), International Criminal Court (ICC), Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Cambodia Tribunal
Ombudsmen, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (Al), monitoring elections
2.3 Practice of human rights
Labour rights, indigenous land claims, movements for gender equality, debates about same-sex marriage
Child soldiers, human trafficking, forced labor, forced relocation, denial of prisoners of war rights, violations of freedom of speech, violations in the name of prevention of terrorism, gender discrimination
2.4 Debates surrounding human rights and their application: differing interpretations of justice, liberty and equality.
Western, Asian and African conceptions; indigenous conceptions
Sharia law, honour killings, hate crime laws, consumer rights
Use of human rights for political gain, humanitarian arguments, responsibility to protect, use of sanctions
3.1 Contested meanings of development
Economic growth, fairer income distribution reduction in poverty, meeting basic needs, improved capabilities, achievement of political and social freedoms, well-functioning institutions, lifestyles that respect the ecological constraints of the environment
Gross national product (GNP), Human Development Index (HDI), Genuine progress indicator (GPI), inclusive wealth index (WI), Happy Planet Index (also HP0. corruption indices, trust indices
3.2 Factors that may promote or inhibit development
Ideologies, history of and persistence of conflict, stability, accountability, transparency, legal frameworks, political consequences of different development paths, decisions about the allocation of aid, political culture, culture of bureaucracy, vested interests
Access to resources, increasing resource constraints Infrastructure, debt, access to capital and credit, aid, trade, foreign direct investment (FDI): income distribution, informal economy, vested interests
Values, cultures, traditions, gender relations, migration
The UN, IMF, World Bank, WTO, partnerships between developing countries, efficacy of national and local institutions
Geography, resource endowment, consequences of climate change on people and communities’ lives
3.3 Pathways towards development
Neoliberal theories (eg Washington Consensus), state capitalism (eg China, Russia), capability theories (eg Sen, Nussbaum)
Trade liberalization, export orientation, commodity led growth, tourism, entrepreneurship, knowledge economy, circular economy, complementary currencies
Concern for citizenship skills and engagement, improving education and healthcare, changing roles of women, more ecological living, indigenous revitalization movements
3.4 Debates surrounding development: challenges of globalization, inequality and Sustainability.
Facts about development of standard of living and assessment of realization of human rights, well-being and opportunity for different groups of people within and between societies
Environmental impacts of globalization
Various perspectives, eg North, South, rising powers
Opportunities for and limits of state, IGO and NGO action, eg global regulation of MNCs and cross-border financial flows, role of local regulation of conditions of work, power of lobbies
Opportunities for and limits of state, IGO and NGO action, eg progress in global climate change negotiations, role of regional, national and local policies for sustainable development
4. Peace and conflict
4.1 Contested meanings of peace, conflict and violence
4.2 Causes and parties to conflict
Greed versus grievance (eg Colombia, Sierra Leone), territorial control, material interest resource scarcity, ideology, threatened identity. perception
States, intrastate groups, protest groups individuals
4.3 Evolution of conflict
Demonstrations, civil disobedience, violent protests, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, genocide. intrastate war, interstate war, arms proliferation. nuclear deterrence
Galtung’s conflict triangle, positions-interests needs, conflict cycles
Weapon embargoes financial freezes, trade limitations, NATO involvement, UN peace enforcement, election observers
4.4 Conflict resolution and post-conflict transformation
Military victory, imposed settlement, ceasefires. truces, arbitration, mediation, peace treaties, peacekeeping
Truth and reconciliation commissions (eg Sierra Leone), courts leg Cambodia, International Criminal Court), forgiveness
An engagement on a political issue of personal interest,complemented with research
HL extension: global political challenges
Political issues in two of the following six global political challenges researched and presented through a case-study approach:
Total teaching hours
Definition of Poitical Issues:
Politics are conventionally considered to be the actions taken in the formation and maintenance of the state or other governing entity. a particular island has changed people’s dependency on outside assistance and the society’s resulting power dynamics.
Defining an interesting political issue in the wider, real-world situation they are studying is often an early and key step for students to make progress with their understanding of global politics. This is particularly important in order to see the connections between the key concepts and examples in the core units, to determine an appropriate reflective focus for the engagement activity and to select a well-defined aspect of the HL case studies for oral presentation.