Center for Global Affairs

The Future of International Relations: Forces for Change and Alternate Scenarios

Rapid change, complexity, and uncertainty characterize the unfolding international system. Theoretical tools designed to help us interpret events, prescribe policies and anticipate trends are essential intellectual equipment. They can also become part of the problem, creating a false sense of confidence in how we understand global dynamics. Can we calibrate our actions to a desired effect? When at the service of great power, an exaggerated sense of understanding and control can produce massive unintended consequences. Policy is constantly playing catch up, scrambling to right itself in the aftermath of the latest shock. This course accepts uncertainty and surprise as givens, and then proceeds to build alternate scenarios around emerging forces for change and potential `wild card? events. The purpose is not prediction, but a fuller understanding of global dynamics, and of plausible international systems that might emerge. In doing so, we will address theories, sources, indicators and consequences of change, and interactively build alternate future scenarios with students, other interested faculty and outside experts.
Course Number
Associated Degrees