Great Power Rivalry: Peace & War in 21C

Subject POLS90035 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2016.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24 contact hours: A 2-hour seminar per week for 12 weeks.
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Politics and International Studies

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Associate Professor Timothy Lynch

Subject Overview:

This subject examines the causes of peace and war between the ‘great powers’ of the contemporary world. It begins with the realist claim that war is basic to international relations and the attendant argument that peace is merely the period of preparation between two wars. This claim is then examined and critically evaluated through a range of literatures – historical and theoretical – and in-depth case studies of great power rivalry of the recent past and today.

The analysis will be informed by a consideration of the nature of the international system – why and when it incentivises war and peace – and the internal character of the great powers themselves so as to understand better when and why they choose to fight. Does the quest for security by great powers render other states less secure? Can international law obviate the recurrence of war? Why, despite the evolution of complex international governance mechanisms, do liberal democracies still rely on military force to realise their objectives? Can hegemony be transferred from one state or group of state to another peacefully? Does the nature of autocracy in states such as China and Russia make war with non-autocratic states inevitable? Will rising powers – like China, Brazil and India – become more or less pacific? These questions and many others form our substantial focus.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who complete this subject should:

  • Develop a critical understanding of the key issues, challenges, actors, and institutions associated with great power rivalry;
  • Develop an understanding of the relationship between state/national character and the international system;
  • Develop a critical understanding of the main theories of war and peace in international relations;
  • Develop a critical understanding of the debates over why war and peace occur; how war might be stopped/averted and peace restored/maintained.
  • 3 x 700 word briefing papers (10% each) due during the semester.
  • A 3000 word essay (70%) due during the examination period.

Hurdle requirement: Students must attend a minimum of 80% of classes in order to pass this subject. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

All readings will be available on the subject's LMS site.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • Apply research skills and critical methods to a field of inquiry
  • Develop persuasive arguments on a given topic
  • Communicate oral and written arguments and ideas effectively
  • Develop cross-cultural understanding
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: 100 Point Master of International Relations
200 Point Master of International Relations

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