module specification

GI5065 - Shifting Global Power in the 21st Century (2024/25)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2024/25
Module title Shifting Global Power in the 21st Century
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Sciences and Professions
Total study hours 150
105 hours Guided independent study
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Seminar 25%   Seminar assessment
Coursework 75%   2,000 word essay
Running in 2024/25

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

This module will examine how the nature of power in international relations has changed since the ending of the Cold War. The collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s was argued by many to be a triumph of the West’s military and industrial might, ushering in what Francis Fukuyama described as the ‘end of history’ – the triumph of western liberal democratic ideas. However, events since then, not least the attacks of 9/11 and the economic collapse of 2008, have highlighted new threats that exist, the increasing role of non-state actors, and the rise of competing economic powers.

This module will examine how international politics is changing and how the nature of power - defined as the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes you want - has evolved. It will show that power is not static, but that it may now be more complex in nature, as innovation, technologies and relationships change.

This theoretical approach will be applied to consideration of how power may be shifting in the 21st Century from the West to the East, or the so-called “Rest”.  This will involve a regional analysis, examining how and why some states are rising in global prominence, e.g. China, India, and Russia, and why the West may (or may not) be in decline.

The module will also consider the role of such factors as religion, media, and cyberspace in relation to notions of power.

Prior learning requirements

Successful completion of Level 4


  • Definitions of power; LO1, LO2
  • Why the West triumphed; LO2,LO3
  • The importance of the LO2,LO3
  • International political economy and the future of Liberal Capitalism; LO2,LO3
  • Is the West in decline? LO1,LO2,LO3
  • How can we define the “Rise of the Rest”? LO1,LO2,LO3
  • The role of religion, the media, and cyberspace in changing power relationships; LO1,LO2,LO3
  • Regional Case Studies, including the USA, China, Russia, India, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. LO1,LO2,LO3

LO4,5,6 applies in all aspects

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Teaching consists of a weekly two hour lecture followed by a one hour tutorial. Lectures will involve a combination of taught lectures, videos and the use of first hand documents and websites. During the module seminars will combine a variety of methods including discussion based on pre-set questions and role plays. Blended Learning will be a key component of the module. Lecture notes and first hand documents for use in class will be posted online, as will web links for academic and governmental websites, as well as video links.  Lecture recordings by the module tutor will also be made available on line.

Materials for use in class will be posted at least one week in advance on line to allow students to prepare and reflect on the subject. Questions for class discussion will be available from the beginning of the module via the Module Booklet available on weblearn, which will include a list of resources students can use to answer the questions and study the subject in greater depth.

A formative piece of work in the form of a group role play on a contemporary issue will take place mid-module to enable students to reflect on their understanding of the subject matter to date in order to put in place learning strategies for the remainder of the module. The role play will be peer-reviewed in class.

There will be two summative components. The first will be a seminar assessment which will take place throughout the module. This is designed to enable students to use a range of learning methods and employability skills, including: independent research; reading a wide range of primary and secondary sources; communicating ideas verbally in class; and working in a group.

The second component is a summative essay which will provide students with the opportunity to submit a major piece of work of their choosing on a key element of the module. This will enable students to develop writing and research skills whilst reflecting on what they have learnt.

An activity week will also be included in the syllabus to expand on subject-specific knowledge and skills.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module students should:

  1. Be able to identify key actors and processes in contemporary international relations.
  2. Understand the controversy surrounding notions of power and how this may be transforming.
  3. Be able to assess and critically analyse international developments, in particular the possible transformations in global power that might occur in the 21st Century, their causes, and their implications.

The transferable skills students should have developed include:

  1. The ability to communicate effectively in speech (the ability to work under pressure in seminars, where students must demonstrate the ability to respond to questions orally and also work as a team) and writing (for example, writing an essay using commonly accepted standards of definition, analysis, grammatical prose, and documentation).
  2. Research skills, including the ability to synthesise and analyse arguments and exercise critical judgement.
  3. The capacity to work independently, demonstrating initiative, self-organisation and time-management, as well as co-operating with other students to achieve common goals.


Core Reading:
Ferguson, Niall, (2011) Civilization: The West and the Rest, London: Allen Lane.
Haass, R. (2017) A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order, New York: Penguin Press.
Kupchan, C., (2012) No One’s World: The West, the Rest, and the Coming Global Turn, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Nye, Joseph, (2011) The Future of Power, New York: Public Affairs.

Additional Reading:
Brooks, S. & Wohlforth, W. (2016) ‘The Once and Future Superpower: Why China Won’t Overtake the United States’, Foreign Affairs, May/June.
Colby, E. & Lettow, P., (2014) ‘Have We Hit Peak America?: The sources of U.S. power and the path to renaissance’, Foreign Policy, July/August
Jacques, Martin, (2012) When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, New York: Penguin.
Haass, R. (2017) ‘World Order 2.0’, Foreign Affairs, January/February.
Khana, Parag, (2008) Second World: How Emerging Powers are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-First Century, New York: Random House.
Mahbubani, K., (2013) The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World, New York: Public Affairs.
Moran, A. (2017) ‘Barack Obama and the Return of “Declinism”: Rebalancing American Foreign Policy in an Era of Multipolarity’, in Ashbee, E. and Dumbrell, J., The Obama Presidency and the Politics of Change, London: Palgrave.
Ministry of Defence, (2014) Global Strategic Trends out to 2045, at 
Morris, Ian, (2011) Why the West Rules – For Now: The Patterns of History and what they reveal about the future, London: Profile Books.
Moyo, Dambisa, (2011) How the West Has Lost: Fifty Years of Stark Economic Folly – and the Stark Choices Ahead, London: Allen Lane.
National Intelligence Council, (2017) Global Trends: Paradox of Progress, at
Nye, Joseph, (2017) ‘Will the Liberal Order Survive?’, Foreign Affairs, January/February.
Nye, Joseph, (2015) Is the American Century Over?, Cambridge: Polity.
Rachman, Gideon, (2010) Zero-Sum World: Politics, Power and Prosperity After the Crash, London: Atlantic Books.
Zakaria, Fareed, (2008) The Post American World, New York: Norton.

On-line resources include: Foreign Policy; Foreign Affairs; The Washington Quarterly; the Journal of International Affairs; and Survival.

Other indicative websites include: International Institute for Strategic Studies at; The Centre for Strategic and International Studies at;
Chatham House at; The Council on Foreign Relations at; and The Atlantic Council at

Students will also be encouraged to follow key individuals and organisations on social media platforms, such as Twitter.

Where possible, the most current version of reading materials will be used during the delivery of this module. Comprehensive reading lists will be provided to students in their handbooks. Reading Lists will be updated annually. Weblinks will also be updated regularly.