Rising Powers and Global Order

School: School of Government
Department of Political Science and International Studies
Lecturers: Marco Vieira 

Modular value: 20 credits
Term long 
Contact Hours: 
3 hours per week

As the world seems to be moving away from American hegemony, the question of how rising powers will affect global order and the governance structures that sustain it is fast becoming one of the most pressing of the twenty-first century.

This module provides students with an overview of the ongoing changes in contemporary international relations as the result of the rising influence of key emerging states, especially Brazil, Russia India and China. The module is divided into two interrelated parts: the first bloc of 5 lectures explores debates over the nature of global order in the 21st century and the role rising powers play on it. It also analyses the emergence of a common ‘South/Third World’ identity among these emerging states and the collective/coordinated strategies they use to challenge the still prevailing US-led global governance system. The second part of the module explores the international behaviour of individual rising states. It looks into the domestic, regional and global determinants of their foreign policies.

The main questions addressed in this module are:

  1. Is the world transitioning from an American dominated unipolar system to a multipolar configuration of power relations?
  2. Who are the rising powers? What are the main sources of their collective and individual influence? And what is the role of non-state actors in reshaping global power/ideational/institutional structures?
  3. What are the main theoretical insights that contribute to the empirical understanding of rising powers and their influence in rebuilding global order?
  4. What are the domestic, international and transnational challenges facing rising powers in contemporary global politics?
  5. Will they be able to reform international institutions to serve the interests of all developing nations or are they exclusively motivated by self-interest?
  6. Are they status quo or revisionist powers?
  7. What role South-South/Third World ideology plays in rising powers’ behaviour? 

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  • Theoretically understand and critically analyse the individual power capabilities, geopolitical constraints and sources of influence of rising powers, the individual and collective challenges they face in contemporary international politics, their role in regional politics and the impact of their increasing strength in shaping global governance structures.
  • Produce and deliver (orally and in a written format) policy analyses of rising powers’ collective and individual behaviour in various dimensions of their international engagements.   


  • A 2000 word position (white) paper on a policy issue (climate change, reform of financial institutions, nuclear proliferation, multilateral trade negotiations, humanitarian intervention, etc.) of your choice from the perspective of one of the rising powers and drawing from  the contents presented from week 1 to 5 (40%).
  • A 4000 word essay on a topic of your choice. The topic must be previously discussed with and approved by one of the module conveners (60%).
  • Participation in class discussions will be part of the formative assessment of this module. It is expected that all students actively take part in class debates drawing from the required readings for each week.

Related courses:

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.