Undergraduate Modules: POL3005 - Civilisation, Empire and Hegemony

Module Code

POL 3005

Module Title

Civilisation, Empire and Hegemony


Level 3


Semester 1


20 credits

Taught by:

Professor John Hobson, Professor in Politics

Module Description:

With American power seemingly all powerful today, this module provides a rethink of the origins and the exercise, or expression, of great power politics/economics on the one hand, and explores the relations between civilisations on the other. Mainstream Eurocentric theories in International Relations view great power politics/economics as having universal materialist properties through time and space. The US and Britain are presented as hegemons that provide global public goods for the benefit of all. This module problematises this view by considering the differing moral foundations and ‘standards of civilisation’ that inform the various directions, or forms of expression, that great power can take. It examines Britain and China in the pre-1900 era, the discovery of America through to contemporary US foreign policy, and closes with a consideration of the potential role of China in the coming decades. In addition, we explore IR by considering Inter-Civilisational Relations, past and present. And we consider whether relations between civilisations can be thought of in terms of an inevitable clash or of symbiosis.

Module Aims:

This module aims to introduce students to the principal arguments and new debates in understanding great power politics/economics in the discipline of International Relations. By the end of the module students will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the various theories and arguments underpinning mainstream IR theories of hegemony and great power political economy;
  • demonstrate knowledge of the various theories and arguments concerning Inter-Civilisational Relations;
  • demonstrate knowledge of the historical and contemporary practices of leading states and civilisations in the historical and contemporary global settings;
  • apply a range of conceptual and empirical tools to assess the arguments for and against the mainstream claims/theories of great power politics/economics and be able to analyse and clarify arguments about civilisations and great power politics/economics.

This module also equips students with a range of important transferrable skills, which are vital in terms of employability, including working independently and as part of a team; managing a varied workload; assimilating and synthesising multiple data sources; constructing coherent arguments; and preparing written reports and verbal presentations.

Module Schedule:

1 Introduction
2 Theories of hegemony/GP Politics: Materialist accounts
3 Postcolonial/non-Eurocentric theories of GP Politics/Civilisations/IR
4 Globalisation – Historical Dimensions; Occidental/Oriental?
5 Globalisation Post-1945: Americanisation/Westernisation?
6 Britain as a hegemon in the international system?
7 British imperialism as a Racist or Eurocentric ‘civilising mission’?
8 US Power and Ideology in the 20th Century
9 Contemporary US hegemony as a Eurocentric ‘civilising mission’?
10 Identity and GP Politics/Economics before 1800: China
11 China as an agent of the global economy in the early 21st century: The ‘Return’ of China?

Teaching Methods:

  • 11 * 2 hour seminars


  • Essay - 50% of mark
  • Exam- 50% of mark

Resources Available:

  • Individual feedback and guidance sessions with module tutors.
  • Detailed 20-30 page module handbook
  • Dedicated module intranet site.
  • Extensive library materials, including a wide variety of electronic and digitised resources.

Opportunities for Further Study:

There is also the opportunity to deepen your knowledge by undertaking a supervised research project module an agreed topic arising out of work done on POL 3005. Students meet with their tutor individually for tailored one-to-one supervision and tuition, which will enable them to undertake research and be assessed on the basis of a 7,000 word project.

To find out more about the research project modules on offer, click here

Indicative Reading:

Cox, R. (1996) Approaches to World Order. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ferguson, N. (2009) Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. London: Penguin.

Gilpin, R. (1987) The Political Economy of International Relations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Goldblatt, D. Perraton, J., Held, D. and McGrew, A. (1999) Global Transformations: Politics, Economics, Culture. London: Polity Press.

Hobson, J. (2000) The State and International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hobson, J. (2004) The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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