Politics and International Studies

Unit description


Climate Change, Natural Resources and Conflict 
The world is facing tremendous environmental challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss, soil degradation and water scarcity. At the same time, states and companies race to secure supplies of valuable resources like land, metals or oil. These developments have sparked concerns about the security implications of environmental stress, climate change and resource extraction. The United Nations Security Council recently hosted debates on climate change and security, peacebuilding missions, mainstream environmental issues, and initiatives to deal with conflict resources are burgeoning. At the same time, there are intense debates about climate change as a driver of the Syrian civil war and violence against environmental defenders, among others. 


This unit tackles the question of whether and how climate change and natural resource competition impact the dynamics of peace and conflict. It provides a comprehensive introduction to debates on environmental security, resource conflicts, climate change and violence, environmental peacebuilding and political ecology. Insights are drawn from a broad range of cases, including the Arab Spring, rebel violence after storms in Southeast Asia, water conflict and cooperation in the Middle East and conflict resources in Sub-Sahara Africa. 

During the course of the unit, students will learn to identify and analyse various types of environmental conflicts. This knowledge is facilitated by lectures, readings, conflict analysis assignments and simulations. 


International Political Economy 
This unit is an introduction to the subject of international political economy. It reviews key conceptual approaches to the politics of the world economy, examines key processes of economic globalisation (trade, finance, multinational corporations), and considers debates and controversies over development pathways, globalisation and the rise of new economic powers. Students will develop an understanding of the politics of the global economy and gain the skills to engage with major contemporary international economic and policy challenges. 

Politics, the State and Crisis 
We seem to be living in an age of crisis – environmental, health and political – but what exactly is a crisis? How does 
the way we think about crisis inform the way we think about politics and society? More particularly, how have approaches and responses to crisis shaped the organisation and form of the state and international institutions? The key objective in this unit is to understand the relationship between crisis and the development and transformation of the state. 

Public Policy Analysis 
Why do some problems come to the attention of governments while others do not? Who is involved in the policy-making process? Pressure groups, media, think tanks; what are their goals? How are policies evaluated? Theoretical explanations are combined with practical examples from Australia and overseas to provide students with a critical understanding of how policy is made. The unit also equips students with the main conceptual tools for analysing the impact of a policy or policy recommendation. 


The Fall of Democracies: Authoritarianism and Populism 
While nations around the globe fight to obtain democracy, many citizens elsewhere doubt the degree to which democracy reflects the will of the people. From Brexit to Trump, trust in the democratic system appears to be in crisis in established democracies. In this unit, we examine the frameworks that explain whether and why democracy appears to be waning. Students are asked to consider: have we got democracy wrong in theory, or does crisis result from the way in which political institutions function? Ultimately, do we need new ways of thinking about and doing democracy? 


The Rise of Democracies: Making Political Action 
Capitalism + democracy has long been understood as a
perfect recipe for stable political and economic growth, and the best home for business
and global investment. But with global financial crisis and democratic
stagnation, is the legitimacy of this marriage now in trouble? In this
programme, we examine the unique developmental paths of Southeast Asian
countries to ask whether capitalism and democracy are really the perfect pair
and what Southeast Asia might tell us about where the West is heading.