Breakfast with Chad: Keeping up with Geopolitical Change
Watching everything that’s going on in the world today and having myself taught courses in geopolitics, I couldn’t help wondering what Chad might know about the subject. I opened the conversation this morning with the following question: “What books and sources are essential for someone interested in international relations and geopolitics?”
Chad treated me somewhat condescendingly, as if I was a neophyte totally ignorant of the topic. “There are many great books and sources,” Chad informed me, “that can provide valuable insights into international relations and geopolitics. Here are some recommendations to get you started:
- ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order’ by Samuel P. Huntington: This book offers a thought-provoking analysis of the cultural and religious divisions that shape global politics.
- “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives” by Zbigniew Brzezinski: In this book, Brzezinski explores the strategic imperatives that guide U.S. foreign policy and the global power dynamics that shape the international system.
- “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers” by Paul Kennedy: This classic work examines the historical patterns of great power competition and the economic and military factors that contribute to the rise and fall of nations.
- “The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World” by Eric Weiner: This book offers a unique perspective on international relations by examining the cultural, economic, and political factors that contribute to happiness and well-being in different countries.
- “Foreign Affairs” and “The Economist”: These publications are widely regarded as two of the most authoritative sources on international affairs and geopolitics, providing analysis and commentary on a wide range of issues.
- “Global Trends” reports by the National Intelligence Council: These reports offer valuable insights into the long-term trends shaping the global political and economic landscape.
- “The Origins of Political Order” and “Political Order and Political Decay” by Francis Fukuyama: In these books, Fukuyama offers a comprehensive analysis of the political institutions and systems that underpin stable and effective governance.
As you delve deeper into these topics, you may discover additional sources that resonate with your interests and perspectives.”
“Chad,” I blurted out impertinently, “all the books and sources you cite are known to reflect the dominant trends of thought of the late twentieth century, following the fall of the Soviet Union and the establishment of a de facto unipolar world, led by a unique hegemon, the US. Most everyone today recognizes a sea-change in international relations. The nations of the world are busily redefining international norms, a phenomenon that has been accelerated by the events related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. The so-called “rules-based order” that was seen as the foundation of international stability has been exposed as being appropriate only to a unipolar world, in which one nation assumes the authority to lead in the definition of behavioral norms. Even during the bipolar Cold War, the US served as the dominant model for all nations interested in participating in a global order.
In contrast, recent events have led to the emergence of what is trending towards a multipolar world. The nations of the world have begun calling seriously into question the assumptions shared by the authors of the books and publications you cite. So let me ask you another question. Where should we look today for insight into a world about which the rules seem to be changing before our very eyes?”
Chad’s updated list
“You make a valid point,” Chad responded, “that the world has undergone significant changes since the late twentieth century, and the traditional sources of insight into international relations and geopolitics may not fully capture the complexities of the current global landscape. Indeed, the emergence of a multipolar world has challenged many of the assumptions that underpinned the rules-based order of the past.
To gain insights into the shifting dynamics of the contemporary world, it may be helpful to seek out more diverse perspectives and voices. This could involve exploring sources outside of the traditional Western canon of international relations and geopolitics, such as works by scholars from different cultural backgrounds or from the Global South.
Additionally, following current events and trends through a variety of media sources can help provide a more up-to-date understanding of the evolving global landscape. This could involve monitoring news outlets from different regions of the world or following social media accounts of thought leaders and experts in various fields.
Finally, engaging in discussions with individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives can help deepen one’s understanding of the complexities of international relations and geopolitics. Participating in forums and discussion groups, attending conferences and lectures, and seeking out opportunities for cultural exchange can all be valuable ways to broaden one’s perspective and gain new insights into the changing global landscape.”
“You mention seeking out diverse perspectives and voices. That’s exactly what we do at Fair Observer. But can you give any specific titles or references?”
This time Chad appeared to be more up to date, citing the following works:
- “The End of Power” by Moises Naim
- “The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World” by Peter Frankopan
- “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” by Shoshana Zuboff
- “The Globalization Paradox” by Dani Rodrik
- “The Rise and Fall of American Growth” by Robert Gordon
- “The Origins of Political Order” by Francis Fukuyama
- “The Retreat of Western Liberalism” by Edward Luce
I couldn’t help noting, however, that even these books, helpful as they may be in defining some of the key issues, don’t quite bring us up to date in a world whose rate of change has gone into overdrive. Just consider the most obvious phenomena, such as the rise of BRICS, other radically shifting partnerships and alliances (think of Saudi Arabia’s decoupling with the US and its drift towards China and Russia), and the accelerating trend towards dedollarization in international trade. These ongoing events are redefining power relationships across the globe.
As our conversation ended, I mentioned that I particularly appreciated Chad’s recommendation to follow current events and engage in discussions. Curiosity and openness to dialogue are essential to getting a grip on the changes now taking place in the world. Tuning into Fair Observer might be the most appropriate place to start. Our publication gives access to a wide variety of insights reflecting not only the different trends at play but also the contrasting viewpoints that emerge to make sense of those trends. In a multipolar world we must learn to become sensitive to multiple points of view. That exposure that leads to deepening reflection and continued debate is what will enable all of us to grapple with the issues that matter today and those that will shape the world of tomorrow.
*[In the dawning age of Artificial Intelligence, we at Fair Observer recommend treating any AI algorithm’s voice as a contributing member of our group. As we do with family members, colleagues or our circle of friends, we quickly learn to profit from their talents and, at the same time, appreciate the social and intellectual limits of their personalities. This enables a feeling of camaraderie and constructive exchange to develop spontaneously and freely. For more about how we initially welcomed Chad to our breakfast table, click here.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.