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  Educators Course Syllabi International Relations, Bowden-Technology and Change

Technology and Change in International Politics-International Relations, Government 339

Georgetown University, Fall 1996

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Course Description

There is much debate as to whether technological changes have an impact on the nature of international relations. The litany of developments in the late twentieth century in international trade and finance, in communications, in the destructiveness and accuracy of military weaponry, and in the division of the world among rich and poor regions all suggest a need to examine the effects of these advances in technology. The goal of this course is to explore the issues of whether changes in science and technology have transformed either the international system and/or the states within it. This course will focus on a set of technological changes that have potentially had an effect on international politics and explore the question of whether a causal relationship exists between these changes and related shifts in state behavior. The course focuses primarily on technological developments of the mid to late twentieth century, though it does include some analysis of the effects of past technological change on states.

Course Requirements

This course will consist of a number of different writing assignments and class discussions/debates. Grades will be based on class discussion (10%), in-class writing assignments (30%), a brief in-class exam (25%), and a 15-20 page term paper (35%).

Seminar Design

The course is designed as a discussion of the major issues related to technology and change in international politics. Students are expected to be able both to relate important information from the readings as well as offer their own interpretations of the ideas and issues discussed in class. Because of the uniqueness of some aspects of this topic, especially advances in global telecommunications, the student will be required to think independently though still with a strong grounding in the relevant literature. To facilitate such discussion, each session will be divided into three parts. First, discussion will center on the nature of the technology to be addressed that session. Students will gain an understanding of how that technology works, the breadth of its scope, and its effects on international politics. Second, discussion will turn to the assigned literature for that session to examine what scholars have to offer concerning that topic. Finally, students will discuss the relative merits of the scholars’ interpretations and offer critiques as well as examine the prospects for international change in light of future developments in that technology.


Students will have a brief writing assignment either at the beginning or end of each session that will deal with the assigned reading or class discussion. These assignments are intended to allow students to express ideas on paper and thus help facilitate class discussion. The course will contain three sessions in which students will lead class discussion. The first (week 4) will consist of a debate over the effects of media technology and instantaneous global communications on international politics. The second (week 6) will be a debate over the proliferation of nuclear weapons, based on Sagan and Waltz’s book on the subject. The third (week 8) will consist of an arms control negotiation simulation to examine the importance of verification technologies. The last (week 10) will consist of student presentations of draft term papers. The amount of reading assigned will vary from week to week depending on the issue to be addressed. What is most important is for the student to arrive at his or her own critical interpretations of the literature and the concepts addressed in the course.

Books Required

Eugene B. Skolnikoff, The Elusive Transformation: Science, Technology, and the Evolution of International Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993)

Johanna Neuman, Lights, Camera, War: Is Media Technology Driving International Politics? (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995)

Scott Sagan and Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate (New York: W.W. Norton, 1995)

Syllabus and Readings

Other Links

Georgetown Graduate School Home Page
Georgetown University Communication, Culture, and Technology Program
Georgetown University Department of Government
A Visual Representation of the U.S. Portion of the Internet
The Computer Museum Network
Computer Timeline
Internet Timeline and History
World Map of Plutonium Shipment Routes
Washington Post MSN Mungopark SportslineContact

Part I - Technology and International Relations Theory

Section 1: Introduction

What types of changes can occur in international politics and what are some possible effects? Is the rate of change more rapid at the end of the twentieth century than in the past? What are some responses? Can technology be seen as an independent variable?

August 29
Introduction to Course

September 3

  • Eugene B. Skolnikoff. The Elusive Transformation: Science, Technology, and the Evolution of International Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), Chapter 1

September 5

  • Skolnikoff, Chapter 2
  • James Robinson, “Technology, Change, and the Emerging International Order,” SAIS Review 15:1 (Winter/Spring 1995), pp. 153-173.
  • John H. Gibbons, “National Security and the Role of Science and Technology,” SAIS Review 16:1 (Winter/Spring 1996), pp. 1-12.

See also:

  • Torbjörn L. Knutsen, “The Modern Ages,” in A History of International Relations Theory (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992), pp. 41-92.
  • Special issue of World Development on technology and change (December 1992).


Section 2 - Continuity in International Politics: Realist and Neorealist Approaches

What do Realists (and others) have to say about technology and change?

September 10

  • Kenneth Waltz, “The Emerging Structure of International Politics,” International Security 18:2 (Fall 1993).
  • John J. Mearsheimer, “Why We Will Soon Miss the Cold War,” The Atlantic Monthly 266:2 (August 1990).

September 12

  • Jack S. Levy, “The Offensive/Defensive Balance of Military Technology: A Theoretical and Historical Analysis,” International Studies Quarterly 28:2 (June 1984).
  • Robert Gilpin, “The Nature of International Political Change,” War & Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 9-49.

See also:

  • Barry Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany Between the World Wars (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984).


Section 3 - Change in International Politics: Liberal and Other Approaches

September 17

  • Mark Zacher and Richard Matthew, “Liberal International Theory: Common Threads, Divergent Strands,” in Charles W. Kegley, Jr., ed., Controversies in International Relations Theory: Realism and the Neoliberal Challenge (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995).
  • John Gerard Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” in Krasner, ed., International Regimes (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1983).
  • Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “Power and Interdependence Revisited,” International Organization (Autumn 1987).

September 19

  • Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest 16 (Summer 1989).
    and Realist reply by Samuel P. Huntington, “The Errors of Endism,” The National Interest 17 (Fall 1989).
  • Alexander Wendt, “Constructing International Politics,” International Security 20:1 (Summer 1995).

See also:

  • Alexander Wendt, “Anarchy is What States Make of It: the Social Construction of Power Politics,” International Organization 46:2 (Spring 1992).

Part II - Communications Technology and Change

Section 4 -Media and International Politics:

In an era of instantaneous global communications, what role is played by the media in international politics? Do national leaders still control international politics?

September 24

  • Johanna Neuman, Lights, Camera, War: Is Media Technology Driving International Politics? (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996).

September 26

  • Guest Lecture:
    Ms. Johanna Neuman
    Foreign Editor, USA Today
    Lecturer at George Washington University

October 1
Debate: The Media and Interational Politics

Section 5 - Information Technology and Change

How have advances in information and communications technology transformed the international system?

October 3

  • Joseph Nye and Adm. William Owens, “America’s Information Edge,” Foreign Affairs 75:2 (March/April 1996), pp. 20-33.
  • Gavan Duffy, Ted Robert Gurr, Philip A. Schrodt, Gottfried Mayer-Kress, and Peter Brecke, “Forum—An Early Warning System for the United Nations: Internet or Not?,” Mershon International Studies Review 39:2 (October 1995).
  • “The Accidental Superhighway,” The Economist (1 July 1995).

October 8
In-Class Midterm Exam

Part III - Technology, Warfare, and National Security

Section 6 - Technology, War, and Learning

Debate: The Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Has destructive weapons technology has rendered major war obsolete? Can technology and learning lead to changes in the war-proneness of the international system?

October 15
a. Technology and the End of the Cold War

  • Skolnikoff, Chapter 3.
  • Selections from Sean M. Lynn-Jones and Steven E. Miller, eds., The Cold War and After: Prospects for Peace (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993). Articles by John Lewis Gaddis, John Mueller, Robert Jervis, Carl Kaysen, and Stephen Van Evera.

October 15
b. Nuclear Weapons: the Debate

  • Scott Sagan and Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate (New York: W.W. Norton, 1995).
  • John J. Mearsheimer, Steven E. Miller, debate over the utility of a Ukrainian nuclear deterrent, Foreign Affairs (Summer 1993).

October 17
Debate: The Spread of Nuclear Weapons
Evidence: Pro:

  • Kenneth N. Waltz, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May be Better,” Adelphi Papers No. 171 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1981).


  • Steven P. Lee, Morality, Prudence, and Nuclear Weapons (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993).
  • Bruce G. Blair, The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War (Washington, D.C.: Brookings, 1993).
  • Scott D. Sagan, The Limits of Safety: Organizations, Accidents, and Nuclear Weapons (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).


  • Daniel Deudney, “Nuclear Weapons and the Waning of the Real-State,” Daedalus 124:2 (Spring 1995).
  • Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “Nuclear Learning and U.S.-Soviet Security,” International Organization 41:3 (1987), pp. 371-402.
  • Robert Jervis, “The Utility of Nuclear Deterrence,” International Security 13:2 (Fall 1988).

Section 7 - Diffusion of Military Technology

How does military technology spread, and what are the consequences of this proliferation?

October 22
a. Historical views:

  • Paul Kennedy, “Introduction,” and “Industrialization and the Shifting Global Balances, 1815-1885,” The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: Vintage Books, 1987).
  • Martin van Crevald, “Conclusions: The Logic of Technology and War,” Technology and War: From 7000 BC to the Present (New York: Free Press, 1989).
  • Eliot A. Cohen, “A Revolution in Warfare,” Foreign Affairs 75:2 (March/April 1996), pp. 37-54.

October 24
b. Current trends:

  • Guest Lecture:
    Mr. Doug Berenson
    Correspondent, Inside the Pentagon

  • Michael Moodie, “Beyond Proliferation: the Challenge of Technology Diffusion,” Washington Quarterly 18 (Spring 1995), pp. 183-202.
  • Richard Bitzinger, “The Globalization of the Defense Industry: The Next Proliferation Challenge,” International Security 19:2 (Fall 1994).
  • Oliver Morton, “Defense Technology” survey in the Economist (10 June 1995).
  • Stuart J.D. Schwartzstein, “Export Controls on Encryption Technologies,” SAIS Review 16:1 (Winter/Spring 1996), pp. 13-34.

See also:

  • Igor Khripunov, “Conventional Weapons Transfers: U.S.-Russian Cooperation or Rivalry,” Comparative Strategy 14 (1995), pp. 453-466.
  • Michael T. Klare, “Adding Fuel to the Fires: The Conventional Arms Trade in the 1990s,” in Klare and Thomas, World Security: Challenges for a New Century (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994).
  • Philip Kronenberg, “Trade Competition and the Strategic Management of Technology: Tensions Between International Trade and National Security,” Policy Studies Journal 18 (Fall 1989), pp. 100-110.
  • William Hartung, And Weapons for All (New York: Harper Collins, 1994).
  • William Perry, “Desert Storm and Deterrence,” Foreign Affairs (Fall 1991).
  • Edward J. Lacey, “Tackling the Biological Weapons Threat: The Next Proliferation Challenge,” The Washington Quarterly 14:4 (Autumn 1994), pp. 53-65.
  • Michael T. Klare, “Stemming the Lethal Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons,” Issues in Science and Technology (Fall 1995), pp. 52-58.

Section 8 - Arms Control, Technology, and National Security

Arms Control Negotiations and Technology
How do technological improvements, such as the increased ability to verify (e.g., satellites) increase the potential for successful arms control treaties as well as other international agreements? Examine the question of whether technology precedes politics as a source of new agreements. Has technology been a better determinant of change than politics? What is the relationship between technological advances and national security?

October 29

  • “Technical Basis for Monitoring and Controlling Proliferation,” in U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Assessing the Risks (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, August 1993), pp. 32-44.
  • Excerpts from Kosta Tsipis, David Hafemeister, and Penny Janeway, Arms Control Verification: The Technologies That Make it Possible (Pergamon-Brassey’s International Defense Publishers, 1986).

See also:

  • Donald Snow, “High Technology and National Security: a Preliminary Assessment,” Armed Forces and Society 17 (Winter 1991), pp. 243-258.

October 31
Developments in Satellite Technology

  • Vipin Gupta, “New Satellite Images for Sale,” International Security 20:1 (Summer 1995).
  • Irving Lachow, “The GPS Dilemma: Balancing Military Risks and Economic Benefits,” International Security 20:1 (Summer 1995).

Part IV - Technology and the Global Economy

Section 9 - Globalization

What are the effects of globalization in the international political economy? Has globalization created a demand for international regimes?

November 5

  • Skolnikoff, Chapter 4.
  • Vivien A. Schmidt, “The New World Order, Incorporated: The Rise of Business and the Decline of the Nation-State,” Daedalus 124:2 (Spring 1995).
  • Peter F. Drucker, “Trade Lessons from the World Economy,” Foreign Affairs
    (January/February 1994).
  • Peter F. Drucker, “The Age of Social Transformation,” The Atlantic Monthly 274:5 (November 1994).

November 7

  • Guest Lecture: Mr. Thomas Colucci, Jr.
    Institutional Sales Account Executive
    Neuberger & Berman Management, Inc.
    New York, NY

Section 10 - Geoeconomics

Have technological changes moved the arena of competition among states from the military to the economic realm? How is the world economy changing and what are the effects of this transformation on states?

November 12

  • Lester Thurow, “Head to Head: A New Economic Game,” in Robert J. Art and Robert Jervis, eds., International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues (New York: Harper Collins, 1996), pp. 449-465.
  • William Nester, Sections on Geoeconomics—Parts V and VI, in International Relations: Geopolitical and Geoeconomic Conflict and Cooperation (New York: Harper Collins, 1995).

See also:

Edward N. Luttwak, The Endangered American Dream (New York: Touchstone, 1993).

November 14

Student Presentations of Draft Term Papers

Part V - The Environment and Global Governance

Section 11 - Environmental Change, Technology, and International Politics

We are beginning to see the effects of human society on the environment. Can technology play a role in either ameliorating environmental decay, or have technological advances been the primary culprit of environmental degradation? What will be the effects of scarce resources, instantaneous communications, and exploding populations as we approach the next millennia?

November 19

  • Skolnikoff, Chapter 5.
  • Excerpts from Paul Kennedy, Preparing for the Twenty-First Century (New York: Random House, 1993).

November 21

  • Peter Haas, “Introduction: Epistemic Communities,” and “Banning CFCs: Epistemic Community Efforts to Protect Stratospheric Ozone,” International Organization (Winter 1992).
  • Eugene Linden, “The Exploding Cities of the Developing World,” and Laurie Garrett, “The Return of Infectious Disease,” in Foreign Affairs 75:1 (January/February 1996), pp. 52-79.
  • Richard Matthew and George Shambaugh, “Sex, Drugs, and Heavy Metal: Transnational Threats in the New World Order,” unpublished manuscript (1995).

November 26

  • Jessica Tuchman Matthews, “The Environment and International Security,” in World Security (1994).
  • Excerpts from Nazli Chourci, ed., Global Accord: Environmental Challenges and International Responses (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993).
  • Daniel Deudney, “The Case Against Linking Environmental Degradation with National Security,” Millennium (1990).

Section 12 - Global Turbulence as a Source of Change

Does there exist a correlation of forces at the end of the twentieth century that suggest that we are moving towards a new world of global governance? What role does technology play in this transformation?

December 3

  • Richard Falk, “The Global Promise of Social Movements: Explorations at the Edge of Time,” Alternatives (April 1987).
  • Stephen J. Del Rosso, Jr., “The Insecure State: Reflections on ‘The State’ and ‘Security’ in a Changing World,” Daedalus 124:2 (Spring 1995).
  • Ernst Haas, “Reason and Change in International Life: Justifying a Hypothesis,” in Robert Rothstein, ed., The Evolution of Theory in International Relations (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991), pp. 189-220.

See also:

  • James Rosenau, Turbulence in World Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).
  • Richard Falk, “Solving the Puzzles of Global Reform,” Alternatives (January 1986).

Section 13- Review of Course

Should technology be considered a crucial variable in examining state behavior in the international system?

  • Skolnikoff, Chapter 7

December 5
Term papers due

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Copyright Scott Bowden - Last Modified 29 April 1996