A3 Book chapter

Escaping the Thucydides Trap in IR class

List of Authors: Mikael Mattlin

Place: Abingdon, Oxon

Publication year: 2021

Book title *: Engaging with Historical Traumas: Experiential Learning and Pedagodies of Resilience

Number of pages: 11

eISBN: 978-1-00-304687-5


International relations has historically been a ruthless business. The rise of new Great Powers has often been associated with turbulence and war. In the Structural Realist view, this is a timeless and natural state of affairs, known since the time of Thucydides in ancient Greece. With the rise of China and intensified strategic rivalry between the USA and China, Graham Allison coined the concept Thucydides Trap, as a new description for this age-old security dilemma. International relations (IR) teaching, especially in the major powers themselves, also tends to convey, and thus perpetuate, some version of a Realist worldview. Yet it need not be so. In a course concept that I have developed and taught over several years, I adapt a board game and negotiation simulation that, in its original form, is very much steeped in the Realist vein. Through a series of modifications to gameplay and win rules, the learning experience, has been transformed. From an exercise in seeking dominance and sowing distrust, the game can turned into an exercise in building peaceful, negotiated solutions to the fundamental problem of reconciling opposing interests in international relations. In the process, the experience enhances communal aspects in the classroom. Given the importance and topicality of how we handle China’s rise – the focus of the course – this novel teaching method has global relevance in IR teaching.

Last updated on 2021-30-07 at 11:45