GNSS HomeGNSS TeamGNSS EventsGNSS PublicationsGNSS ResearchGNSS Contact InfoGNSS Links

Research Programs

       Globalization has been one of the most studied phenomena since the 1990s. Globalization implies a change in the scale of politics and economics, transcending national boundaries and thereby constraining states from achieving their objectives independently. As a structural force, globalization compels functional adaptation to a vast array of new interdependencies that touch on all aspects of politics and social life. In so doing, however, it prompts a variety of local adaptive strategies with complexities that have yet to be fully understood. Furthermore, globalization introduces a range of new security concerns, such as transnational terrorism, the spread of global pandemics, and large-scale population movements, that states are ill-equipped to combat on their own. We define globalization as a vast, multi-faceted enterprise that proceeds both outside the state and within it, spurred on by businesses, consumers, social groups, states, and international institutions as they organize the economic, political, and cultural spheres beyond the nation-state (Ripsman and Paul, 2010). Thus, for us, globalization entails: the widespread operation of businesses on a global, rather than a national level; the ease with which individuals and groups can communicate and organize across national frontiers; the global transmission of ideas, norms, and values that might erode national cultures in favor of a broader global culture; the increasing participation of states in international political, economic, and military organizations; the spread of particular forms of political institutions, such as representative democracy to vast areas of the globe; and the increasing participation of individuals from multiple countries in international non-governmental organizations.

       This phenomenon of globalization, crucially, also involves a reshuffling of the deck of the world order. Owing to uneven economic growth, normative shifts, and contrasting political developments, this early 21st century is marked by profound changes in the global distribution of power as well as in global governance practices. This transition pattern is likely to accelerate in the coming few decades and it is fundamental for both policy and research to better grasp the effects of the new dynamics unleashed by increasing globalization on shifting world orders. The question addressed by the team is all the more pressing in that historically, such changes in the global distribution of power have been accompanied by large-scale violence and war. And yet, we start from the assumption that peaceful alternatives are not only imaginable but also rooted in existing politics and practices.

       The last decade has shown with much clarity that countries such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and even Turkey and Indonesia are now key economic players on the world stage. The creation of the Group of 20 and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) attests to how the international architecture has started to adapt to the rise of new economic powerhouses. However, in the security realm, transition and adaptation has yet to take place. In the next twenty years or so, the rising powers will likely become political and military heavyweights and will claim corresponding status, recognition, and influence. Should these claims not be properly accommodated, the risk of conflict and even violence could quickly increase.

The Problematique: Historically, wars, especially hegemonic wars, have been the main agents of structural change and status determination in the international system. Not surprisingly, dominant International Relations (IR) theories contend that major changes in the system are generally possible only through violent conflict. For example, power transition theories argue that war is the principal agent through which systemic changes occur in international politics (Gilpin, 1981; Organski and Kugler, 1980), whereas Marxist and class-based theories have placed enormous importance on imperial struggles as the cause for system-wide changes (Hobson, 1902; Lenin, 1939; Schumpeter, 1955). Similarly, long cycle and world system theorists also believe in the inevitability of war for major changes (Modelski, 1987; Wallerstein, 1974). This research project poses the question of whether, despite this track record, peaceful accommodation of rising powers is possible in the globalized international context. Our preliminary hypothesis is that while globalization has indeed tempered the prospects for major war as a system changing mechanism, active strategies by states and international institutions are necessary to achieve peaceful power transitions. We begin by discussing dominant current war avoidance strategies, and their challenges.

War Avoidance Strategies: Realist prescriptions for war avoidance are often based on three strategies: balance of power, containment, and deterrence. These coercive strategies assume that a threatening state can be dissuaded from starting a war if the costs of war are made higher than the expected benefits. When balance of power exists, systemic stability is maintained as no single actor will become too powerful to engage in aggressive behavior and thereby, system-changing wars. The containment strategy is predicated on the assumption that a challenger can be contained through different mechanisms, including economic and political deprivation and military denial (Kennan, 1947; Gaddis, 1982). The logic of deterrence is that a challenging state can be prevented from initiating war if the cost of an attack is made higher than the benefits, through a threat of a punishing retaliatory attack (Schelling, 1980; Snyder, 1961). Regardless of the merits of these mechanisms, however, the single-minded pursuit of balance of power and deterrence is not likely to bring peaceful change in an era of globalization. Not only might implementation of these strategies be viewed as highly threatening by some challengers, forcing them to engage in protracted regional conflicts, arms races, or preventive warfare, but crucially, these strategies are problematic because they are aimed at keeping the status quo intact and not to adjust the aspirations of rising powers peacefully.

       The contending paradigm to realism, liberal-institutionalism, treats peaceful change more effectively, especially in the globalized era. Various perspectives under this school locate the sources of peaceful change in international institutions and regimes, interdependence among major actors, democratization, and the creation of a liberal international economic order (Keohane and Nye, 1989; Rosecrance, 1986, Russett, 1993). However, the larger context of strategies that are and should be adopted by the leading actors in dealing with change is often given less prominence in these theories.

Grand Strategies of Peaceful Change: The most critical factor in determining whether peaceful change is likely to occur is whether status quo powers pursue a strategy of gradual integration prior to, and at each stage of, a structural conflict and whether they succeed in it. Variations in this strategy can be elaborated. Ideational Integration: When the status quo powers provide an ideational and normative framework which is more attractive than what the revisionist state offers. Economic Integration: When potential challengers are co-opted into the economic system of the status quo states. Institutional Integration: When challengers and potential challengers are co-opted through international institutions and the norms and principles inherent in them. Integration would mean effective participation of emerging major states in system-wide decisions, thereby providing them with some systemic leadership role, and how status quo states distribute economic and political benefits among their allies and adversaries therefore matters.

       The strategy of the rising powers also matters in this process, particularly whether they want to pursue a peaceful rise strategy or accelerate the search for leadership role through a strategy of war and conquest. Globalization and nationalism in the smaller powers have made the pursuit of outright imperial strategy on the part of new powers unlikely. The advent of intensified globalization has therefore already influenced the strategies of status quo powers and emerging powers, and our project seeks to understand how this has occurred. It particularly addresses the importance in this process of increased economic interdependence generated by deepened globalization, as well as growing institutionalization and normative changes at the global level. Most critically from our perspective, while the economic fortunes of countries are rapidly changing without attendant changes in their power status, unlike in the past when this led to conflict, today countries like China are reluctant to frontally challenge the order and are pursuing other strategies such as soft balancing, hedging and engagement. Is this due the forces generated by intensified globalization? Our preliminary argument is that it may well be the case.

Questions, Axes, Projects and Goals: Notwithstanding the peaceful potential of globalization, especially in terms of interdependence, there are also likely to be increasing challenges to cooperation posed by, for instance, rising levels of nationalism (including ethnic nationalism) among the rising and declining powers. In order to address such risks, we argue that concrete political mechanisms, from new diplomacy through institutions to power balancing, have to be worked out in theory, and then in practice, if the rise of new world powers is to produce a peaceful order in the future. Our larger goal, therefore, is to assess how different components of globalization are shaping the behavior of rising and declining powers, and how such tendencies can be shaped towards more positive directions. In other words, this team seeks to establish the scope conditions for a peaceful transition into a new world security order prompted by the emergence of a set of rising powers. Below we raise some of these questions, and chart out how the team seeks to address them:

       --What are the aspirations of rising powers? We will perform comparative case studies of the foreign policies of countries such as Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa in order to understand the roles that they want to play on the global scale. We will also look into the implications for American and other Western countries’ foreign policies and their response strategies.

       --How do regional dynamics intersect with world order transformation? We will study the ways in which rising powers are vying for regional leadership on the way to global recognition and status and the particular challenges to peace that local dynamics pose. The reaction of declining powers, such as in Europe, Japan and the US, will be key to answering this question.

       --What particular dimensions of global order and its governance are being challenged? We will examine current challenges to global order and its governance in the areas of multilateral security, international trade, environment protection, etc. and look into the alternative proposals that are put forward.

       --How can world order transformations be achieved peacefully? We will analyze the politics of institutional reform of existing international organizations in the realms of security (United Nations Security Council), economics (IMF, World Bank, WTO, G20) and others.

The research program, through several arenas, including joint conferences, joint publications, individual publications, post-doctoral and graduate student training, and a visiting scholar program, will seek to address these increasingly important questions. The multi-year, multi-institution project will specifically seek to understand the emerging power transition phenomenon via two critical axes and four components. The axes are: 1) Rising Powers and the Global Order; and 2) Global Governance. Within these broad axes, team members will, according to their expertise, lead research on projects dealing with specific issue concerns.

Four projects are specifically envisaged on the following themes that fall within the two axes:

1. Is Peaceful Power Transitions Possible? Will the rise of China and India be Peaceful? Paul will lead this project, with Ripsman as co-leader, and Pouliot, Merand, and Hall as collaborators. The project will explore two sets of interrelated questions: One, it will ask whether the expectations of conflict and war in existing theories of power transitions, which focus so much on conflict and war, are still relevant in this era of increasing globalization. Previous cases of violent transitions following the two world wars and peaceful transitions involving the US and UK and US and China will be explored. The second related question will be the specific one of the potential consequences of the rise of China and India, the two Asian giants. We will explore whether the increasing trade relations, generated by globalization, will temper their conflict behavior? What strategies are available for the status accommodation of these states in a peaceful way, in the Asian sub-system and the larger global system? Two volumes will result from this project. To the first, Merand will contribute a chapter, “Managing Imperial Decline: The Socio-Historical Evidence,” with Hall and Ripsman writing chapters on the US-UK transition, and on why Germany and Japan were not integrated or deterred in the pre-WWII era, respectively. Pouliot will be contributing a chapter on more contemporary developments entitled, "Can the Aspirations of Rising Powers be Met through Institutional Reforms? The G20 and UN Security Council Compared." For the second volume, Pouliot will be writing a chapter, "Russia as an East Asian Power and its Impact on Sino-Indian Relations" 

2. Declining Powers and Power Transitions: While globalization may have permitted the rise of new powers, it has also precipitated or accelerated the decline of old ones, the most prominent case being that of Europe, but also Japan and the US. This project, led by Merand, with Paul as co-leader, and Hall, Ripsman, and Pouliot serving as collaborators, will seek to understand how such powers react to their own decline, and map out the strategies adopted by European countries, Japan and the US to stave off, deny or combat a widely perceived sense of geopolitical decline vis--vis rising powers. Particular attention will be paid to the question of whether the West’s decline is a product of globalization or simply a return to a normal, pre-imperial situation. Pouliot will contribute a paper to this project about NATO’s new strategy of adaptation to economic hard times—titled "NATO's 'Smart Defense': Negotiating the Alliance's Transformation and Decline," while Hall will write on the “The Rise and Fall of Empires in Historical Sociology,” and Ripsman on "Neoclassical Realist Interpretations of Major Power Decline."

3. Nationalism and Peaceful Transitions? John A. Hall will lead a conference exploring the possibility and obstacles to peaceful transition posed by the specific phenomenon of nationalism, which the historical record shows has often made power transitions difficult. Merand will be co-leader of this group, with Paul and Ripsman as collaborators. The nationalism of rising powers, classically of Germany and Japan, will be investigated in particular, as will that of their leaders, as well as that of excluded middle class people who disliked the internationalism of their leaders, while wanting more status for their own rising country. From a contemporary perspective the project will study how students in a rapidly growing China are increasingly embracing nationalism—vis--vis Japan and the US--and curtailing the room for maneuver for their elite. Merand will be contributing to the conference and the resulting published volume with a paper titled, “Nationalism and the Future of Socialism: the case of France.”

4. Precedents and Innovations in the Shaping of Global Order. Pouliot will lead this project, with Merand as co-leader, and Paul, Hall and Ripsman as collaborators, which will address the fact that as international organizations and institutions adapt to changing circumstances, including the rise of emerging powers, they tend to build on existing practices and experiment with new ones. The conference on this theme will look into key sites of global transformation—the UN Security Council, the WTO, the World Bank, and the G20—in order to understand the political dynamics of stability and change. Contributors will combine various theoretical perspectives in order to shed new light on the mechanisms of path dependence and institutional transformation, with an eye on the specific problematique of rising powers. Merand will be looking at the case of “How Do European Diplomats Manage their Decline in International Organizations?” as a participant in this project.

       Five major international conferences on the themes listed above, five volumes, several single and joint-authored books, articles, conference papers and policy reports are the expected outcomes. Research support for faculty and students at all three institutions, as well as post-doctoral and visiting scholar fellowships will be offered. Visiting scholars and post-doctoral fellows, some of whom will be prominent scholars from the rising power countries, will spend time at McGill or UdM drawing from the resources made available and develop their relevant projects. Scholars and students from various Quebec and Canadian universities will also be invited. The members of the team will act as paper-givers and discussants, and crucially as mentors for the young scholars and post-docs who will be visiting Montreal. Other scholars and institutions (detailed in table 2) will be invited to contribute to the project according to the specific topics and expertise required. Scholars from American University, the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies, the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs, the University of Copenhagen, Naval Postgraduate School, and Dartmouth College have already expressed interest to join in this endeavor. Our goal through all of this is to strengthen the already existing extensive international networks of its members, develop new ones, and engage in collaborative undertakings that will bring in global attention to scholarship we are producing in Quebec on this issue. This exercise will also support the building up of expertise and knowledge on rising power such as China, Brazil and South Africa, something that is currently lacking in Quebec. We will invite representatives from the policy world, especially US Department of State, Pentagon, and Canadian Foreign Affairs and Defense as well as Quebec officials dealing with foreign affairs to our conferences to act as discussants whenever possible. In terms of reaching out to policy makers, Pouliot and Meranad will be organizing an SSHRC-funded policy workshop with Canadian and foreign diplomats in 2014-2015, on the topic: “Managing Geopolitical Decline.” Paul will continue participate in track two meetings involving representatives from the US and BRICS countries where he will present findings from this project.


Visiting Scholars


Patrick James (University of Southern California)

Anders Wivel (University of Copenhagen)



Zoltan Buzas (Drexel University)

C. Uday Bhaskar (Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi)

Shibashis Chatterjee (Jadavpur University)

Robert Partman (University of Otago)


James Der Derian (The University of Sydney)

Alisher Faizullae (University of World Economy and Diplomacy)

Sean Kay (Ohio Wesleyan University)


Rebecca Adler-Nissen (University of Copenhagen)

Bridget Coggins (Dartmouth College)

Rajat Ganguly (Murdoch University)

Harsh V. Pant (King's College London)

Jeffrey Taliaferro (Tufts University)


Benjamin Miller (University of Haifa)

Vidya Nadkarni (San Diego State University)


Post-doctoral fellow

Olivier Schmitt


An FQRSC funded research project

Only search GNSS