COOL CLASSES:”The State System”

This political science course introduces analytical perspectives on international relations and explores the evolving structure of the state-based order—which originated with the peace of Westphalia in the 17th century—over the last four centuries.

Class name: “The State System”

Taught by: Associate Professor of Political Science Barak Mendelsohn


Here’s what Mendelsohn had to say about his class:

“The State System” [explores] the evolving structure of the state-based order over the last four centuries, its expansion throughout the globe, the changes in the institution of the state, and the evolution of norms of behavior in the international arena. Beyond introducing students to important literature in international-relations theory, this course seeks to provide students with analytical tools to understanding the existing international system.

I hope that after taking this course students will be able to understand the complexity of concepts which we use daily with little thought about their content and changing nature—for example, sovereignty. These analytical skills are particularly valuable to our efforts to understand this epochal time in history when globalization and changes in the distribution of power among states are transforming the international system.

[This course is inspired by] the sense that we live in remarkable times in which the international system is at flux: U.S. dominance is challenged by rising powers such as China and other emerging markets, democracy comes under attack throughout the world—including in nations previously viewed as bastions of liberal democracy—while Washington no longer seems sure the U.S. should hold a leadership role. I am also increasingly intrigued by the manner in which technology affects international order. By teaching “The State System” I am able to contemplate these important changes and brainstorm with my students as we seek to better understand what’s going on.


See what other courses the Department of Political Science is offering this semester.

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.