POLS 110 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1-3: Military Alliance, Wage War, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
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CH 1 SUMMARY
1. This chapter is organized around five major historical periods. The first, the Mercantilist
Era, was dominated by Western European states intent on competing with each other.
2. The Mercantilist Era was led largely by Western states intent on securing power and
markets by establishing colonial empires. Monopoly power over colonies forced them
into exclusionary economic relations with the metropole.
3. By the second era, the Golden Age, economic development and the balance of power
on the European continent had changed state interests into positive-sum (win, win)
economic cooperation based on the principle of comparative advantage. This period saw
a rapid expansion in international trade, investment, and migration. The mostly
non-democratic great powers states also shared an interest in suppressing social
movements. British hegemony and the Concert of Europe served as the international
institutions to manage economic and political conflict and to keep the international
4. Cooperation collapsed during the thirty years’ crisis that begins with World War I.
Increasing German power created conflict among the great powers that led to war. The
war did little to resolve these conflicts but did demonstrate that the United States was the
most powerful state. It was followed by high inflation and then the Great Depression in
the 1930s. The Second World War began in 1939. More deadly than even the First
World War, this conflict resulted in the rise of the United States and the Soviet Union and
the diminishment of other great powers.
5. The resulting Cold War ordered the world into two systems, each with its own interests,
interactions, and institutions. Much of international politics centered on the political and
economic competition between these two blocs, with each developing an alliance and
system of economic cooperation. They competed for the support of “Third World”
countries. Both superpowers also developed large arsenals of nuclear weapons, and
much of the cold war centered on if and how these weapons would influence interstate
6. The post–Cold War era began with international collaboration to reverse Iraq’s invasion
of Kuwait and the expansion of UN activities. Many hoped this was the beginning of a
more cooperative international system. But states were unable to cooperate on some
important issues, such as intervening to prevent genocide in Rwanda. The terrorist
attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, also led some to hope that the
international community would respond collectively to this new threat. Although there
was substantial cooperation in countering terrorism, this consensus did not extend to
other issues, and many states bitterly opposed the United States invasion of Iraq in
The chapter closes with discussions of two developments that are likely to shape developments
in world politics in the coming decades. The first is American predominance. Since 1945 the
United States has promoted international institutions and economic cooperation. Will this
continue? The second is globalization. The economic crisis that began in 2008 raised questions
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about the gains from integration into the global economy. Protectionist pressures may increase
in the United States and European Union, weakening their commitments to openness. The crisis
also aggravated tensions over how international institutions govern the global economy and the
environmental harm that can arise from rapid economic growth.
Study Tool Kit, CH 1
● Conflict and cooperation among states have ebbed and flowed over time. Difference
among countries is the principal purpose of the study of international relations
● How the interests of the worlds countries & the people in them lead the world’s nations to
interact with one another and to what effect
● Study international institutions that arise from and mediate interactions
1. Mercantilism- an economic doctrine based on a belief that military power & economic
influence complemented each other. Policies favored the mother country over colonies
and competitors. Applied to colonial empires (16th-18th centuries).
2. Peace of Westphalia- Settlement that ended the 30 Years War in 1648. Created the
modern state system by including recognition of the principles of sovereignty &
3. Sovereignty- States have legal and political supremacy (ultimate authority) within their
4. Hegemony- Predominance of one nation state over others
5. Pax Britannica- “British Peace”,century long period where Britain’s economic and
diplomatic influence contributed to economic openness and relative peace. (Waterloo,
1815 - WW1, 1914)
6. Gold standard- Monetary system in which countries tied their currencies to gold at a
legally fixed price (1870 - 1914)
7. Treaty of Versailles- Peace treaty between the Allies and Germany that ended WW1,
8. League of Nations- Collective security organization founded 1919 post WW1. Ended in
1946 and was replaced by the UN.
9. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)- 1949 alliance formed among US,
Canada, & most states of Western Europe in response to the threat of the Soviet Union.
If one member is attacked all members consider it as an attack on themselves.
10. Bretton Woods System- Economic order negotiated among allied nations at Bretton
Woods, New Hampshire. (1944) Led to a series of cooperative arrangements involving a
commitment to relatively low trade barriers to international trade and investment.
11. Warsaw Pact- Military alliance formed in 1955. Brought USSR and other Cold War Allies
(Eastern Europe and elsewhere) Dissolved 1991 at the end of the Cold War.
12. Decolonization- Process of shedding colonial possessions. Rapid end of European
empires in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean between the 1940’s and 60’s.
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