Ben O'Loughlin to present at Australia National University, 25 October 2012

Ben O'Loughlin is giving a presentation this Thursday 25 October in the Department of International Relations at Australia National University. His paper is entitled, Strategic Narratives and Power Transition: Communicating a New Order. The paper is based on a forthcoming book on Strategic Narratives with Alister Miskimmon and Laura Roselle. Details of the seminar are below. Thanks to Sarah Logan and Matthew Davies for organising the event.

Strategic Narratives and Power Transition: Communicating a New Order

Professor Ben O'Loughlin

05:00pm - 06:30pm
25 October 2012
Seminar Room 3, Hedley Bull Centre (130), Garran Road, ANU


This presentation explains how strategic narratives play a vital role in defining international order and power transition. The analysis of power transition has been dominated by studies focusing on material conditions (Gilpin 1981; Organski 1958), changes in balance of power (Waltz 1979; Kennedy 1988) and more recently the evolution of a liberal order (Ikenberry 2011). Today, a changing distribution of material power will be reflected in greater challenges for great powers to project strategic narratives about the future of the international system, signs of which we are already witnessing. Power transition now occurs in the conditions of a global media ecology in which states must narrate to multiple audiences; this more transparent order affects how states achieve legitimacy for their narrative. A strategic narrative framework can help analysts account for the social, ideational and relational dimensions of power transition neglected in traditional theories. Analysis of the formation, projection and domestic and international reception of China's strategic narrative shows that while China might become a superpower in material terms, its ability to gain legitimacy for an alternative vision of world order is constrained. Its narrative must work against a range of prior understandings of China and of the international system itself. The current rise of the BRICs is a fascinating period for those concerned with how the future of international order will play out because each rising power has an ambiguous relationship to the existing order as well as different concepts and values underpinning its narrative of future order. Given that previous power transitions have often led to systemic violence, it remains to be seen whether any existing or rising powers can craft a strategic narrative that other powers can align with their own.