Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

International relations theory suggests great-power war is coming

By Matthew Kroenig

27 Aug 2022 · 7 min read

Editor's Note

A grim analysis in Foreign Policy: If you see the world right now using some of the basic theories you learn as a student of international relations, there’s a lot of reason to fear war.

This week, thousands of university students around the world will begin their introduction to international relations courses for the first time. If their professors are attuned to the ways the world has changed in recent years, they will be teaching them that the major theories of international relations warn that great-power conflict is coming.

For decades, international relations theory provided reasons for optimism—that the major powers could enjoy mostly cooperative relations and resolve their differences short of armed conflict.

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