Centre for International Policy Studies
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  2. American Power in a Changing World
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International Policy

American Power in a Changing World

City University's Department of International Politics is host to the Research Group on American Power (RGAP) and the Research Network on the Presidency of Barack Obama (which was initially funded by the AHRC, 2011-13).

What is the American Power cluster?

The principal purpose of the American Power cluster is to advance understanding through research and discussion of the travails of American power as America experiences domestic change at the same time as experiencing a crisis of confidence in its global power and standing. As this is a question that affects scholars, policymakers, think tank-ers, and citizens in general, we aim actively to engage with elements of those communities to discuss our work in the context of their differing ideas and concerns and needs in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

This cluster is networked with UK, US and European academics and institutions, including:

  • the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library
  • the BISA Working Group on US Foreign Policy
  • the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford
  • the Roosevelt Study Center at Middelburg
  • Chatham House
  • RUSI
  • the European Council on Foreign Relations
  • FCO Analysts
  • the universities of Warwick, Edge Hill, and Canterbury Christchurch.

American Power cluster 2012-13 events

The American Power cluster organised several events that engaged with practitioners, schools, policymakers and journalists in 2012-13, including:

  • A conference on US Foreign Policy, Warwick, September 2012
  • An event on the Obama presidency for 'A' level teachers and students of politics at the British Library, March 2013
  • A workshop at City in April 2013 assessing Obama's first term, followed by a symposium at the FCO in late April 2013 on Sino-US Struggles over Asia.

Planned activities

In 2013-14, the American Power cluster will organise and contribute to a number of initiatives.
  • In November 2013 cluster leader Professor Inderjeet Parmar has been invited as one of just 3 UK contributors to an international conference on European Perspectives on US Power, assessing its character, strengths and weaknesses. This is part of a 3-cornered collaboration between LSE IDEAS, the American University in Washington, DC, and the Munk School of global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
  • In January 2014 the cluster members are co-organising with the Empires Research Community at Princeton a workshop on Imperial Power Shifts, and a comparative analysis of how empires decline and fall and are replaced by other imperial formations. This is especially significant in the current context of widely perceived US 'decline' and the 'rise of the rest', especially China.
  • In February 2014 we will host the ESRC Seminar on the Future of US Power at City University. The focal point of this seminar, part of a series, is to examine American and Chinese global identities and ambitions and their relative structural economic, financial, international institutional, and military power. Speakers include Princeton's John Ikenberry, Barry Buzan (LSE), Ketan Patel (Greater Pacific Capital), Steve Chan (SOAS), Danny Quah (LSE), and Gordon Cheung (Durham), and several members of the FCO and Chatham House. This is a follow-up event to the workshop in April 2013 at the FCO, indicated above.
  • Also in February 2014, we will hold a workshop on 'Elites and US Power' at City University London. The aim is to take a lead in launching a new elite studies research agenda over the 50 years after C. Wright Mills published his landmark study, The Power Elite. Falling into desuetude since the 1980s, elite studies needs to be relaunched and recalibrated in light of globalisation, American lone superpower status and a changing global order. This conference (which follows one held at the Free University of Amsterdam, September 2012; panels at the ISA convention in San Francisco, April 2013; and preceding further panels at ISA in Toronto, March 2014) brings together leading speakers on national and transnational elite power, including Kees van der Pijl (Sussex), Leslie Sklair (LSE), Thomas R. Dye (Florida State), Nicolas Guilhot (NYU), and Bastiaan Van Appeldoorn (VU, Amsterdam). A special issue of International Politics, a leading journal in the discipline, has been agreed and will ensure that the main papers presented gain greater and broader attention in the field.

Current research

Cluster members are engaged in close dialogue via the above events and through ongoing discussions in clarifying the process of engagement with policymakers and other non-scholarly communities. We arranged two round tables on 'Speaking Truth to Power' at the BISA annual conference, June 2013, which were highly successful in bringing FCO speakers and IR academics together to discuss their separate and inter-related ideas, concerns and functions. We started the discussion about how to engage with non-scholarly communities.

At the same time, in addition to ongoing research projects and PhD supervision, cluster members are collaborating with colleagues across the UK and at City's (Cass) Business School on an ESRC large grant and research centre bids.