Planetary Politics

Course content

In 2003 Karen Litfin, holistic political scientist, argued that the emergence of planetary politics is a direct result of the fact that, by the late twentieth century, humanity had become a geophysical force affecting all of the earth’s systems. Despite the acknowledgement of this fact at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, almost 30 years has passed without any real change in thinking about holistic politics and international affairs. The combined consequences of a 3o C rise in average temperature, global population over 10 billion, increasing inequality, spread of endemic conflict, and global politics trapped in 19th thinking demand planetary political imagination.


The course provides a path out of the conventions of industrial-era disciplinary thinking and towards more holistic planetary politics by considering the symbiosis of the social sciences and the dynamics of complex linkages. The course begins by reviewing the major approaches to holistic thinking embedded in the Gaia hypothesis / earth system science and planetary politics. The course then proceeds in two parts: (1) the first part considers the symbiosis of the environment, society, economy, conflict, and politics by seeking to understand the transdisciplinary components and consequences of planetary politics. (2) The second part considers the dynamics of the complex linkages found in a holistic understanding of the Earth’s systems; intergenerational time horizons; between the local and the global; in North-South cooperation; and in the incremental institutionalisation of a precautionary approach. The course concludes with two reflective surveys of how to foresee the 21st century and its international relations in terms of planetary politics.


Preliminary plan:


1.                         Thinking planetary

2.                         Theorising planetary


3.                         Environment

4.                         Society

5.                         Economics

6.                         Conflict

7.                         Politics


8.                         Holistic

9.                         Intergenerational

10.                       Glocal

11.                       North-South

12.                       Precaution


13.                       Surveying the 21st Century

14.                       Surveying International Relations


Bachelor student: 10 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS


SRM students have priority

Learning outcome

[1] Knowledge and understanding of the discipline of political science

The masters’ elective course in ‘Planetary Politics’ encourages students to know and understand why political science and IR are unable to think holistically about the 21st century. Masters’ students studying this course will become knowledgeable with Gaia/Earth system science, critical theories, and transdisciplinary approaches in order to understand how past conservatisms powerfully shape the discipline of political science, contemporary politics, and international affairs.


[2] Practical competence in employment-related activities in political science

The masters’ elective course in ‘Planetary Politics’  enables students to become competent in employment-related activities involving understanding how the social sciences are interrelated; developing holistic analyses; studying intergenational change, recognising local-global linkages, understanding North-South hegemony, and applying the precautionary principle.


[3] Intellectual and transferable skills in political and social sciences

The masters’ elective course in ‘Planetary Politics’ helps masters-level students develop critical thinking, creativity and innovation, collaboration, and communication skills through group-based Active Learning activities.

This masters-level Active Learning elective course requires Preparation, Participation, and Positive attitude:

Preparation means that the course uses Active Learning pedagogy with a constructive alignment between learning goals, learning activities, and assessment. Students will participate in weekly learning activities designed to ensure constructive alignment and must prepare accordingly.

Participation means that students will be participating in course-long learning activities and draft assignment writing activities.

Positive attitude means that students will constructively participate in the weekly group learning activities which form the core of the course.

Masters’ students who do not wish to learn through a constructive alignment of learning goals, learning activities, and assessment should not take this course.

Andrews, John, The World in Conflict: Understanding the world's troublespots (Economist Books, 2017. by John Andrews (Author) Archibugi, Daniele, Debating Cosmopolitics (Verso, 2003).


Beck, Ulrich, The Metamorphosis of the World: How Climate Change is Transforming Our Concept of the World (Polity, 2016).


Bronner, Stephen Eric (ed.) Planetary Politics: Human Rights, Terror, and Global Society (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005).


Cheah, Pheng (ed.) Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation (University of Minesota Press, 1998).


Cochrane, Feargal, Rosaleen Duffy, and Jan Selby (eds.) Global Governance, Conflict and Resistance (Palgrave, 2003).


Cohen, Robin, and Paul  Kennedy, Global Sociology, 3rd edn. (Palgrave, 2012).


Dorling, Danny, and Stuart Gietel-Basten, Why Demography Matters (Polity, 2017).


Ghosh, Amitav, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (University of Chicago Press, 2016).


Honig, Bonnie, Public Things: Democracy in Disrepair (Fordham University Press, 2017).


Ingram, James, Radical Cosmopolitics: The Ethics and Politics of Democratic Universalism (University of Columbia, 2013).


Kingsnorth, Paul, Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist (Faber& Faber, 2017).


Litfin, Karen (ed.) The Greening of Sovereignty in World Politics (MIT Press, 1998).


Litfin, Karen, Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community (Polity, 2013).


Lovelock, James, A Rough Ride to the Future (Overlook Press, 2016).


Mason, Paul, PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future (Penguin, 2016).


Monbiot, George, The Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis Paperback (Verso, 2018).

Klein, Naomi, No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics (Allen Lane, 2017).


Morton, Timothy, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence (University of Columbia Press, 2016).


Ravenhill, John, Global Political Economy, 5th edn. (OUP, 2016).


Raworth, Kate, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist (Random House, 2017).


Stevenson, Hayley, Global Environmental Politics: Problems, Policy and Practice (CUP, 2017).


Urry, John, What is the Future? (Polity, 2016).


Wallensteen, Peter. Understanding Conflict Resolution, 4th edn. (Sage, 2015).


A detailed list of required readings will be provided during the course.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28