As was established at the outset, Understanding International Relations sets out to introduce the academic discipline of International Relations, and is certainly not intended as a guide to current affairs. On the other hand, it would be unfortunate if the kinds of theoretical debates presented in the book were to be understood as having no impact on the way the world is; we are entitled to ask of any social science that it illuminates the real-world subject matter it purports to theorize, and International Relations is no exception to this rule. In recent years, IR theory – in both its conventional, ‘neo-positivist’ guise as well as in explicitly post-positivist work – has become increasingly abstract, but the intention is, or at least should be, to be ‘action-coordinating’ rather than simply ‘world-disclosing’, to use Stephen White’s distinction (White 1991; Brown 2016). Accordingly, in this final chapter, as with previous editions of this book, the aim is to try to give an account of where we are now in terms of the current world order and identify, albeit tentatively, some trends that it can be expected will come to fruition in the years ahead; in other words, to present a kind of ‘state of the world address’ but as seen by an academic not a politician.
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