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Maggie McGaharan: Zombies provide a teachable moment for international relations

While going through my recommended reading list on Amazon, a quirky (and spooky!) title stood out: Theories of International Politics and Zombies by Daniel Drezner.

Don’t be deterred by the blood smeared lettering on the cover. This book will have your mind deep in thought about why global actors behave the way they do, as well as how many cans of SPAM you need for your theoretical bug-out unit.

Drezner looks at political thinking and different forms of government — realpolitik, liberalism, neoconservatism, bureaucratic politics, and more — and how each would respond to a zombie invasion.

For example, realist state actors “would be largely unaffected” because, “to realists, a plague of the undead would merely echo older plagues and disasters.”

That’s typical of Drezner’s knack for demonstrating a theory of international relations in a way that sticks in the mind. Realists are more focused on the present and stay among their own states. That’s why their international relations wouldn’t be heavily impacted by a zombie invasion.

Theories of International Politics and Zombies was first published in 2011. I read the revised edition from 2014. It’s only about 140 pages. But it’s a thrilling read.

Drezner — a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University — is not only using zombies to teach us. He’s also having some fun with the usually stuffy field of political science. 

In a review from 2011 on her bioephemera blog, Jessica Palmer said, “The absurdity, and yet the complete plausibility, of extending theories that model human behavior to inhuman, brain-eating, fictional fiends — this is the sort of silliness that delights many of us.”

Another early reviewer, Stephanie Lawson, said in Times Higher Education, “Certainly the mind boggles at the prospect of being trapped in an iron cage competing for survival with ghouls interested only in one’s nutritional value.”

Professor Drezner’s book is bound to fascinate political science gurus and science fiction fans alike. How many books could do that?

Theories of International Politics and Zombies is available from Amazon here.


Maggie McGaharan is a junior at Flagler College double majoring in political science and economics and minoring in pre-law. She’s  the president of Flagler College’s pre-law chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, the largest co-ed professional law fraternity in the United States.

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