• University of York

Power in Crisis: Politics in the 21st Century

Review contemporary political crises including climate change, migration, and terrorism, and their impacts on power dynamics.

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Power in Crisis: Politics in the 21st Century

427 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

Explore the political challenges of the 21st century through a critical lens

The 21st century is marked by innovation, shifts in power dynamics, and the fight for equality and human rights, bringing humanity closer to collective progress. However, amidst these positive changes, there are challenges and potential downfalls. Without vigilance, the advancements of the 20th and 21st centuries could easily regress.

On this three-week course from the University of York, you’ll explore the contemporary political crises of climate change, migration, and terrorism, and understand their impact on global power dynamics.

Discern the politics of climate change and their impact on various populations

You’ll start by diving into the complex political landscape of climate change.

As you discover the global efforts to combat climate change, you’ll also unpack the political challenges that hinder progress and people.

Understand how migration is part of politics and international relations

Analyse the power dynamics at play and how different countries frame the debate on refugees and migrants.

Armed with this knowledge, you’ll understand the impact of migration on national and international politics and their policies and how the label ‘crisis’ might not always tell the full story.

Analyse terrorism and counter-terrorism strategies and tactics

Investigate the definitions and perceptions of terrorism before learning how terrorism is shaped by political agendas.

You’ll also unpack how different countries approach counter-terrorism and how these policies might become a crisis in themselves.

Develop a critical perspective on power and crisis

By the end of this course, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of some of the major political crises of our time and the skills to analyse and engage with these issues critically.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds We live in an era where politics is increasingly defined by crisis. At any one time, there are a number of crises that grab our political attention, and there’s many other crises that we can’t find time or value in addressing. It is little wonder that the 21st century has been described as one marked by a state of Perma-crisis, a state of many interacting crises that together become an emergency for politics itself, as many lose faith in the practice of politics, lose trust in politicians, in the representative process, and search for new forms of political organisation.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 seconds At the same time, the term crisis is often pushed into the political discourse by those wishing to enact legislative or cultural change, without a clear assessment of whether there truly is a situation extreme enough to warrant these changes. It’s clear that one of the key issues in the study of politics in the 21st century is the perceptions and the realities of crisis itself.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 seconds On this short course, we begin to explore the nature of politics in the 21st century.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 seconds We bring together three themes: climate change, migration, and terrorism to discuss how this term ‘crisis’ is applied, the realities behind this application and the impact that this has on political power. Together, we will also explore the sources of hope and positive change in politically fraught times. Join us as we discuss and engage with topics that are often at the forefront of our national and international political debates, but that are often much more complex than initially presented.


  • Week 1

    Climate change

    • Welcome

      An introduction to the course objectives and a chance to think about how you will learn. There is also an opportunity to introduce yourself and meet fellow learners for the first time.

    • Introduction

      This first part of our course introduces you to some of the core concepts and the familiar faces that you will come to know over the next three weeks.

    • What's the crisis?

      What's the crisis of 'climate change'?

    • What's the solution?

      With climate change defined as a crisis, let us turn now to consider some of the solutions that are proposed to the crisis and the debates around these initiatives.

    • What are the challenges?

      Having considered some of the different levels for climate action, let us now turn to consider some of the problems to enacting successful climate politics.

    • Closing thoughts and quiz

      Let us conclude Week 1 of our course 'Power in crisis: Politics in the 21st Century' with some closing thoughts from Dr Jeremy Moulton and a quiz to review learning.

  • Week 2


    • What's the crisis?

      The "refugee crisis" has been a contentious topic of political debate in recent years, but why is this seen as a "crisis"? Here, we explore how the "refugee crisis" has been framed, and what this means in practice.

    • Framing the "crisis"

      How is the "refugee crisis" framed? How is this "crisis" presented to us? Here, we will explore how the "refugee crisis" is framed in public discourse and what this means for our debates and policy responses.

    • Responding to the "crisis"

      As we have explored, there are different ways to understand the "refugee crisis", and this can impact how the "crisis" is framed. Now, we will look at how this can impact how societies respond to the "crisis".

    • Closing thoughts and quiz

      Here, we recap the content from this week, exploring how we understand the "refugee crisis" and what this means for how we respond to it.

  • Week 3


    • What's the crisis?

      Here, we explore why terrorism is a crisis, how it challenges power in the 21st century, and how we should understand terrorism as a crisis.

    • Cases of terrorism

      This section explores some cases of terrorist organisations that have challenged state power in the 20th and 21st centuries.

    • Countering terrorism

      This section explores some of the ways that terrorism is countered and perceived, and prompts important questions on how we balance our desire for freedom with our need for security.

    • Closing thoughts and quiz/test

      Here, we draw all the activities from this week together, summarising the key takeaways from each activity... and also round-up the course as a whole

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

If you'd like to take part while our educators are leading the course, they'll be joining the discussions, in the comments, between these dates:

  • 15 Jul 2024 - 9 Aug 2024

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Discuss controversial topics, and apply key concepts to further your understanding
  • Discuss key concepts to cases, exploring key debates in politics
  • Develop critical understanding of how concepts such as power can be understood, and how different definitions impact real-world debate and policy

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for students and enthusiasts in politics and international relations.

It’s ideal for those interested in understanding 21st-century political crises and their impact on global power dynamics, climate change, migration, and terrorism.

Who will you learn with?

Hi there! I'm a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations at York. My primary research interests are the European Union and environmental politics.

Chris Featherstone researches foreign policy, focusing on US and UK foreign policy-making. He teaches on US foreign policy and Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism.

Who developed the course?

University of York

The University of York combines the pursuit of academic excellence with a culture of inclusion, which encourages everyone – from a variety of backgrounds – to achieve their best.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$54/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 13 Aug 2024

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