Centre for European and International Studies Research

Reinventing Grand Strategy

Annual Lecture 2019 - Reinventing Grand Strategy: On the Micro-Processes of World Order

The Centre for European and International Studies Research Annual Lecture will be delivered by the internationally renowned scholar of security, Professor Thierry Balzacq, of Sciences Po Paris.

Professor Balzacq will explore the concept of grand strategy with a view to developing a new approach that draws on comparative studies. 

After a long eclipse in Europe, grand strategy has undergone a significant revival in recent years. But the comeback occurs at a time when grand strategy is under siege, probably as never before. Some argue that grand strategy has a limited perimeter, as it only accounts for the action of a very select group of states, that is, “great powers” (e.g., China, the USA, Russia). Others question the very utility of the concept, arguing that it does not capture what happens in practice. States, they argue, have to navigate an environment that can turn on a dime. In short, planning of the type foregrounded by grand strategy, does not work. However, many hold that grand strategy is one of the most useful – if underdeveloped – concepts of International Relations, if only for the fact it equips scholars with the ability to focus their minds on how states align ways and means to exploit opportunities and redress menaces in the medium and long-terms. But is it?

Professor Balzacq’s presentation aims to take seriously each of these claims, with an eye toward developing a new approach to grand strategy. First, it argues that discussions over the utility of grand strategy puts the cart before the horses, as they are not derived from a clear understanding of grand strategy’s meaning. Second, the presentation explores how grand strategy operates, using different empirical vignettes to test states' priorities in action. Finally, the presentation lays out guide points for a new, that is, comparative, study of grand strategies. The rationale behind such a proposal is that, in addition to showing the relevance of grand strategic thought for cases that have hitherto been neglected, a comparative approach to grand strategy enables us to trace the micro-processes that underlie different forms of world order.   

All are welcome!


  • Date: Tuesday 19 February 2019
  • Time: 5:00 - 6:30 pm
  • Venue: University of Portsmouth, Park Building, Room 3.01, King Henry I Street, Portsmouth PO1 2DZ

Admission is free, but please reserve your place on Eventbrite