Theories of International Politics and Zombies
Daniel Drezner, 2011

Obvious as it may seem once stated, it's easy to forget a simple fact about professional academics: They're mostly nerds[1]. Dan Drezner, professor of international politics at Tufts and member of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, demonstrates this plainly in his witty tutorial Theories of International Politics and Zombies.

The book is a short, single-session-length introduction to the dominant paradigms of modern international relations theory; each explained through their application to the rise of the living dead. Each chapter briefly introduces the concepts and history of a particular paradigm, before applying it to the questions of how surviving humans would interact with encroaching zombies, as well as with any other uninfected states.

Drezner does occasionally use his device to hark back to contemporary issues, such as the lessons that zombie cure research have to offer for the free-rider problem of CO2 emissions, but the focus of the book remains very much on the issue of a zombie outbreak. Indeed, Drezener's extended asides on zombie sociology or the importance of headshots (replete with rigorous citations of George Romero movies, lest the reader simply think these issues existed only in Drezner's imagination), are what make the book such a thoroughly irreverent, nerdy read.

Whimsy aside, Zombies still serves as a satisfactory introduction to international relations theory. All the major modern paradigms are introduced and covered fairly, or at least as fairly as one has right to expect from a short, lighthearted work. The chapter on neoconservatism, in particular, deserves to be required reading, if only to quell the rampant abuse the term seems to take in internet comment sections (and for Drezner's crack that the neoconservative response to zombie outbreak may be to "invade Iraq again out of force of habit", which stands out as the book's funniest and most self-deprecating joke).

A fair introduction to international relations for the complete beginner and a fun afternoon read for the more well-read on the subject, Theories of International Politics and Zombies has something for everyone, and is the best written and most well-rounded short non-fiction I've read in a very long while.

Credit for this book goes to Dunlop's sister, who gifted it to me along with the considerably denser and less playful Islam and Capitalism , by French Marxist sociologist Maxime Rodinson, to be reviewed shortly.

The cover image is a mural by the Norwegian artist Per Krohg which adorns a wall of the UN Security Council chamber in New York. It shows people working together as a phoenix rises from the ashes, symbolising the rebirth of the international order following World War Two, or alternatively, a zombie pandemic.

  1. You're reading the footnotes on a non-fiction book review website, so don't pretend you're any better. ↩︎