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Is the secret to world peace the ability to spin a good yarn?

14 October 2011 Royal Holloway, University of London

The key to avoiding a full scale world war lies in the story-telling abilities of great powers such as the United States, European Union, China and Russia, according to academics from Royal Holloway, University of London.

Researchers from the Department of Politics and International Relations argue that each powerful state will attempt to shape the future of international affairs by creating stories about the past, present and future, which other countries can buy into.

In a keynote address at the International Studies Association annual conference Political Communication and International Studies in the United States, Professor Ben O’Loughlin and Dr Alister Miskimmon, from Royal Holloway, explain that these shared narratives could help countries to manage the transition from a US-led to a multipolar world order without conflict.

Dr Miskimmon explains: “Countries create narratives that express their identity and aspirations for their role in the world. After the end of the Cold War narrative we seem to be in a period where a number of great powers are struggling to find and impose meaning on world events.”

Professor O’Loughlin adds: “Great powers are going to great lengths to control the main narratives in international affairs. Russia and China have set up TV stations to rival CNN and BBC and are desperately trying to control how current events are discussed in social media. Whether anyone’s narrative will win out is part of the struggle for power today.”  

During the conference, Professor O’Loughlin will also talk about the narratives of crisis around Iran's nuclear programme and Dr Miskimmon will discuss Germany's attempts to narrate a role for itself in world politics since the end of the Cold War.

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