WATCHING AN episode of The Walking Dead inevitably leads to passing thoughts about which room of your house would be easiest to defend when zombies finally overrun the neighborhood. But unless you're an international relations theorist, you may not have given much thought to what happens to global politics once the undead are upon us. Luckily, the Tufts University political scientist Daniel W. Drezner has stepped up with a bite-sized book on the subject, Theories of International Politics and Zombies (Princeton). In addition to wargaming various zombie scenarios, Drezner's book serves as an entertaining primer on the distinctions between several theories of international politics.
Start with the theorists known as realists. In Drezner's telling, zombies won't faze them. From their ivory towers--which will, incidentally, become excellent defensive positions when the brain munching begins-realists see the interplay between nations as a power struggle in which national interests and security are the primary concerns. For the realist, the shuffling undead hordes will simply become part of the existing equation in which global actors live in a fundamental condition of anarchy with respect to one another.
So zombies will pursue their own interests--brrraaaiiinns--while states pursue theirs. To illustrate the fundamentally self-interested power dynamics that drive this theory, Drezner points to the drama within a house under attack in the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead: "Despite the common external threat posed by zombies, the individuals inside the house are barely able to cooperate"
Then again, if the portrait of zombie psychology in Land of the Dead (2005) is correct, and zombies retain some minimally human attributes, realists will see a possibility for a deal in which human-dominated states and zombie-dominated states agree to leave each other alone. Sure, the realist says, zombies are devouring human populations in the territory they occupy, but as John Quincy Adams so presciently noted, perhaps it isn't the role of the United States to go abroad
in search of monsters to destroy.
The 2009 film Zombieland suggests that survival is only possible through clearly articulated rules and a credible commitment to cooperation by individuals with disparate interests. This premise parallels the foreign policy view known as liberalism, which focuses on how cultural factors influence relations between states and peoples, giving more weight to the...