Christopher David LaRoche


Research & Publications









Current courses:

The Psychology of Statecraft.

Xi, Putin, Erdogan, Trump — they dominate the headlines. Yet our social science theories tell us that structures and institutions, not individuals, matter. This course asks: does personality matter in world politics? How do leaders make decisions? And what are the dangers of personalism? This course investigates whether "personality" matters in international politics by examining theories of pyschology — understood broadly as the study of the psyche — and their relationship to statecraft. Surveying rival accounts of the “psyche,” soul, or mind, we will explore topics such as cognitive empathy, expertise, personality traits, personalism, and charisma, with a view to their role in statecraft. The first half of the course introduces students to approaches that emphasize virtues, personality, and character (e.g. in the Mirror of Princes genre and modern personality research). Pivoting around Machiavelli's Prince, the second half focusses on psychological approaches that emphasize effectiveness, cognition, and decision-making, pioneered by Francis Bacon and popularized in texts such as Thinking, Fast & Slow. The course complements its theoretical investigations with concrete case-studies and profiles of prominent practicioners of statecraft.

Taught at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

See the current syllabus.

Nuclear Order in an Uncertain Age.

The current war in Ukraine reminds us of a perennial condition: at any moment we may be obliterated in a nuclear war. Nuclear power does more than worry us, however; it shapes our international order by granting its possessors power and prestige, and drives others to seek them. Yet nuclear weapons have a curious feature: they have not been deployed in a war since 1945. Either because of deterrence, humanitarian conscience, or a taboo, they perhaps cannot be used at all. Or they can — and we are just lucky. Despite mountains of scholarship and analysis, we are perhaps still what Günther Anders calls “inverted utopians”: unable to fully understand the effects of our technological creations. This course explores how nuclear weapons and technologies have shaped and continue to shape international relations. Since Robert J. Oppenheimer quoted Hindu scripture at the first atomic test, policymakers, academics, and artists alike have been terrified — and fascinated — by the bomb. The course begins with the scientific experiments and principles as they arose in the World War 2 race to build, and use, a superweapon. The course then turns to the Cold War, where classical conceptions of nuclear strategy and arms control emerged, before examining the post-Cold War era’s complex set of nuclear issues, such as horizontal proliferation and nuclear terrorism. The course materials pay attention not only to traditional arguments about nuclear weapons, but critical accounts that highlight the overlooked perspectives in the nuclear technology complex.

To be taught at the graduate level in Fall 2023.

Organizing the World: International Institutions and Global Governance in Postwar Politics.

We sense something is breaking. The international order that surrounds us — ostensibly global, liberal, and open — is under attack both from within and without. According to its defenders, this open order and its institutions have for the past seventy years made the world more liberal, just, and peaceful. The order’s critics say it has unjustly imposed Western ideologies across the globe, upending local values, subjugating working classes, and ushering in a dystopic neofeudalism ruled by a technocratic elite. This is the international story of our time. How can we take our bearings in it? This course explores the crisis of liberal world ordering and the role of international institutions and global governance within it. It begins by examining what contemporary international order is, and how liberal modes of ordering have concretely shaped the international relations of today. What is (liberal) international organization and global governance? What are the major institutions? The major issues? The first part of the course tours some major don’t-miss-it sights of liberal internationalism before proceeding to concrete international institutions by topic or “regime”: the UN-centred postwar order, regional organizations, humanitarianism and human rights, the nuclear politics and nonproliferation, global health, the environment, cities, and the future.

Taught at the graduate level in the Bard Globalization and International Affairs program in New York City.

See the current syllabus.

Ruling the World: International Orders in Theory and Practice.

Challenged by geopolitical rivalry abroad, populism at home, and the increasing complexity of global problems, the current international order is in crisis. What will come in its wake is still unclear. What is an international order, and what are the fundamental alternatives to the one in which we now live? This course explores the challenge to the current world order by examining historical international orders, many outside the modern West, and the expanding body of theory scholars use to understand them. After a discussion of some key concepts of order — the balance of power, anarchy, hierarchy, and empire — the course embarks on a "grand tour" of some major concrete world orders and encounters between them: Medieval Christendom, precolonial West Africa, Islamicate Asia, Early Modern Europe’s encounter with the Western Hemisphere in the “Columbian Exchange,” the Sinocentric ‘tribute’ system in East Asia, the 19th Century global order, and finally the "postwar" liberal order in which we now live. Throughout, whistorical explorations are paired with issues of contemporary concern: do we live (e.g.) in a neofeudalising world? What do contemporary international relations look like if we use the categories of a previous order — transnational classes or symbolic domination — to understand world politics today? The course also examines how orders more generally are established, decline, what kinds of human life they promote (and suppress), and who, if anyone, rules them.

Taught at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

See a recent syllabus.

PhD supervision:

Kirill Shamiev, "Your Assembly is Abolished: Your Assembly is Abolished: Civil-Military Relations and Public Policies in Putin's Russia." Defended January 2023.

Dominik Sipinski, 2020 — present.

Adam Meehan Pontius, 2023 — present.

Past courses:

POLB80. Introduction to International Relations. Co-taught with Simon Frankel Pratt.

A 12-session introductory course in International Relations (IR) theory and global issues at the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus. The first half of the course introduces students to the major aspects of IR theory. After a survey lecture on the global rise of the sovereign states system, we take E.H. Carr's dialectic of Utopianism and Realism as a starting point before progressing through the main theoretical contributions of contemporary IR scholarship. The second half of the course focuses on contemporary global issues, beginning with two sessions on the postwar liberal-democratic order and the challenge rising powers may (or may not) present to it. We then cover humanitarianism, terrorism, and development and the environment. At the end of the course, we return to a discussion of the postwar landscape, with specific attention paid to the United States' possible turn toward disengagement under its current leadership.

POLC40/380. The Politics of Sovereignty and Humanity: Military Intervention in the 21st Century.

This upper-year course, which I taught at University of Toronto's downtown and Scarborough campuses, explored debates over humanitarian intervention by critically exploring the history and thinking behind military intervention and its relationship to political order, particularly the modern sovereign states system. I began the course with readings from the 19th century, where the issue of intervention gained powerful expression (and criticism) in the pens of J.S. Mill, Edmund Burke, and others. The course then moved to contemporary debates, examining changes in the justification of military intervention, especially its post-Cold War humanitarian turn. Grounded in an examination of compassion, this section of the course explored the current legal and political ramifications of humanitarian intervention as articulated by some of its most thoughtful proponents and severest critics. The last third of the course examined recent cases of interventions, grouped in thematic categories, in an effort to both apply and better understand concepts explored in the first part of the course.

POLB81. Global Issues and Governance. Co-taught with Joseph MacKay.

This 12-session introductory course is the sequel to POLB80 at the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus. The course introduced students more deeply to contemporary world political issues than POLB80, with a focus in our sessions on the causes of war and conditions for peace.

POLB80. Introduction to International Relations. Co-taught with Wilfrid Greaves.

A 12-session introductory course in International Relations (IR) theory and global issues, taught at UofT's Scarborough campus. The first half of the course introduced students to the IR theory core paradigms, while the second half of the course explored several contemporary security and governance issues.

POL381. Politics and the Idea of History.
Co-taught with Jonas Schwab-Pflug.

This upper-year course taught at UofT's downtown campus examined the moorings of today's 'historical' politics in the philosophy of history of the past two centuries. Much current public political discourse is framed in temporal or historical language: progress against regress, forward against backward, hope for the future, returning to the glory of the past, and so on. Over 11 sessions we engaged in a close reading of primary texts written by political philosophers who inaugurated the historical approach to politics reflected in contemporary discourse: Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Kojève. These close-readings brought out how history was increasingly used to answer the questions of traditional political theory: the nature of the best regime, justice, citizenship, and war. We used these close readings to enlarge and expand students' understandings of current debates about history's bearing on politics, and the seeming return of past political phenomena such as nationalism, irredentism, and geopolitical conflict.


Current courses

PhD Supervision

Past courses