International Political theory

This course develops, extends and deepens theoretical topics covered in IR1011 Introduction to international relations, as well as introducing students to a range of new texts, theories and concepts.

International political theory is about different ways in which the nature of international politics may be explained, understood and judged. As a topic it is focused on theoretical texts and concepts (rather than empirical, historical material).

Dominant theories of international politics from the foundation of international relations asa discipline in 1919 to the end of the Cold War:

  • Liberalism (liberal internationalism, pluralism, interdependence, neo-liberalism)
  • Realism (classical political realism and neo-realism)
  • International society Marxism/ structuralism (dependency, world-systems theory

Critical theories of international politics:

  • Critical theory
  • Post-structuralism
  • Feminist theory

Methodological debates:

  • Can IR be a science?
  • Structure and agency in explaining international politics
  • Constructivism.

Theorising international politics in the 21st century:

  • Normative discourse in international politics
  • Unipolarity and the question of empire
  • Cultural bias in IR theory.

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of different frameworks for thinking about international politics
  • Demonstrate knowledge of a range of ideas, concepts and texts in international political theory and the historical contexts in which they arose
  • Distinguish and evaluate different methodological approaches within the study of international politics
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of alternative ways of explaining, understanding and judging contemporary international politics.
  • Baylis, John and Steve Smith (eds). The Globalization of World Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Brown, Chris, Terry Nardin and Nicholas Rengger (eds) International Relations in Political Thought: texts from the Ancient Greeks to the First World War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Brown, Chris. Understanding International Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Burchill, S., Andrew Linklater et al. Theories of International Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Williams, H., M. Wright and T. Evans (eds). A Reader in International Relations and Political Theory. Milton Keynes: Open University.

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