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POL8051 : Ethics in IR (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Hartmut Behr
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


The general aim of this module is to investigate the question of political ethics as an integral part of theories in the discipline of International Relations: does political ethics play a role and, if yes, what kind of role, and how, in disciplinary thinking? This module is hence not an account of bringing political ethics and International Relations together as two presumably separate fields of knowledge, but rather a critical examination of the ethical dimension of disciplinary thinking on International Relations from a sociology of knowledge perspective. The module will avoid the labelling of movements in the discipline as schools, and instead aim at 'going back' to individual readings, examining their contribution to disciplinary thinking.

The mainstream of the discipline of International Relations - a product of the 20th Century - has promoted a picture according to which there is no room for ethics in international politics. International politics has been largely described as a realm of anarchy, politics of power and national interest, and hence international politics and ethics as two essentially separate fields of knowledge and practice. This, however, is a narrative typical of the 20th Century and by no means representative for international political theory in a historical perspective, or for critical movements within the discipline in whose writings we find ethics and international politics as integral parts of social and political theorising, or a demand for (re)integrating ethics into disciplinary thinking. The module will examine those writings, and thereby pursue a genuinely critical investigation of the discipline of International Relations.

Outline Of Syllabus

These are the topics that are discussed. Literature may change from semester to semester due to updates to familiarise students with most recent academic and political developments.

(1) Introduction: Differences between “Morality” and “Ethics”
(2) Nations as Moral Agents?
(3) Ethics in/and “Classical Realism”
(4) Christian “Ethics” and Visions of International Peace
(5) The ethics of critique
(6) The Ethics of Epistemology - Epistemological Imperialisms
(7) Postmodern Ethics
(8) Ethics and “Otherness”
(9) Forgiveness in International Politics
(10) The morality of human rights
(11) Essay Writing

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1123:00123:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00Recorded, non-synchronous (online)
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities114:0044:00Annotated readings, non-synchronous
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00PiP
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The teaching methods (structured guided learning; Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities; Guided In-dependent Study) seem best suited under the conditions of the Planning Assumptions 2021/2022 to accomplish the Learning Outcomes. Students will thus be prepared through a mix of synchronous, non-synchronous, and independent learning, together with feedback options (online feedback and consultation hours as well as online equivalents to an “open door policy” in form of non-scheduled, general availability through emails and Zoom that are not listed above under Teaching Activities, but are a major component of feedback) well for their assignment (see below) to achieve the learning outcomes.

The recorded lectures introduce students to the key terms, concepts, and texts in the study of international political thought. Q&A and feedback hours with the module leader as well as seminars provide live, synchronous environments in which students can discuss the main readings of this module and their analytical application.

Structured, guided learning activities in form of annotated readings guide students through the main readings and main questions to be asked. Students can also learn from relating respective texts intertextually and thereby create relations and meaning between respective texts and discourses to accomplish a synotic understanding of the module’s thematic. In addition, the syllabus schedules a separate session on Essay Writing to teach students the essentials of the main assignment, including transparency about their assessment criteria. The essay writing session will be taught by a pre-recorded 2hr lecture by the ML as well as by small group teaching in person).

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research paper2M1004,000 word research paper
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A 4,000 word research paper seems the intellectually most appropriate form of assessment demanding students to work critically on topics that arise from seminar discussions, and to deepen their knowledge on that topic and its problematic. Ideally, the topic for the research paper would combine two or more of the seminar topics into a comparative perspective on a general problem/issue/concern of political ethics in International Relations.

Reading Lists