POL8006 : Theories of International Relations

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


• To provide students with an advanced understanding of the evolution and current state of theory in international relations (IR).

• To provide a learning and teaching environment that enables students to reflect upon their individual study, and discuss their ideas and questions in a group context.

• To introduce the discipline of IR, its key themes and theories.

• To explore the historical and contemporary themes of IR.

• To discuss and critically evaluate the debates that have characterised the development of IR theory.

The module will explore the historic and contemporary themes of the discipline, and critically discuss these in the context of the ontological, epistemological and methodological claims raised by a range of theorists.

We will discuss the provisions on International Political Theory and - further to the investigation of the contents of distinct theories themselves - consider the following questions:

• What do we expect from theorizing international politics?

• What can theory perform and what not?

• What is the meaning of theorizing: what do 'theory' and 'theorizing' mean?

• What are the difference(s) between 'theory' and 'ideology'?

Outline Of Syllabus

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

(1) Introduction: What is IR theory?; What do we expect from it?; What can it deliver?; Difference between 'theory' and 'ideology'?; The factor of culture in IR theory; and Theory-Practice Relation.

(2) Morality, Power and Human Interest: Concepts of the Political and International Relations.

(3) Ontologies in/of International Relations: Anarchy and the Question of (the Reproduction of) Violence.

(4) Epistemological Imperialisms: Positivism and the Scientification of the Discipline.

(5) Norms, Beliefs, Perceptions, Constructions: Post-Positivism and Idiosyncracies in the Discipline of International Relations.

(6) Security and Securitization: Discursive Analyses of International Politics.

(7) The State and Regional Integration: International Society and the Question of Inclusion/Exclusion.

(8) Language and Power: Text and Discourse.

(9) Pictures and Power: Visualizations and Discourse.

(10) 'Otherness' and Culture: The Question of Difference and International Relations.

(11) Western-Centricisms and Non-Western Approaches: International Politics and the World/Globe.

(12) Ethics and International Relations: The Question of Bringing Ethics Back In.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture12:002:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1176:00176:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

A seminar format will be used so that students can:

Give their own presentations on aspects of each major subject heading.

Engage critically in discussions which is essential to the discipline.

Receive instruction, guidance, advice and help during the semester in identifying issues and questions from the seminar leader.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A1004,000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

For MA International Studies students, an essay at the end of the module provides a chance to scrutinize the whole of the course and ask questions across a range of topics. For all other students for whom this module is optional, an essay allows for more specialization on a specific topic which may be linked to their primary research interests.

Reading Lists