POL8051 : Ethics in IR

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


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 producy 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.

Introduction: The Definitions of and Differences between “Morality” and “Ethics”
Nations as Moral Agents?
Ethics in/and “Classical Realism”
Ethics/Morality and the Concept of International Society
Cosmopolitan Ethics
Christian “Ethics” and Visions of International Peace
Ethics and Foreign Policy
Postmodern Ethics
Ethics and “Otherness”
Forgiveness in International Politics
Western Universalism and Human Rights
Western and Non-Western International Relations

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery101:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1168:00168:00N/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 are 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
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