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POL3081 : International Political Thought

  • Offered 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 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


The module aims to
1) critically reflect the historical dimension of international political theory/IR theory
2) develop critical skills in reading classical, medieval and modern texts of international theory
3) critically discuss the 20th century mainstream of international political theory/IR theory, analyse how it developed and consider how it impacted on practical thinking in international politics

Original Summary:
The module “International Political Thought” is based on “classical” texts of political philosophers and international legal theorists thematising international politics. Representative authors will be selected from the Greek and Roman antiquity, the European Middle Ages, and the 16th, 17th and 18th century. The main foci will be on 1) considering their original contributions to the body of present-day international political theory/IR theory, and 2) the historical legacies of present-day international theory.

Outline Of Syllabus

Lecture: Introduction in the module: focus, problematic; selection of authors; the relation between international political thought and International Relations

Seminar: “Four Genres of Reading Philosophy” by Richard Rorty

Lecture: The challenges of reading intellectual history and the Cambridge School
Seminar: “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas” by Quentin Skinner

Lecture: Sociology of knowledge: the socio-political context of knowledge and knowledge production

Seminar: Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge (1952) by Karl Mannheim

Lecture: The Question of Reading Classical Texts in IR: on knowledge construction in International Relations

Seminar: “Inventing International Relations Theory after 1945” by Miles Kahler

Lecture: The historiography of War by the Greek historian Thucydides and the appropriation of the Melian Dialogue in IR

Seminar: compulsory reading: selected chapters from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Book I, II; Book II, VI and VII; Book III, X; and Book V, XVII

SIXTH week
Lecture: The political sociology of Machiavelli in The Prince & his republican treatise Discorsi

Seminar: compulsory reading: Machiavelli, The Prince; selected chapters from the Discorsi, The Prince (completely); from the Discourses, Book II, 1-33

Lecture: Essay Writing

Seminar: Essay Writing

Lecture: The political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and International Relations

Seminar: compulsory reading: selected chapters from Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan, Chapters 17-31

Lecture: Immanuel Kant’s On Perpetual Peace and its appropriation in International Relations

Seminar: compulsory reading: On Perpetual Peace by Immanuel Kant (completely)

Lecture: GWF Hegel and IR: manifesting the historical legacy of neo-realism?
Seminar: compulsory reading: §§ 330 – 360, The Philosophy of Rights, by GWF Hegel

Lecture: Discussions of previous topics and texts and their reception in IR

Seminar: Discussion of IR readings introducing Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes and Kant in the discipline

Revisions for the 2nd essay and concluding discussions

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00Teaching in Person (PiP)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00Seminar teaching in person (PiP)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery31:003:00Online Q&A (1hr/week)
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1164:00164:00N/A
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 synoptic 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
Essay2M251000 word essay
Essay2M753000 word essay
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Assessment consists of one 1000 and one 3000 word essay. The split in word count seems appropriate as explained below; two essays seem beneficial to student learning as past experiences have shown.

The word count of 1000 for the first essay seems appropriate as students shall demonstrate herein their understanding of the text analytical tools (mainly taught through the texts of Richard Rorty and Quentin Skinner) that they then apply in the second, longer (2500 word) essay to one of the historical main authors received and discussed in the discipline.

Reading Lists