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Ideas in World Politics


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations.


Considering that many of our students are new to the academic study of International Relations (IR), this course is designed as a post-graduate level introduction and survey to the theory and practice of contemporary IR and world politics. The content and nature of IR theory is by no means settled. In recent years, the scope of IR scholarship has been the target of intense intellectual and political contestations. The course discusses the broader relationship between IR and the humanities, with a special interest in critical, emerging, and Global South approaches to IR. Although covering all the relevant themes and issues in IR is not feasible in the context of a short semester, this course provides the students a comprehensive overview of the principal debates, perspectives, and puzzles in contemporary IR, both as field of intellectual inquiry and as political practice.

As such, this reading-intensive course constitutes two key components: lecture and seminar parts. The substantive scope of this course highlights three sets of overarching perspectives. The first perspective raises the substantive coverage of IR: What does the academic study of IR include? What is included and excluded in the study of world politics? The second theme pertains to the issue of methods and analytic approaches in IR: How is IR studied? What are the strengths and weaknesses of social scientific tools vis-à-vis humanistic perspectives? What is the relationship between the humanities and IR? What are the different levels of analysis that are usually deployed in IR scholarship and practice? What is the difference between normative vs. positive IR research? The third theme focuses on the contending perspectives for understanding world politics: How is the academic study of IR organized into paradigms? How does each paradigm understand power in inter-state relations, transnational governance, and global order?

Course objectives

This course has three major objectives:
1. To introduce students to mainstream and critical theoretical perspectives of IR.
2. To discuss the intertwining between IR and humanities disciplines, especially history, culture, and area studies.
3. To reflect on alternative critical and non-Western perspectives on the theory and practice of IR from around the world.

During the lecture series, we discuss the complex challenges which the current world order presents to the study of IR and global politics. We will engage with scholarly debates and the practical implications involving mainstream and critical political and social concepts, ideas and humanities perspectives in global politics today. We will draw insights from how other disciplines have reflected on questions relevant to IR and global politics. We will also discuss how IR as a discipline is understood and negotiated in different parts of the world.
During the seminars, students are prompted to expand on the topics discussed in the lectures. On the basis of academic texts and other relevant primary and secondary sources students will engage critically with the ways in which scholars in different disciplines as well as thinkers in different parts of the world have tried to understand international affairs, and how they have learned from each other. Students will develop their critical thinking capacities and improve their ability to research, articulate, report, and defend their position (while evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of contrasting perspectives).

Students who finish this course are expected to:

  1. be familiar with the core issues and scholarly debates concerning the substantive scope of IR as an academic discipline;
  2. gain knowledge of the explanatory and normative theories, concepts, and contested scope of IR as a field of academic inquiry
  3. acquire the necessary analytical skills that will be valuable in formulating research questions/puzzles and analytic approaches that are relevant for IR;
  4. acquire the ability to locate their area of interest within the discipline
  5. be more reflective of the complex relationship between IR as a scholarly discipline and as a real-world, practical activity.
  6. appreciate the role of theorizing in IR scholarship and practice
  7. develop their writing and oral communication skills that are crucial for professional careers.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Lecture and seminar.

Assessment method

subject to change

  • Participation, including peer-review draft papers: 20%

  • Research presentation:30%

  • Final Research paper: 50%


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


The resit for the final examined element is only available to students whose mark of the final examined element is insufficient.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list



Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


not applicable.