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Introduction to Globalization and Transnational Politics


Admission requirements



What is world politics? What makes the globe ‘hang together’? Who governs it? Who or what are the main actors and how can we explain their behaviour? What are the most pressing problems of world politics? What solutions are practically feasible and normatively desirable? Traditional answers to these fundamental questions have focused on the nation-state as the dominant agent, equating world politics with international – or more precisely: inter-state – relations. In contrast, this course explores contemporary political issues that transcend – some would say: subvert – the boundaries of nation-states and the confines of inter-governmental relations.

We will focus primarily on transnational politics, i.e. political relations involving non-state agents, such as NGOs, religious actors, diasporas, and social movements. Clearly, globalisation has strengthened the transnational dimension of world politics, enabling people, ideas, information, goods, services, and viruses to cross and, arguably, transcend boundaries at increasing speed. Yet it is less obvious what the political, social, cultural, economic, and normative implications of this development are and how it should be analyzed. It is not even clear what globalisation is and how it can best be studied. This course starts the quest for answers to these monumental questions of contemporary world politics, thereby laying the foundation for the higher-level courses in the World Politics major.

The course begins by sketching the historical background to contemporary transnational politics, specifically the increasing interconnectedness of human societies over the past several hundred years, a trend that is referred to as ‘historical globalisation’. We then explore key concepts and ideas as well as the major theoretical approaches to understanding politics beyond the state: Marxism, feminism, post-colonialism and post-structuralism. The final section of the course examines key issues in transnational politics, such as racism, terrorism, global economic inequality, and climate change. Throughout the course, we ponder how the transnational dimension of world politics relates to the inter-state dimension, and how globalisation affects both of them. This includes examining how different transnational actors engage with the states system, which they variously conceive as a constraint on their activity, an opportunity structure to exploit or as a relic to transcend.

Course Objectives

The course critically examines central issues in transnational politics using an interdisciplinary approach. We draw on analytical concepts, theories, and bodies of evidence from across the social sciences as well as the humanities. In successfully completing this course, students will:

  • Understand the historical background to contemporary transnational politics.

  • Develop a basic grasp of key theoretical approaches to the study of transnational politics and learn to apply these approaches independently to understand concrete cases.

  • Understand the core concepts relating to transnational politics and be able to use them critically to analyse major events and processes.

  • Comprehend and evaluate the agendas and strategies of key non-state actors and institutions.

  • Learn to craft concise, clearly structured, and typo-free précis.

  • Improve their oral presentation skills, including the ability to communicate arguments and to defend and refine them in discussion.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This is an interactive course. It consists of two seminars per week comprising a mix of short lectures, discussions, policy debates, group work, and student presentations. In line with LUC’s pedagogical approach, the course requires students to take responsibility for their education and their learning success. This means, above all, two things. First, students are to read the assigned literature deeply and critically. This is a reading-intensive course that challenges students to engage with a substantial amount of academic texts on topics that are as important as they are complicated. Second, students are expected to consistently engage in discussion and share their ideas, arguments and questions with their peers. The primary role of the professor is not to lecture passive students, but to foster the collective discussion of globalization and transnational politics.

Assessment Method

  • Participation: 15%

  • Presentation: 15% + Discussion leadership: 15%

  • Simulation: 15%

  • Final exam: 40%

Reading list

John Baylis, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens (eds.) 2019: The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 8th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press (or the 6th edition, 2014)


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Beatrix Campbell,
Dr. Kai Hebel,


In order to be eligible for participation in the course, students are required to read the following texts before the start of the block: John Baylis, Steve Smith, Patricia Owens (eds.) 2019: The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 8th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press [Introduction and chapter 1].