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Elective: Cosmopolitics: Ethics and International Politics, Theory and Practice


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
The number of participants is limited to 25.


Our world is one of great inequalities. Many people live in extreme poverty, whereas others live in great affluence and abundance. Some people have many possibilities to lead good lives, whereas others have very few. Inequalities exists both within states as well as between them, but they are treated very differently. Many states spend tremendous amounts of money distributing resources among their citizenry. This, many will feel, is what is required as a matter of justice. But we spend much less on addressing problems outside of our borders. The Netherlands, spending a lot on this compared to other countries, spends about 0,7% of its GDP on development aid. Given that there are many more people who are badly off outside of the Netherlands than within, one may be surprised that we spend so little on this. For example, there are about 2.600.000.000 people living on less than 2 dollars a day (that is 2,6 billion!). One may think, as several philosophers have argued, that we have special duties of justice to our compatriots. But what – if anything – can justify this partial treatment? And, do these special duties mean we can ignore massive poverty and inequality abroad?
The question of international inequality and poverty is an example of one of the pressing issues in international politics that will be discussed in this course. Do we have special obligations to co-nationals? When is it permissible to start a war, and what means can one permissibly use in war? How should we deal with international war-crimes? Are current limits on migration justified? What should we do about global poverty? How should we address issues like climate change and resource depletion on an international level? What are the obligations of individuals in international politics?
The key questions of this course are normative. We will not primarily be concerned with looking into how the international system works, but we’ll be thinking about how it should function: what are the most pressing injustices in the world, how can they be solved, and who should solve them?

Course objectives

The Electives for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the multidisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.

Academic skills that are trained include:

Oral and written presentation skills:

1. To explain clear and substantiated research results.
2. To provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course:

  • in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;

  • in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;

  • using up-to-date presentation techniques;

  • using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;

  • aimed at a specific audience.
    3. To actively participate in a discussion following the presentation.

Collaboration skills:

1. To be socio-communicative in collaborative situations.
2. To provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position.
3. To adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:

1. To collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques.
2. To analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability.
3. To formulate on this basis a sound research question.
4. To design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved.
5. To formulate a substantiated conclusion.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction


Seminars are held every week, with the exception of the Midterm Exam week. This includes supervised research.

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 10 EC (1 EC = 28 hours), which equals 280 hours, broken down by:

  • Attending seminars (2 hours per week x 12): 24 hours

  • Reading literature and preparing assignments: 8 hours per week, total of 96 hours

  • Oral presentation: 16 hours

  • Writing the final research essay: 144 hours

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

Partial grade Weighing
In class participation 10%
Assignments 30%
Oral presentation 10%
Final Research Essay (5,000 words) 50%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the End Grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.


Students who have been active participants in class and submitted the Final Essay on time, but scored an overall insufficient mark, are entitled to a resit. For the resit, students are given a chance to hand in a new version of the Final Essay.
In case of resubmission of the Final Essay (insufficient grade only) the final grade for the Essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the Final Essay.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2018 – 2019.

Exam review

How and when an exam review takes place will be determined by the examiner. This review will be within 30 days after official publication of exam results.


Blackboard will be used for the seminars. Students are requested to enroll on Blackboard, but only after correct enrolment in uSis.

Reading list

  • Literature will be announced on Blackboard before the start of the course.


Registration occurs via survey only. Registration opens 3 December:

1) On 3 December you will receive a message with a link to the survey.
2) Indicate there which are your 5 preferred Electives, in order of preference.
3) Based on preferences indicated by 16 December the Electives Coordinator will assign you to one specific Elective by 15 January.
4) Students will then be enrolled for the specific groups by the Administration Office.
5) All students are required to enroll for their group in Blackboard to access all course information.

Students cannot register in uSis for the Elective, or be allowed into an Elective in any other way.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


S. Harb MA MPhil

When contacting lecturers or tutors, please include your full name, student number, and tutorial group number.


The deadline for submission of the Final Essay is 14 June 2019.