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Foundational Texts in World Politics


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

At least one of the WP 100-level core track courses

Recommended course(s):



What constitutes world politics? What are the most important discoveries we have made about how the world works? How can we make sense of the challenges arising from human relations across borders? Who benefits from these relations and who does not?

These are important questions for any student taking the World Politics major or otherwise curious about what makes our world tick. Answering these questions requires a foray into the foundational texts that have (re)defined the study of world politics. If you want to know the ideas that have shaped world politics, you will need to read the big thinkers who made it what it is and those who are trying to remake it into something different.

Foundational Texts in World Politics is intended for second-year students who wish to deepen their understanding of the radically different ways in which scholars have tried to conceptualise world politics. It engages students in an in-depth and deliberate reading of great works that have defined or challenged various areas of study. The selected texts have strongly conceptual and theoretical aims: they have furthered knowledge by contributing ‘big ideas’ and frameworks, challenging standard assumptions of their time, and on rare occasion even launching important (sub)disciplines. In keeping with its title and aims, the course takes seriously perspectives outside of mainstream research programmes, including critical and non-Eurocentric perspectives.

Most courses at the LUC use short-form learning materials such as journal articles and emphasise breadth of knowledge. The result is a fast-paced learning experience and cursory engagement with scientific research. While students cover a comprehensive set of topics through their readings, such an approach offers limited time for a deeper digestion of grander, more complex theories. This course offers a slower pace of analysis and a sharp focus on a small number of books. Students will not read less; they will read more deeply. This will be a challenging course for students willing to keep one eye on the conceptual details and internal logic of a book while keeping the other eye on the Big Questions it answers about the world.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:


  • Identify foundational theories of world politics and their originators;

  • Analyse the relevance and applicability of foundational theories to contemporary global challenges

  • Skills:

  • Reflect on (i.e. make conscious) subjective experiences of the learning process

  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of theories of world politics


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will run in 14 two-hour seminars and will primarily consist of general class discussion supplemented by very brief lectures.

Assessment Method

Participation = 19%
Personal reflection 1 = 20%
Personal reflection 2 = 21%
Final essay = 40%

Reading list

For the first session, students must have read Immanuel Kant’s Toward Perpetual Peace.


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. Densua Mumford,