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Theories and Concepts in International Politics




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 100-level and 200-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


The aim of this course is to provide students with an overview of main theoretical approaches in the study of international relations and guide students to apply these theories in interpreting specific cases from international politics. In each session students will discuss a specific concept from international politics, and try to interpret it from different theoretical perspectives. These concepts and theories will be related to concrete problems and recent developments in international affairs.

Course Objectives

  • Advancing knowledge of International Politics, by critically assessing and discussing key concepts of international politics through the lenses of various theoretical approaches of IR.

  • Interpreting, evaluating, and applying specific concepts in international politics using related case studies

  • Conducting independent research on a variety of topics related to international politics, using adequate theoretical, analytical and methodological approaches.

Mode of Instruction

The course intends to build upon previous knowledge of theoretical approaches of international relations. The students are expected to participate actively in structured discussions on assigned readings for each class. These will be introduced by the lecturer. During the course of the seminar students are expected to take part in both large and small group discussions, participate in seminar discussions, present and defend their ideas within an academic setting, and take part in group projects. The role of the lecturer is to ensure the efficient running of discussion.


Assessment: In-class participation
Percentage: 15%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Group presentation
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Two short essays (1000 words)
Percentage: 30% (15/15)
Deadline: Week 3 (Friday February 22nd at 23:59) Week 6 (Friday March 15th at 23:59)

Assessment: Final research essay (3000 words)
Percentage: 35%
Deadline: Week 8 (Friday March 29th at 23:59)


Carlsnaes, Walter, Thomas Risse & Beth A Simmons (2002) Handbook of International Relations, SAGE: London.
The acquisition of the book is recommended but not compulsory. Readings outside of this book will be provided electronically through blackboard.

Contact Information

vonnocmcvan@ fsw.leidenuniv.nl
Institute of Political Science, Leiden University
Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden (5B11)

Weekly Overview

Session 1: Introduction to the course: Defining the key concepts of International Politics
Session 2: Globalization and international politics
Session 3: The changing nature of the state in international politics
Session 4: International organizations and international politics
Session 5: Regional integration in a globalizing world
Session 6: International organizations, governance and the transatlantic divide (EU vs. US)
Session 7: Security concerns in a changing global world
Session 8: International conflict management
Session 9: Humanitarian intervention
Session 10: International law and international relations theory
Session 11: Terrorism
Session 12: International political economy
Session 13: Non-state actors in international politics
Session 14: Discussion across paradigms

Preparation for first session

There is no required reading for this seminar, but student are strongly encouraged to revisit readings from previous courses dealing with basic theoretical approaches in international relations:
Baylis, John, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens (2011), The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, Oxford University Press: New York. 84-182