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International Relations: Theory and Approaches



Purposes: 1. This seminar provides an overview of prominent theories of International Relations, including (neo-)realism, (neo-)liberalism and constructivism. 2. Students learn to apply theoretical frameworks to explain recent developments and processes in global politics and organisation.

Content: The course deals with a range of theories of International Relations, including (neo-)realism, (neo-)liberalism, constructivism and post-Marxism. Students will study and present work written in these theoretical traditions. The course focuses, for example, on the extent to which international organization can be seen as ‘democratic’ and assesses whether international institutions should be interpreted as independent actors, global ‘norm entrepreneurs’, or simply agents of member state preferences and power. By applying different theories of international relations to given developments and policy areas — such as the role of major powers in world politics, the significance of the United Nations in global governance or the impact of global economic and monetary institutions — students will learn to understand the ‘theoretical lenses’ with which such approaches aim to understand and interpret major developments in international relations. Contributions by students to the seminar are in the form of short assignments, presentations and a final research paper.

Methods of Instruction

Lectures, presentations, discussion.


Approximately 2000 pages.


Short assignments, presentations, final paper.


Tuesday 3 September until 22 October, 11.00-13.00 hrs in 1A11 (except 10 September in 5A41 and 17 September in 5A23)
Thursday 5 September until 24 October, 11.00-13.00 hrs in 5A37 (no class on 3 October)