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Prospectus

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Theories and Concepts in International Politics

Course
2013-2014

Tag(s)

WP

Admission Requirements

Similarly-tagged 100-level and 200-level courses.

Description

This course deepens students’ understanding of the central theoretical debates and concepts in the study of international politics as introduced in earlier courses. It examines a broad range of theories including classical realism, neorealism, institutionalism, neoliberalism, and social constructivism, as well as post-structuralism, critical theory and feminism. Students will develop their ability to critically engage with international politics theories, and learn how to assess their assumptions, methodological implications and inherent limitations and restrictions.
This course also explores several substantive issues and concepts with reference to real-world current events and controversies in international politics, which are analyses through application of the differently theoretical perspectives covered in the course. In doing so, students learn to apply, and evaluate the applicability of, various key theories of international politics. The course is open to students interested in international politics / relations and theory specifically, as well as those who are interested in political theory in general.

Course Objectives

Students will develop their ability to critically engage with international politics theories, and learn how to assess their assumptions, methodological implications and inherent limitations and restrictions. The current events and controversies component not only covers issues of conceptual interest and theoretical application, but also helps students take a well-informed position on contemporary world affairs. Students will also work on developing their debating, discussion and writing skills. By the end of this course students should acquire the following:

  • Advancing knowledge of international politics by critically assessing and discussing key theories of international politics;

  • Understanding more specialized topics from contemporary dynamics of international politics through the lenses of various theoretical approaches;

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

  • Applying conceptual tools to analyze key events and processes in contemporary international politics.

  • Conducting independent research on a variety of topics related to international politics using adequate analytical skills.

Mode of Instruction

This course meets twice a week for two hours. There are two main components:
First, students deepen their understanding of international relations theories by examining the core debates that define the field. For each session students either a write position paper or participate in an in-class theory trial (moot court) debate. A description of the theories’ indictments and quarrels is included in the course syllabus. In their position paper, students either support or rebut a theory’s indictment or defend the position of one of two theories that are at odds with each. During the seminar sessions teams of students participate in a formal ‘trial’ debate as prosecutors or defence attorneys and their peers act as the jury. This is followed by a discussion of the theory’s merits and limitations on the basis of students’ position papers.
Second, students explore and present substantive issues and concepts with reference to real-world current events and controversies by acting as experts on a panel discussion. In doing so, students learn to apply, and evaluate the applicability of, various key theories of international politics dealt with earlier in the course. This will be followed by a theoretically informed discussion guided by the seminar instructor. At the end of each session, the seminar instructor will shortly introduce the next session’s theoretical debate and key concepts.
During the course of the seminar students are expected to take part in group discussions, present and defend their ideas within an academic setting, and work in groups. Students are also encouraged to discuss the readings with their peers, and bring questions to class and ask that these be discussed. The role of the seminar instructor is to ensure the efficient running of discussions.

Assessment

Assessment: In-class participation
Learning aim: Interactive engagement with course material
Percentage: 10%
Deadline: Ongoing weeks 1-7

Assessment: Four theory trial position papers (800 words, 12.5% each)
Learning aim: Individual engagement with course readings, understanding of course content
Percentage: 50%
Deadline: Ongoing weeks 2-7. Position papers should be handed in 12 hours before the start of the session

Assessment: Two formal theory trial group debates + debate outlines (250 words, 15.0% eacht)
Learning aim: (Individual) engagement with course readings, understanding of course content
Percentage: 25%
Deadline: Ongoing weeks 2-7. Debate outlines should be handed in 12 hours before the start of the session

Assessment: Two international relations controversies panel expert discussions (7.5% each)
Learning aim: (Individual) engagement with course readings, understanding of course content, expression of holistic understanding of the course
Percentage: 15%
Deadline: Ongoing weeks 2-7

Literature

Compulsory literature

  • Thayer, Bradley & Nuray Ibryamova. (eds.) 2009. Debates in international relations. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Longman.

  • Selected articles available via the (digital) Leiden University library.

Recommended literature

  • Baylis, John, Steve Smith, & Patricia Owens. (eds.) 2011. The globalization of world politics: an introduction to international relations. (5th edition) Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Carlsnaes, Walter, Thomas Risse & Beth A. Simmons. (eds.) 2002. Handbook of international relations. London: Sage.

  • Heywood, Andrew. 2011. Global politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Reus-Smit, Christina & Duncan Snidal. (eds.) 2008. The oxford handbook of international relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Selected articles available via the (digital) Leiden University library.

Contact Information

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

Weekly Overview

Week 1, session 1: Introduction
Week 1, session 2: Skills class
Week 2, session 3: The State & national interests
Week 2, session 4: International structures (1) Power
Week 3, session 5: International structures (2) Norms
Week 3, session 6: International structures (3) Cooperation
Week 4, session 7: International structures (4) Economic integration
Week 4, session 8: Domestic structures (1) Ideology
Week 5, session 9: Domestic structures (2) Culture
Week 5, session 10: Non-state actors (1) History & discourse
Week 6, session 11: Non-state actors (2) Terrorism
Week 6, session 12: Non-state actors (3) Gender
Week 7, session 13: Non-state actors (4) Globalization
Week 7, session 14: Conclusion

Preparation for first session

Students are expected to have studied the course syllabus closely before the start of the first session. Students are also strongly encouraged to revisit readings from previous courses dealing with basic theoretical approaches in international politics.

Compulsory literature
Snyder, Jack. 2004. One world, rival theories. Foreign policy. 145, 53-62.