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Ethics in Global Politics


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations.


This course explores the role of ethics at the global level. We will discuss classic and contemporary texts in light of a variety of traditional and new phenomena – ranging from war and security to climate change and technology– in order to identify the sources, possibility and scope of ethics in global politics. We are particularly concerned with the mechanisms through which ethical considerations enter political calculation and the extent to which they shape political outcomes. Our approach is threefold. First, we will identify and assess the character of conflict between moral imperatives and political imperatives and interests. Here we address not only the unavoidable tensions and disparity between abstract ethical principles and their concrete application, but also the ineluctable conflict among principles themselves. Second, we will explore the process through which relevant state and non-state actors make and justify trade-offs between different ethical and political imperatives in specific cases. Finally, we will assess the implications of these political processes for the role of ethics in global politics and explore whether we can discern patterns in the way in which moral principles inform political decisions in time and space.

Course objectives

The main goal of this course is to help students understand the origin, structure and weight of moral arguments in international society in time and space. By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Understand how to analyse the premises and structure of moral arguments in international society

  • Understand how to assess the implications of conflict between moral arguments and real politics in international society

  • Understand how to frame and explore questions about the behaviour of ethics in international society

  • Understand how to design and to lay out theoretically informed empirical research projects on aspects of ethics in international society.


See website for the timetable

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

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: 130 hours

  • Oral presentation and writing the final research essay: 126 hours

Assessment method


  • Critical commentary on the discussion question of every session (500 words): (10%)

  • In-class assignments and participation: 10%

  • Essay I: preliminary outline of the research problem (1,000 words): 10%

  • Essay II: preliminary outline of the research design (2,000 words): 20%

  • Final Essay (5,000 words): 50%


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


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.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard Will be used for this course

Reading list

The required readings will be announced on Blackboard before the start of the course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.


Dr. G. Macaj