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Unit information: International Security in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name International Security
Unit code POLIM3012
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Herring
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit introduces the student to the subject of international security. It investigates in particular the involvement of liberal democracies with international security issues, and discusses the various explanations of this involvement as necessary self-defence in a dangerous and insecure world. This unit also considers the successes and failures of the global spread of liberal democracy, especially in relation to ethnic and religious conflict. In addition, it examines the implications of the maintenance of a sharp north-south security divide for the emergence of new forms of global terrorism and trans-national violence. The dominant mode of interpretation is that problems in international security are caused by illiberal, undemocratic actors 'out there'. Another interpretation is that liberal democracies have also been involved in bringing about international security problems, escalating them and prolonging them. The student is taught to think critically about both modes of interpretation. This unit is only available to students registered for MSc/Diploma degrees in the Department of Politics. Please note that the Department does not permit the auditing of any of its units.

This unit aims:

  • To become familiar with issues in international security and the involvement of liberal democracies in them
  • To provide an introduction to various explanations of international security and of the role of liberal democracies in them
  • To consider the implications of such representations of security and the consequences of the actions of international players on the global order

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit the student should have:

  • Thorough knowledge of approaches to international security
  • The ability to understand a range of relevant concepts and related theories – in particular the liberal democratic peace (& its war ethos), the nuclear and terrorist threats, the arms trade and its consequences, genocide and ethnic cleansing, conflict and development, humanitarian intervention and trans-national violence
  • Knowledge of the contemporary historical dimensions of international security
  • The ability to integrate theoretical and empirical material
  • The ability to analyse news politically
  • The ability to make articulate, concise, persuasive and well-paced presentations in small groups
  • The ability to present articulately, concisely and persuasively and to support a presentation with effective written material
  • The ability to engage in constructive discussion

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a one-hour lecture plus a one-hour seminar per group. The following methods will be outlined and used in the seminars:

  • Analysis of texts
  • Extraction of meaning from news reports
  • Listening and speaking in discussion, using a variety of formats.

Assessment Information

Formative assessment: an oral presentation supported by a handout Summative assessment: a 3,500 - 4,000 word essay

A full statement of the relationship between the programme outcomes and types/methods of assessment is contained in accompanying Programme Specifications and section B7 of the Major Change to Current Programme forms for the programmes of which this unit is a part. The assessment for each unit is designed to fit within and contribute to that approach in terms of intellectual development across each of the two teaching blocks, and in relation to knowledge and understanding, intellectual skills and attributes, and transferable skills.

Reading and References

  • Baylis, J. Wirtz, J. Cohen, E and Gray, C. Strategy in the Contemporary World: An Introduction to Strategic Studies, Oxford University Press, 2002
  • Booth, K. & Dunne, T. (eds), Worlds in Collision: Terror and the Future of Global Order, Palgrave, 2002
  • Buzan, B & Herring, E. The Arms Dynamic in World Politics, Lynne Rienner, 1998
  • Chomsky, N. The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo, Pluto, 1999
  • Hough, P. Understanding Global Security, Routledge, 2004
  • Kaldor, M. New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Globalised Era, Polity Press, 1999