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Unit information: Theories of International Relations in 2015/16

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Unit name Theories of International Relations
Unit code SPAI10006
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Michel
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

The unit provides an introduction into the theoretical and conceptual foundations of the discipline of International Relations. It covers highly influential texts and authors, broader theoretical traditions and empirical cases to demonstrate the intrinsic connections between theory, concepts and empirical examples. It traces the main theoretical influences and positions that have driven various stages of the discipline in relation to central historical and political developments. As such it provides the theoretical background that students require to successfully progress through their degree.

The unit specifically aims to:

  • introduce students to key theoretical and conceptual debates in International Relations
  • familiarise students with core authors and texts in International Relations in the 20th and 21st centuries
  • demonstrate the mutual relationship between the development of theoretical approaches and historical circumstances in international politics

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate awareness of the key theoretical approaches in International Relations and their main assumptions
  • demonstrate understanding of the key concepts and terminologies used in International Relations scholarship
  • critically engage with the historical contingencies shaping the development of different traditions in international thought
  • critically engage with the strength and weaknesses of particular theoretical approaches in International Relations

Teaching Information

2h of lectures and a 1h seminar

Assessment Information

1500 word essay (formative)

2000 word essay (100%)

The assessments will assess all of the Intended Learning Outcomes listed above

Reading and References

  • Jenny Edkins and Maja Zehfuss (ed.), Global Politics. A New Introduction, 2nd edition, Routledge: New York, 2014.
  • Colin Elman and Michael A. Jensen (eds.), Realism Reader, Routledge: New York, 2014
  • Steve Smith et al (eds.), International Theory: Positivism and beyond, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Chris Brown with Kirsten Ainley, Understanding International Relations, 3rd edition, Palgrave MacMillan: New York, 2005.
  • Tim Dunne et al (eds.), International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity, 3rd edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013
  • Keith L. Shimko, International Relations: Perspectives, Controversies & Readings, 4th international edition, Wadsworth, 2013.