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Unit information: Theories of International Relations in 2020/21

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Unit name Theories of International Relations
Unit code POLI10003
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Alix Dietzel
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 an understanding of the major themes, concepts and debates in the discipline of International Relations.
• Be able to critically analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each theoretical approach.
• Demonstrate a critical understanding of the philosophical and practical issues that underpin the study and practice of International Relations.
• Demonstrate an ability to evaluate advanced concepts and theories in reasoned and effective arguments in written form,
• Show an ability to pursue independent learning and to show critical judgement in the selection of sources.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Information

1500 word essay (25%)

2000 word essay (75%)

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.