Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Mutually Exclusive
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 x 1 hour
Seminars / Tutorials 8 x 1 hour


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  40%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour exam)  60%
Supplementary Exam 100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Critically assess central approaches to the study of International Relations
Critically apply different approaches to the analysis of topical issues in world politics

Brief description

This module provides an introduction to past and present debates about the prospects for progress in international politics.


The module begins by considering how the subject of IR has developed through the twentieth century. It proceeds to consider three central approaches to world politics which debate the extent to which the international system can be reformed. The three approaches are liberal internationalism, realism and the English School or the 'international society' perspective. The module will examine key writers who represent each of these approaches.

The second group of lectures will explore some basic analytical problems that are recurrent in IR. What is the appropriate level of analysis - the individual, the state or the international system? Who are the principal actors, and is their nature now changing? When events happen in world politics, should we think of them as the result of decisions, and if so, who takes them?

The third group of lectures is organised around the theme of some contemporary issues in world politics. We will consider, amongst other things, ideas about the morality of war, human rights and humanitarian intervention, the significance of globalization for leading a decent life in different parts of the world and the question of cultural differences in world politics. We turn finally to two particular episodes: the end of the Cold War, and the terrorist attacks of September 11. We will use approaches and themes considered earlier in the module to analyse these concrete issues, all of which have raised large questions about the future of world politics and the prospects for global improvement or reform.


1.Introduction to the Module
2. Why Study International Politics?

A. The Development of the Discipline
3.History and Evolution of IR
4.Liberal Internationalism: i) Overview
5.Liberal Internationalism: ii) Wilson, the Neo-Institutionalists and the Democratic Peace
6.Realism: i) Overview
7.Realism: ii) Morgenthau and Classical Realism, Waltz and Neorealism
8.The English School or International Society Approach: i) Overview
9.International Society: ii) Bull

B.Analytical Perspectives
10.Levels of Analysis
11. Actors
13.Discussion Session

C. Contemporary Issues
14.Moral Issues in World Politics
15.War and Morality
16.Human Rights and Humanitarian Intervention
17.The Concept of Globalization
18.Globalization and the Environment
19.Progress and World Politics
20.Conclusions (The format of the examination will also be discussed in this lecture. There will also be a discussion of 'exam technique')

1. Why should we study international politics?
2. 'The evolution of the subject of IR mirrors the course of history'. Is this a valid interpretation?
3. Did realist criticisms of liberal internationalism demonstrate that there is little or no progress in world politics?
4. How helpful is the English School idea of 'international society'? (Plus section on essay preparation).
5. Do levels of analysis help us understand the sources of war and peace?
6. 'War is about winning with as little hurt as possible to one's own side'. Discuss with reference to the idea of 'the just war'.
7. What are the 'pros and cons' of using force to address serious human rights violations in other societies?
8. Are nation-states weakened or strengthened by globalization?


This module aims to explain the contemporary applications of central traditions of international thought and continuing debates about the nature and possibility of the reform of world politics.

Transferable skills

Students will have the opportunity to acquire critical skills through the evaluation of different perspectives to world politics. Skills in assessing different philosophical and cultural standpoints will be developed along with an awareness of the ethical dimensions of policy-making and public life. In addition, transferable skills in analysing different perspectives and in applying them to the analysis of particular case-studies will be developed.

Through lecture and seminars, students will acquire more specific skills in textual interpretation and conceptual understanding. Seminars will provide the opportunity to collaborate in small groups and to make presentations. The essay will develop skills in independent research, structured and balanced argument and clear expression. The examination will develop skills in forward planning and in developing the capacity to assess different perspectives and arguments within time constraints.

Reading List

Recommended Text
Baylis, John & Smith, Steve & Owens, Patricia (eds) (2008.) The globalization of world politics :an introduction to international relations /John Baylis, Steve Smith, Patricia Owens. 4th ed. Oxford University Press Primo search Brown, C (2005) Understanding International Relations Palgrave, Basingstoke Primo search Griffiths, Martin (eds) (2005.) Encyclopedia of international relations and global politics /edited by Martin Griffiths. Routledge Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 4