Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Marx and International Relations
Academic Year
Semester 2

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 11 x 2 hour seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,500 word essay  60%
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  40%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Demonstrate an understanding of the range and distinctiveness of Marx's theoretical achievement.
2. Analyse how Marx's theorising could be of relevance to debates and problems in IR.
3. Show a knowledge of the different ways in which Marx has been used in IR.
4. Critically evaluate the various schools of IR Marxism both in relation to how they use Marx and how they address issues in IR.
5. Analyse the connection between theory and history in the developing appropriations of Marx in IR.
6. Discuss the contemporary significance of Marx for the study of IR.

Brief description

In a world enthralled to money and bewitched by debt, Marx's thought retains enormous critical power. Poised between philosophy and sociology but unclassifiable in disciplinary terms, it ranges boldly across history, social and economic theory, politics and much else besides, with the intention of, as he put it, the 'ruthless criticism of all that exists', exposing power and domination within the liberal world of individual freedom and equal rights. The centrepiece of Marx’s endeavours, the Critique of Political Economy, is one of the great, perpetually fascinating texts of modernity, with an extraordinary influence far beyond the narrow confines of the 'dismal science' of economics.

The aim of this module is to explore how this seminal body of modern critical thought has been taken up in IR. We will look closely both at Marx's own theorising, asking what distinctive kind of theory it is that he develops, its strengths and contradictions, and also at the leading appropriations of Marx in IR, examining how they have interpreted his thought and for what reasons, stressing the connection between theory and history. Recent Marx scholarship has shown that far from being a finished 'system', Marx's critical theory is radically open and incomplete, and students will be encouraged to take this as an invitation to think critically and imaginatively about what Marx might mean in the contemporary world.


Part I - Marx and theory
1. Introduction: Marx - old and new
2. The critique of history - historical materialism
3. The critique of political economy - capital
4. The critique of politics and the state - class
5. Marx as critical theorist

Part II - Marx and IR
6. Marx & Engels and international relations
7. Imperialism theory - capital and geopolitics
8. World-systems theory - the world market
9. Neo-Gramscian theory - international hegemony
10. Globalisation - the highest stage of capital?
11. Conclusion - Marx now


The module provides an additional module that will form part of the baskets of two degree schemes: Critical International Politics, and International Relations. It will be an optional module for students of other degree schemes in the department and the Institute, for example students of International Security Studies, Global Politics and Postcolonial Politics.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing. They will be required not only to acquire information and make academic judgements about it but also to communicate their analytical conclusions clearly and effectively. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Some of the teaching sessions will involve small group discussions in which all students will be required to participate and communicate. Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format and the presentation of work should reflect effective expression of ideas and good use of language skills in order to ensure clarity, coherence and effective communication.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context of assistance from both the academic staff and the fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources and deciding (under guidance) the topic of their essays. The need to meet deadlines for assessed work will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources (such as BIDS and OCLC).
Personal Development and Career planning The seminar discussions in particular will help to develop students' verbal and presentation skills. Learning about the process of planning an essay and a case study report, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing through to completion will contribute towards their portfolio of transferable skills.
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; all the forms of assessment will require that the student develop problem-solving skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: examine issues from differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to problems; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems.
Research skills The assignments will require the students to develop their research skills in order to locate appropriate research resources and present the results in a coherent and analytical manner.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of skills that are specific to the subjects that contribute to this module. These skills will help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas about the internet and social media. Such subject specific skills include: Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the topic Evaluate competing perspectives Demonstrate subject specific research techniques Apply a range of methodologies to complex problems
Team work Team-work skills are an essential component of this module. Students will frequently be required to work together during teaching sessions. Much of the core learning students will do will come through sharing and debating their ideas with their peers.


This module is at CQFW Level 7