|Module Title||INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS THEORY|
|Co-ordinator||Dr Colin Wight|
|Semester||Semester 2 (Taught over 2 semesters)|
|Course delivery||Seminar||1 x two hour seminar per week over two semesters|
|Assessment||Presentation||Presentation plus written submission||15%|
This module offers an advanced specialism to the development of the main approaches to international relations theory in the twentieth century. In addition to providing a detailed understanding of rival perspectives and the issues that divide them, it poses the question of whether it is possible to overcome the main disagreements between these perspectives. An additional aim is to consider future directions for the study of international relations in the context of profoundly important patterns of global change. It is important for advanced students of international politics to understand that theory is not external to us, rather, we live our lives within theories. We cannot begin to think intelligently about the social world without an understanding of contested issues and concepts such as human rights, trade, revolutions, nationalism, federalism, gender and genocide.
Part One opens with a reflection on the development of the Westphalian system. Here we will consider key concepts such as sovereignty, balance of power, capitalism, state formation, and the diplomatic and legal order. These practices evolved long before the organised study of International Relations (IR) but one of the key themes in this part of the course is to show how philosophical and theoretical arguments grounded the evolution of the international system. It has become commonplace to date the beginnings of the field from 1919 but this been contested by `revisionists' historiographers in recent years. In the middle part of Semester 1 we will be considering traditional accounts of idealism, realism, behaviouralism and the English School, as well as critical reflections on these. The final section of part one considers contemporary IR theory framed around Waltz's powerful scientific restatement of realism and a range of critical reactions, including feminism, critical theory, post-structuralism and constructivism.
Part Two builds on these contemporary debates and considers them in the context of a series of events, issues, dilemmas and processes. As in part one, a key theme is to understand how `reality' is socially constituted through the theories held by the actors. Moreover, the interaction between practices and theories generates political and moral dilemmas and this in part explains why there has been a normative `turn' in IR in recent years. After a general seminar on the main ethical traditions, the next seven seminars look at important global issues and normative perspectives. The aim here is to provide a theoretical background to issues that have become increasingly significant in the post-Cold War period; such as HIV aids, genocide, environment, democratisation, and `ethnic' / civilizational identities. A second key theme in this part of the course is to examine the institutional order that is being developed in response to these challenges. Finally, the closing seminar will reflect on the adequacy of the discipline as we begin the next eighty years of the study of IR.