Theories of International Relations: The Classical Debates
This course aims at making students acquainted with the main stages of the evolution of IR as a discipline since 1945 which can be seen as an ongoing debate about the explanatory value of one particular theory, namely Realism. The purpose of the course is twofold. First, to introduce students to the possibilities and limits of theoretical studies in IR. The course should allow students to be-come aware of different ways of seeing and understanding inter-national affairs. It is based on the practical distinction between the explanatory and constitutive function of theories. It should show not only how one can use theories to analyse “given” events, but how the determination and analysis of these very events is itself constructed by different theories. This should enhance the students' abilities to uncover implicit methodological and theoretical assumptions. Second, this awareness should be seen as a starting point for learning how to translate ideas, however incompletely, from one theory to another. Students are invited to think about how to question their own ideas, and also to make them understandable and persuasive to those of their peers who are not sharing the same theoretical (or political) assumptions. In this respect, it can be seen as an exercise in practical diplomacy.
The course does not require a prior knowledge of social or political theory, but the latter would certainly not harm. It does require, however, that students be interested in abstract thinking.
1. Seminar presentation (10%) and paper (50%). Students are expected to introduce one of the seminars. They can write their final paper on this seminar topic, but can also choose another one (after consultation with the lecturer). Except for the topics at the very beginning of the term, a presentation is not a simple synthesis of readings, but an independent development of a chosen topic. The final version of the paper is due before the last week of the term.
2. Readings (30%). Students are expected to read compulsory readings for individual sessions and to prepare three “position-papers”. This paper should ideally include a succinct summary of the main thesis of the text as well comments and questions about the reading. Please make clear what you did not understand (this does not diminish the grade). These position papers serve as an important feedback. Some of the points that were not understood can then be explained during the seminar.
3. Participation (10%).