Postgraduate Modules: POL6970 - Theory and Practice of International Relations

Module Code

POL 6970

Module Title

Theory and Practice of International Relations


Level 4




30 credits

Taught by:

Professor Jonathan Joseph 

Module Description:

This module offers an advanced level appreciation of the theory and practice of International Relations. In addition to providing a detailed understanding of the rival theoretical perspectives and the issues that divide them, it poses the question of whether it is possible to overcome the main disagreements between these competing approaches. In the second part of the module we examine a range of important issues in contemporary international politics and use these to unpack the limits of our theoretical imagination. It is important for advanced students of international politics to understand that the practices of international politics are embedded within theories. Hence, an additional aim is to consider future directions for the study of International Relations in the context of profoundly important patterns of global change. Theory is not external to us; rather, we live our lives within theories and theories help shape the world. Understanding the role andforms of theory is a vital step in understanding the practice of international politics.

Module Aims:

The module aims to provide an advanced level of understanding of the theory and practice of International Relations. By the end of the module students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the major theories, concepts and debates of the discipline of International Relations and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches.
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of both the philosophical and practical issues, which have underpinned the study, and practice of International Relations.
  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, including ability to evaluate advanced concepts and theories, to employ primary and secondary sources, to present reasoned and effective arguments in written and oral form, to pursue independent learning and to show critical judgement.

Module Schedule:

1 Understanding and Explaining World Politics:The Discipline of International Relations
2 Liberalism
3 Realism and Neorealism
4 The English School
5 Marxism and Critical Theory
6 Post-structuralist and Feminist Theory
7 Constructivism(s)
8 Security
9 Foreign Policy
10 The Use of Military Force
11 Non-State Actors
12 The Media and International Relations

Teaching Methods:

  • 12 * 1 hour lectures
  • 12 * 1 hour seminars


  • Essay 1 (2,500 words) - 40% of mark
  • Essay 2 (3,500 words) - 60% of mark

Resources Available:

  • Individual feedback and guidance sessions with module tutors.
  • Detailed 30-page module handbook.
  • Dedicated module site on MOLE2.
  • Extensive library materials, including a wide variety of electronic and digitised resources.

Indicative Reading:

Adler, Emanuel (1997) ‘Seizing the Middle Ground: Constructivism in World Politics’, European Journal of International Relations 3(3): 319-363.

Baylis, John, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens (2013) The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 6th edn.

Bellamy, Alex, ed. (2005) International Society and its Critics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Burchill, Scott et al. (2013) Theories of International Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 5th edn.

Buzan, Barry (2008) People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era, 2nd ed., ECPR Press.

Cha, Victor (2000) ‘Globalization and the Study of International Security’, Journal of Peace Research 37(3):391-403.

Cox, Robert (1981) ‘Social Forces, States and World Order’, Millennium 10(2): 126-155.

Dunne, Tim, Milja Kurki and Steve Smith (2013) International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3rd edn.

Held, David (2003) ‘Cosmopolitanism: Globalization Tamed?’ Review of International Studies 29: 465-480.

Hill, Christopher (2003) The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hollis, Martin and Steve Smith (1992) Explaining and Understanding International Relations. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Lapid, Yosef (1989) ‘The Third Debate: On the Prospects of International Theory in a Post-Positivist Era’, International Studies Quarterly 33(3): 235-254.

Norris, Pippa et al, eds. (2003) Framing Terrorism: The News Media, the Government, and the Public. New York: Routledge.

Smith, Steve, Ken Booth and Maryzia Zalewski, eds. (1996) International Theory: Positivism and Beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, Steve (2002) ‘The United States and the Discipline of International Relations: “Hegemonic Country, Hegemonic Discipline”’, International Studies Review 4(2): 67-85.

Wendt, Alexander (1992) ‘Anarchy is What States Make of it: The Social Construction of Power Politics’, International Organization 46(2): 391-425.

What our Students Say:

‘…the readings were both interesting and challenging… I very much appreciated that Inanna never really simplified any of the subjects and kept the discussions to an intellectually stimulating level by asking difficult questions…’