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International Relations: Theories, Concepts and Debates IR1198

The main aim of the course is to introduce students to International Relations theories and approaches and enable them to assess their contributions and shortcomings.

This course provides a wide-ranging introduction to International Relations (IR) as a field of study. It surveys theories and approaches to the subject, and puts these approaches into conversation with each other. We also explore the character of contemporary international order, and debate the relationship between theories of international relations, and its practice. Along the way, we ask whether IR represents a particular (Anglo-American/European) viewpoint, or whether it can – and should – become more global in terms of its histories, concepts and theories.

Topics covered

Main topics of the module include:

  • Key theories in IR: realism; liberalism; constructivism; English School, critical theories.
  • Key agential concepts in IR: state; empire; international and subnational agents; foreign policy.
  • Key structural concepts in IR: the states system; Euro-centrism, globalisation, post-colonialism; feminism; global governance; security.
  • Key institutional concepts in IR: international society; great powers; diplomacy; war; balance of power; international law and human rights.
  • Key sociological concepts in IR: power and sovereignty; intervention; gender; anarchy.
  • Contemporary applications: Is conflict between the US and China inevitable? Could the international community have saved Syria?; Would a UN parliament strengthen global governance?

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • Describe the evolution of International Relation as an academic discipline;
  • Explain the relevance of key terms in International Relations;
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of IR’s various theoretical approaches; and
  • Analyse contemporary and historical international events from a variety of theoretical viewpoints.


Unseen written exam (3 hrs).

Essential reading

  • Baylis, J. and S. Smith (eds) The Globalization of World Politics: an Introduction to International Relations. 88h Edition. (Oxford: Oxford University Press). 2019. ISBN: 9780198825548
  • Griffiths, M., T. O’Callaghan and S.C. Roach International relations: the key concepts. (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014) third edition [ISBN 9780203748206].
  • R Jackson & G Sørensen, Introduction to International Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press). 2018. 9780198803577

Course information sheets

Download the course information sheets from the LSE website.