Political Science 241

POSC 241

Theories of International Relations

Catalog Entry

POSC 241

Theories of International Relations


Three hours lecture (3)


Prerequisites: POSC 110

Examination of the theoretical foundations of the study of international relations, including the relation of power to justice, the effects of war on the regime and the soul, the question of law among nations, the morality of war and peace, theories of international political economy, and the relation of diplomatic-strategic conduct to the question of order itself as explored by political philosophy.  Required for all political science majors and foundation class for all upper-level international relations classes.  Students who have received credit for POSC 140 may not also receive credit for POSC 241.


Detailed Description of Course

POSC 241 begins with a discussion of theory itself that suggests a framework for the evaluation of what is generally called “theories of international relations.”  Original texts and selections will be used to explore this question and present classic “theories” of international relations.  Additional texts (or selections) will be introduced to allow discussion of the shortcomings of theory in the subfield and to point in the direction of a more genuine theoretical approach to international relations. Finally, the understanding of theory developed in the class and the critical survey of existing theories will be applied to a contemporary case study.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

POSC 241 employs lectures, class discussion, and written student essays/logs/projects.  Basic classical texts will be "brought up to date" with readings that deal with contemporary problems and theories of international relations.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Having successfully completed POSC 241, students will have been introduced to major thinkers and themes in the field of international relations. Students will be able to deal with the leading concepts found in those thinkers and themes and present their findings in analytical essays and case studies.

This course provides a variety of perspectives, theories and methods for understanding and analyzing ourselves and the world through the conceptual framework of international relations. Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

1.  Continue a dialogue that is begun in POSC 110 on the problem of order and consciousness as it applies to political life. Expand that discussion with a further discussion of the meaning of theory and by examining theory within a specific subfield of political science.

2.  Highlight the differences between the study of order within a political community and the same study among political communities and other international actors.

3.  Demonstrate an understanding of the most important questions raised by international relations and the relationship of these questions to the study of political science as a whole.

4.  Use the understanding of the good regime, the city in motion, and the city at rest to evaluate and interpret individual and collective behavior.

5.  Construct logical and persuasive arguments, both orally and in writing, concerning the central questions raised by the readings.


Assessment Measures

Students will be assessed in two areas. Their ability to grasp the arguments about theory in general and specific theories of international relations will be assessed through analytical essays and theory logs. The ability to apply what they have learned about theories in international relations will be assessed through a project/case study concerning a particular topic in contemporary international relations. Topics may include (but are not limited to) the War on Terrorism, global environmental deterioration, international jurisdiction regarding war and human rights, or the relation of power to justice as seen in a selected contemporary issue such as genocide.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

April 2009