Assessment for this subject comprises:
Assessment type Weighting Due Date 28 March ,2022
2 x 1000 word theory-to- practice critical analysis essay
20% each Essay 1: To cover one theoretical topic of your choosing from weeks 2, 3, or 4; due
Monday of Week 5 (28 March 2022).
Essay 2: To cover one theoretical topic of your choosing from weeks 5, 6, or 7; due
Monday of Week 8 (25 April 2022).
3000 word research essay 60% Monday 6 June 2022 (first day of examination period)
Assessment one: 2 x 1000 word Theory-to-Practice Critical Analysis
Essays (20% each); first due Monday 28 March, second due Monday 25
For the first essay, choose ONE of the topics from Weeks 2-4, and for the second essay
choose ONE of the topics from Weeks 5-7. Critically analyse the theoretical arguments
advanced in (one or both of) the assigned extension readings for your chosen week/topic,
by applying them to a case study of a contemporary problem in international politics of
interest to you personally. Your critical analysis should incorporate answers to the
1. what are the key theoretical claims – advanced in the extension reading(s) you
have chosen to examine – which you will critically analyse in your essay?
2. What are the key arguments the author(s) offer in support of their theoretical
3. What contemporary international political case (event, problem, or controversy)
will you examine as evidence for and/or against these theoretical claims and
arguments – and why is it relevant to the theory you are analysing?
4. What empirical facts (for weeks 2-4) or normative judgments (for weeks 5-7)
about this case count in favour of the theoretical claims and arguments you are
5. What empirical facts (for weeks 2-4) or normative judgments (for weeks 5-7)
about this case count against the theoretical claims and arguments you are
6. What conclusions should we draw about the veracity of key theoretical claims you
are examining, given your above analysis?
The purpose of this assessment task is to develop your skills in critical engagement with
theoretical arguments about world politics, and critical analysis of their applications to
international political practice. This should help you develop more sophisticated
conceptual and analytic tools for application in the subsequent research essay assessment
task, as well as in your own engagements in international political practice.
Note that this is not a research assignment, so you are not required to do any theoretical
reading beyond the assigned introductory/extension texts, and nor are you expected to
research your chosen case study. While real-world cases do often involve much empirical
complexity, it is acceptable for this task to offer a simplified and ‘stylized’ description of
your case, to make its analysis more manageable for the purpose of this task; you don’t
have a lot of words to use here, so brevity will be key. To minimize the need for
background research, you can choose to focus on a case addressed in an article assigned
for class, or on the longer recommended reading lists – or alternatively draw on your own
background knowledge gained from other MIR subjects, newspapers, etc.
Note also that we will not judge your paper by whether we agree with its conclusion. In
fact, we may not agree amongst ourselves about what the correct conclusion is. But we
will have no trouble agreeing about whether you do a good job arguing for your
conclusion. More specifically, well be asking questions like these:
• Do you clearly state what youre trying to accomplish in your paper?
• Do you offer supporting arguments for the claims you make? Is it obvious to the
reader what these arguments are?
• Is the structure of your paper clear? For instance, is it clear what parts of your
paper are expository, and what parts are your own positive contribution?
• Is your prose simple, easy to read, and easy to understand?
• Do you illustrate your claims with good examples? Do you explain your central
notions? Do you say exactly what you mean?
• Do you present other theorists’ views accurately and charitably? Do you engage
with counterarguments or opposing evidence?
• Is your writing well edited and polished, with correct punctuation, appropriate
paragraphing, and correct spelling?
The more we answer ‘Yes’ to these questions, the better your grade will be.
Week Two (7 – 11 March, 2022):
Topic: Realism versus Liberalism: Competing rationalities
This week we examine the two most well-established theoretical ‘traditions’ of IR theory:
Realism and Liberalism. Although both traditions have intellectual roots dating back well
beyond the modern historical period, their development during this era has been shaped
by their divergent visions of the character and limits of individual and collective
‘rationality’, and of the opportunities and risks that these bring for international politics.
We will discuss both similarities and differences between Realist and Liberal
understandings of the character and role of ‘strategic’ rationality in international
politics, as well as their contrasting views on the role of ‘moral’ reasoning in
international decision-making. We will focus predominantly on two phases of theoretical
debate – between ‘classical’ Realists and Liberals in the first half of the twentieth
century, and so-called ‘neo-realists’ and ‘neo-liberals’ in its latter decades. Through this
analysis, we will illuminate competing Realist and Liberal views of the possibilities for
achieving international peace, order, cooperation, and justice.
1. Wolforth, W. 2008. “Realism”, in Oxford Handbook of International Relations,
eds C Reus-Smit and D. Snidal, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2. Arthur Stein. “Neoliberal Institutionalism”, in Oxford Handbook of International
Relations, eds C Reus-Smit and D. Snidal, (2008) Oxford: Oxford University
1. Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace
(1948, or subsequent editions), Chapter one ‘A Realist Theory of International
2. Andrew Moravcsik, ‘Taking Preferences Seriously: A Liberal Theory of
International Politics’ International Organisation 51 (4) 1997, 513-553.
American Political Science Review Forum on Neo-Realism (91) (1997): 899-936.
Richard Ashley, The Poverty of Neorealism, International Organisation, (38) (1984)
Page 9 of 36
David A. Baldwin, (ed.) Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate
Extracts From Thucydides, ‘Peloponnesian War’, Machiavelli ‘The Prince’ and Hobbes,
‘Leviathan’ in Chris Brown, Terry Nardin, and N.J. Rengger eds. International
Relations in Political Thought: Texts from the Ancient Greeks to the First World
Week Three (14 – 18 March, 2022):
Topic: Constructivisms: Understanding international action beyond the rationalist
This week we examine ‘constructivist’ theories, which challenge multiple aspects of the
rationalist thinking underpinning Realism and Liberalism. Some constructivists challenge
the focus on material interests found in realist varieties of rationalism, and emphasize
instead the primacy of ideas in shaping political action. Others challenge the broader
rationalist pre-occupation with strategic forms of reasoning as explanations for the
behaviour of states and other international political actors. Instead, they highlight the motivational importance of more complex inter-subjective understandings found in norms and identities – which are in turn shaped by contextually variable social institutions, cultures, and practices. Central to all these constructivist theories is the claim that political actors’ reasons for action – including national interests, and sovereign state identities – are socially constructed rather than naturally determined. By studying the political dynamics of this social construction, constructivists aim to show
how and why states and other actors pursue varying goals in different settings and
historical periods, and in doing so to deepen theoretical understandings of diversity and
change within international politics.
1. Ian Hurd ‘Constructivism’, in Oxford Handbook of International Relations, eds C
Reus-Smit and D. Snidal, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 298-316.
2. Adler, Emanuel. -Constructivism in international relations: sources, contributions,
and debates.- Handbook of International Relations (Second Edition), Sage, 2013:
1. Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink. “International Norm Dynamics and
Political Change,” International Organization 52: 4 (1998).
2. Alexander Wendt, Anarchy is What States Make of It: The Social Construction
of Power Politics, International Organization, (46) (1992) 391-426.
Adler, Emanuel. -Seizing the middle ground: constructivism in world politics.- European
journal of international relations 3, no. 3 (1997): 319-363.
Adler, Emanuel. Communitarian International Relations: The Epistemic Foundations of
International Relations. Vol. 20. Psychology Press, 2005.
Barkin, J. Samuel. Realist constructivism: Rethinking international relations theory.
Cambridge University Press, 2010.