Key Concepts in IR


Lecture 1

What is theory and why should we care? - A lens that shapes the world, theory constructs the political agenda, through this power can follow.

 Uses of theory:

  • Conversationally, 'In Theory'
  • Constructing the world
  • Everyone has a lens

Ways we use IR theory:

  • Particular <-> General
  • Puzzle solving
  • Parsimanius (many things in small concept)
  • Progressive - lead to new questions

IR is in an anarchic system - no overarching authourity

Treaty of Westphalia - Origin of the modern IR system or Myth? 

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The Great Debates

1930's -> realism -> Idealism

         League of Nations

1960's -> Traditionalism -> Behaviourism


1980's -> neorealism -> Neoliberalism 


1990's -> Rationalism -> Refectionism


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Lecture 2 - Realism

State most important actor.

  • Highly positive
  • Highly structural 
  • Highly reductive

Key theorists

  • Morgantau - classical realism - 6 principles 1948
  • Waltz - defensive realism + Neo/structural realism - 1979, states seek power to acheive security + this seeking of power is a structural problem of the system rather than human nature.
  • Mearsheimer - offensive realism - 2001, the anachic system is responsible for aggressive state behaviour.

Influencing theorists

  • Hobbes
  • Machiavelli
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Lecture 3 Part 1 - liberalism

Peace is the natural state, war is for the elite.

  • Interdependence is key
  • free trade
  • collective security
  • harmony + interests between states
  • Citizens equal + basic rights
  • legal authority of state controlled by the people
  • the right to own property is key to liberty
  • free markets

Key thinkers

  • Locke - moral law by god, men are made equal, natural right to own freedom and property.
  • Bentham - utilitarian, international court, anti-war
  • Kant - autonomy, dom. repub constituion, internat. confederal, Globally cosmopolitian 
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Lecture 3 Part 2 - Neoliberalism

Structural claims -> liberal instutions impact on IR

Normative and Cosmopolitan claims -> Important concerns in IR defined normativly + Distributive justice / humanitarianism

Key Thinkers

Fukuyama - The end of history - 1992.

  • Teleological approach
  • emergence of shared principles of legitimacy.
  • Based on domestic level being transferable
  • Realists called them reductionist

Doyle + the domestic peace thesis

  • Democratic instituions limit war - people want peace
  • Instituional consultants on Lib. Dem

G.J. Ikenberry - liberal leviathan

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Lecture 4 - The English School

Structuralist but not positivist - goal is to measure and describe

International society approach  - all men!!

Puralist international Soc.                                    Solidarist international Soc.

  • States agree                                                  * States can be connected as makers of inter. law
  • States are basic members of inter. Soc        * Indiviuals are subjects of Inter. Law
  • National Jurisdiction irrelevant                      * Grotius
  • Vincent 1975                                                 * Bull becomes more later in life
  • Jackson 2000

Key theorists

  • Hugo Grotius - conflict and tension
  • Bull + Watson  - Revolt against the West
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Lecture 5 - Social Constructivism

Key features

  • Social structures in life are not given
  • Humans are constructed by context therefore human action further perpetuates this context.

What do they do?

Analyse structure, role of norms, identity and culture are important.

Key theorists

  • Wendt - Systemic Constructionism - interactions between unitary state actors, no dom. realm, world politics from theorising how states relate to one another. 1992 p398
  • Gibbons - structurationism - ideology of new labour
  • Ratzenstein - Unit level constructivism - relationship between the the Dom. social and legal norms + the identities, interests of the state.
  • Raggie - Holistic constructivism - dynamics of global change -> rise + demise of states -> mutually constructive relationship between the order + state
  • Fierke - Role of emotion and trauma in IR, memory and violence, self-sacrifice
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Lecture 6 - Marxism, structuralism and dependency

Key assumptions

  • It is neccessary to understand the global context within which states
  • Historical analyse is central 
  • mechanisms of domination over 3rd world states are systemic
  • Economic factors are critical 

Key theorists

  • Marx - focus on class conflict due to economic moderisation, expoilation in soc. must be studied.
  • Hobsen - Imperialism assumes on international hierarchical division of labour between the rich and the poor, overproduction with under consumption in rich countries leads to rich countries colonising.
  •  Lenin - necessity of capitalist exploitation of lesser developed countries.
  • Luxemburg - reform: compromise with bourgeoise - strengthens hand of capitalist class/ revolution transform Soc. by changing social progress.
  • Graminsci - historical blocs, maintain patterns of dominance.
  •  Wallerstein - world systems theory, core, semi+periphery. The periphery + semi exploited. 
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Lecture 7 - Postructuralism

Key assumptions

  • Media, especially types that do not use spoken language are the strongest creator of norms.
  • Idea that 'A picture can say a thousand words'
  • When reading a text that was writtian by a now dead authour, the meaning is thus determined by the reader, leading to an increase in metalanguage as the readers perception of the world has influenced the meaning of the text.

Key theorists

  • Barthes - elements of semiology - the creation of the theory of metalanguage, concepts of meaning and grammar beyong spoken language.
  • Derrida - one of the first to state some of the theoritical limitations of stucturalism.  
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Week 8 - Post-colonialism + Development

Key assumptions

  • That colonalism in the past has effected the institutions of today in a way that can never be undone 
  • The development of a nation is based on wheather or not they were a coloniser or one to be colonised
  • The ways in which countries are represented today are impacted by colonialism.
  • The histories of certain countries are favoured over others to create a Westernised world view.
  • Some countries can become self-colonised to create better economic stablity for the country.

Key theorists

  • Many form Marxist thought
  • Graminsci - created the idea of the sub-altern or the others that could not gain the same status as their superiors.
  • Fanon - White skin, Black masks -> the removal of self-identity for the colonisers and the colonised. 
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Lecture 9 - Global Governance, human Rights and De

Key assumptions

  • The problem with NGO's in global governance 
  • NGO's protraying the whole continent of Africa as being in complete poverty, and always needing a Western saviour.
  • Problems with some groups using pain to get aid - amputee gangs.
  • Competion between agencies could reduce effectiveness

The Problems with Globalisation

  • economic exploitation
  • Cultural Globalisation - changing habits -> global justice. 
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