Introduction to International Relations

A standard introduction to the IR subfield of political science


This course presents an introductory survey of international relations theory and practice. It is assumed that you have a basic exposure to world affairs, and that you keep up with current events by following the international news. The course builds on this basic background by presenting in much more detail the theories and concepts that help us analyze international relations.

One way to think about the study of international relations is to see it as examining the following question: “How do states manage their exposure to the rest of the world in such a way as to make themselves both safer and better off?” In terms of security, this question raises issues of war and peace, of international alliances, offensive and defensive strategies, and so on. In economic terms, it prompts us to look at way in which international cooperation and exchange benefits (or hurts) states and actors within those states.

More generally, the question highlights the importance of analyzing how states behave in world politics, and thus, by implication, of analyzing how foreign policy decisions are made within states. Simultaneously, it makes clear that international interaction needs to be managed since states cannot decide upon their actions without taking into account the international environment they face and the actions taken by other states as well as non-state actors (most notoriously: terrorists).


I most recently offered this course in the Spring of 2019. Syllabus here.