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POLS 4508 Syllabus

Course Syllabus

POLS 4508 - Theories and Concepts in International Relations

3 Credit Hours

Course Information

Course Description:

The purpose of this course is to provide advanced coverage of the field of International Relations Theory. Course readings will focus on original theoretical and empirical works. As such, students will be exposed to classic studies that espouse the central tenets of IR theory. To show how theories have changed over time, attention will also be given to current works and variants of IR theory. Armed with the theoretical foundation, we will then cover some of the major issues of contention within the field of IR including morality, international conflict, and the pursuit of peace. 

Course Outcomes:

To gain a thorough understanding of the major theoretical strains of International Relations:

  •  Realism
  • Liberalism/pluralism
  • Globalism/structuralism

We will also cover several mid-range theories:

  • Game theory
  • Rational choice
  • Deterrence
  • Decision-making theory 
Prerequisites & Co-requisites:

An introductory course in International Relations theory is preferred, but not required.

Course Topics:

Part I: Theoretical strands of IR: The isms

Week One      Theory of International Relations      

  • V&K, Ch 1
  • Rosenau, Thinking Theory Thoroughly, V&K

Week Two & Three        Classic Realism

  • V&K, Ch 2
  • Thucydides, The Melian Dialogue, V&K
  •  Machiavelli, On Princes and the Security of their States, V&K
  • Morgenthau, A Realist Theory of International Politics, VAS, p.24
  • Morgenthau, Six Principles of Political Realism, A&J, p.7
  • Tickner, A Critiques of Morgenthau's Principles of Realism, A&J, p.15 
  • Nye, "Hard and Soft Power in American Foreign Policy" V&K, p.89
  • Mearsheimer, "Tragedy of Great Power Politics", V&K

First essay assigned

Weeks Four-Five        Liberalism

  • V&K Ch 3
  • Burton, "International Relations or World Society?" VAS, p.108
  • Doyle, "Liberalism and World Politics", V&K
  • Brooks, "Producing Security", V&K
  • Oye, "The Conditions for Cooperation in World Politics", A&J, p. 69
  • Doyle, "Kant, Liberal Legacies and Foreign Affairs", A&J, p.83
  • Keohane, "International Institutions: Can Interdependence Work?", A&J, p.119

Online Exam

Week Six             Economic Structuralism

  • V&K Ch 4
  • Hobson, "The Economic Taproot of Imperialism," V&K
  • Lenin, "The Place of Imperialism," VAS, p.261
  • Galtung, " A Structural Theory of Imperialism," VAS, p.265
  • Scott, "The Great Divide in the Global Village," A&J, p.290
  • Waltz, "Globalization and Governance," A&J, p.548 

Second essay assigned

Part II: Issue in IR - Application of Theory

Week Seven                Normative Concerns in IR

  • V&K, Ch 9
  • Niebuhr, "The War and American Churches," VAS, p.20
  • Kennan, "Diplomacy in the Modern World," VAS, p.28
  • Wilson, "The World Must be Made Safe for Democracy," "The Fourteen Points," VAS, p.35&38 
  • Carr, "The Nature of Politics," V&K
  • Hoffman, "The Uses & Limits of International Law" A&J, p.114
  • Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?," A&J, p.395 

Week Eight            Foreign Policy

  • Morganthau, "Another Great Debate: The National Interest of the United States," VAS, p.147
  • Wolfers, "National Security as an Ambiguous Symbol," VAS, p.150
  • Jervis, "How Decision-Makers Learn From History," Vas, p.166
  • Allison and Halperin, "Bureaucratic Politics: A Paradigm and Some Policy Implications," VAS, p.172
  • Gause, "Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?", A&J
  • Gordon, "Can the War on Terror Be Won?", A&J 

Week Nine         War: Causes and Patterns

  • Hobbes, "Of the Natural Condition of Mankind," VAS, p.219
  • Mead, "Warfare is Only an Invention - Not a Biological Necessity," VAS, p.222
  • Bremer, "Dangerous Dyads," VAS, p.234
  • Von Clausewitz, "On the Nature of War," VAS, p.314
  • Rotberg, "Failed States, Collapsed States, Weak States: Causes & Indicators," A&J, p.427
  • Kaufman, "Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars," A&J, p.435

Week Ten          The Avoidance of War: Realist Perspectives

  • Kaplin, "Some Problems of International Systems Research," VAS, p.297
  • Organski, "The Power Transition," VAS, p. 303
  • Kahn, "The Three Types of Deterrence," VAS, p.319
  • Alexander & Smoke, "The Gap Between Deterrence Theory and Deterrence Policy," VAS, p.323
  • Cohn, "Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals," VAS, p.327 

Week Eleven                   Alternative Views of Peace

  • Rosecrance, "A New Concert of Powers," VAS, p.340
  • Claude, "A Critique of Collective Security," VAS, p.350
  • Keohane, "Selections from After Hegemony," VAS, p.353
  • Clark & Sohn, "Selection from World Peace Through World Law," VAS, p.404
  • Claude, "World Government," VAS, p.407
  • Kant, "Perpetual Peace," VAS, p.368 • Roberts, "The United Nations and International Security," A&J, p.539 

Third essay assigned

Week Twelve           Nation-building & Environment

  • Dobbins, "Nation-Building: UN Surpasses U.S. on Learning Curve," A&J,
  • Hardin, "The Tragedy of the Commons," A&J
  • Kahl, "Demography, Environment, and Civil Strife" A&J 


Specific Course Requirements:

Students should have computer hardware and software that allows them to read and send email, access the internet, and enter the D2L website. 

Textbooks, Supplementary Materials, Hardware and Software Requirements

Required Textbooks:

Please visit the Virtual Bookstore to obtain textbook information for this course. Move your cursor over the "Books" link in the navigation bar and select "Textbooks & Course Materials." Select your Program, Term, Department, and Course; then select "Submit."

Supplementary Materials:
Hardware and Software Requirements:

Minimum hardware requirements can be found here.

Minimum software requirements can be found here.

Common applications you might need:

Web Resources:

Purdue OWL Online Writing Lab (for APA, MLA, or Chicago style)

The Writing Center Online Writer's Handbook

Student Resources:
  • Technical support information can be found on the TN eCampus Help Desk page.
  • Smarthinking virtual tutoring is available FREE of charge. to access Smarthinking, visit the course homepage and select Smarthinking under Course Resources. You also view sample sessions to see what Smarthinking offers and how it works.
  • Information on other student issues or concerns can be located on the TN eCampus Student Resources page.

Instructor Information

Please see "Instructor Information" in the Getting Started Module for instructor contact information, virtual office hours, and other communication information. You can expect to receive a response from the instructor within 24-48 hours unless notified of extenuating circumstances.

Participation, Assessments, & Grading

Testing Procedures:

The online and final exams will consist of short answer and essay questions. A study sheet will be distributed one week prior to the final exam. 

Grading Procedures:

You will complete three writing assignments through the course of the semester, each comprising 15% of your final grade. Each of the three essays must be an informed, well-articulated and organized response to questions I will distribute to you approximately one week before the due date. Each essay should demonstrate your ability to synthesize the various ideas presented in the class readings and/or apply them to the "real world" of global politics. Knowledge of course materials and concepts is meant to provide the foundation for your argument. The essays are meant to stimulate "higher level" thinking on IR issues and concepts. Thus your response should represent an original argument that goes beyond the works covered in class. All essays should be 6-8 pages and should incorporate the class readings. No outside research is necessary. 

There will be two online exams worth 10% each. 

The final exam will consist of terms, concepts and authors studied in class and constitutes 20% of your grade. 

Class participation: 15% (see below)

Grading Scale:

90-100 = A

80-89 = B

70-79 = C

60-69 = D

below 60 = F


3 papers                45% (15% each)

Online Exams        20% (10% each)

Final exam            20%

Class participation 15% 

Assignments and Projects:

3 papers spread through semester due approximately one month apart.

2 online exams

Final exam at end of semester. 

Class Participation:
Late Policy:

Course Ground Rules

The following two statements (1., 2.) were derived from the TBR System-wide Student Rules document, released January 2012:


Read the document in its entirety here.

1. Standards of Conduct:

  • Students are required to adhere to the same professional, legal and ethical standards of conduct online as on campus. In addition, students should conform to generally accepted standards of "netiquette" while sending e-mail, posting comments to the discussion board, and while participating in other means of communicating online. Specifically, students should refrain from inappropriate and/or offensive language, comments and actions.

2. Review the TN eCampus Academic Integrity/Academic Honesty Policy:

  • In their academic activities, students are expected to maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. Academic dishonesty is prohibited.

Such conduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • an attempt by one or more students to use unauthorized information in the taking of an exam
  • to submit as one's own work, themes, reports, drawings, laboratory notes, computer programs, or other products prepared by another person,
  • or to knowingly assist another student in obtaining or using unauthorized materials.

Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited.

Students guilty of academic misconduct, either directly or indirectly through participation or assistance, are subject to disciplinary action through the regular procedures of the student’s home institution.  Refer to the student handbook provided by your home institution to review the student conduct policy.

In addition to other possible disciplinary sanctions that may be imposed, the instructor has the authority to assign an "F" or zero for an activity or to assign an "F" for the course.

Other Course Rules:

Students are expected to:

  • Participate in all aspects of the course
  • Communicate with other students
  • Learn how to navigate in Brightspace
  • Keep abreast of course announcements
  • Use the assigned course management (Brightspace) email address rather than a personal email address
  • Address technical problems immediately:
  • Observe course netiquette at all times.

Guidelines for Communications


  • Always include a subject line.
  • Remember without facial expressions some comments may be taken the wrong way. Be careful in wording your emails. Use of emoticons might be helpful in some cases.
  • Use standard fonts.
  • Do not send large attachments without permission.
  • Special formatting such as centering, audio messages, tables, html, etc. should be avoided unless necessary to complete an assignment or other communication.
  • Respect the privacy of other class members


  • Review the discussion threads thoroughly before entering the discussion. Be a lurker then a discussant.
  • Try to maintain threads by using the "Reply" button rather starting a new topic.
  • Do not make insulting or inflammatory statements to other members of the discussion group. Be respectful of other’s ideas.
  • Be patient and read the comments of other group members thoroughly before entering your remarks.
  • Be cooperative with group leaders in completing assigned tasks.
  • Be positive and constructive in group discussions.
  • Respond in a thoughtful and timely manner.


The Tennessee Virtual Library is available to all students enrolled in TN eCampus programs and courses. Links to library materials (such as electronic journals, databases, interlibrary loans, digital reserves, dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, and librarian support) and Internet resources needed by learners to complete online assignments and as background reading will be included within the course modules. To access the Virtual Library, go to the course homepage and select the Virtual Library link under Course Resources.

Students with Disabilities

Qualified students with disabilities will be provided reasonable and necessary academic accommodations if determined eligible by the appropriate disability services staff at their home institution. Prior to granting disability accommodations in this course, the instructor must receive written verification of a student's eligibility for specific accommodations from the disability services staff at the home institution. It is the student's responsibility to initiate contact with their home institution's disability services staff and to follow the established procedures for having the accommodation notice sent to the instructor.

Syllabus Changes

The instructor reserves the right to make changes as necessary to this syllabus. If changes are necessitated during the term of the course, the instructor will immediately notify students of such changes both by individual email communication and posting both notification and nature of change(s) on the course bulletin board.


The information contained in this syllabus is for general information purposes only. While we endeavor to keep this information up-to-date and accurate, there may be some discrepancies between this syllabus and the one found in your online course. The syllabus of record is the one found in your online course. Please make sure you read the syllabus in your course at the beginning of the semester. Questions regarding course content should be directed to your instructor.

Last Revised on May 16, 2017