Fall 2020 - 58960 - PA 387G - The Nature of the International System

Nature Of the International System

Students should emerge from this course with much greater ability to analyze a wide range of international policy by utilizing theoretical frames of reference and historical insights that provide better guidance than the typically overheated rhetoric of politicians and pundits. The relevance and applicability of theoretical readings is illustrated by pairing them with news articles on current events. Students will become conversant in major concepts of global politics, obtaining an intellectual literacy that is essential for success in many international policy jobs.

The course provides a set of tools for understanding, predicting and prescribing policy on international cooperation and conflict. It teaches how to apply leading schools of international relations theory—including Realism, Liberalism and Constructivism—to interpret history, understand current events and formulate foreign policy. Topics include alliance formation, nuclear deterrence, imperialism, international institutions, trade, global environmentalism, international law, globalization, domestic sources of foreign policy, integration and disintegration of countries, and the future of international relations. 

Requirements and Expectations

The requirements are class participation, a 1.5-hour mid-term examination, a short essay and a three-hour final examination. Students are expected to do the readings before class to facilitate discussion. For all the requirements, students are expected to demonstrate familiarity with the assigned literature, not just with their class notes, and the ability to apply theory to real-world problems of international relations.


As a graduate level course, this class does not assign a textbook but rather original works, which are available on Canvas. Readings average 150 pages per week.

Instruction Mode