Skip to main content

Study information

Key Concepts in Politics and International Relations

Module titleKey Concepts in Politics and International Relations
Module codePOC1021
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Aneta Brockhill (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

How and when did China, Russia, North Korea or Cuba become the “bad guys” in mainstream popular culture and the news? Why does mainstream news prioritize the US’ foreign policies over Brazil’s, for instance? What do we mean by realist, constructivist or idealist approaches in IR? Are such “old school” concepts still relevant in an increasingly globalized world where borders appear to be blurred? What other approaches has IR, as a discipline, shied away from and why is it important that we centre our analysis around them? Our global world, some would argue, is at an important historical juncture: the environment, sexual rights and space exploration have become major debates alongside increasingly populist states. How do we make sense of this variety? Who has the power to implement such analyses? Our module attempts to make sense of our world by drawing together classic and contemporary analysis in IR. We will draw on scholarly works whilst examining them in tandem with historical and current events.

No prior knowledge skills or experience are required to take this module and it is suitable for specialist and non-specialist students. The module is suitable for students studying Politics, History or International Relations.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to provide you with a solid foundation in the basic concepts and theories that are useful for making sense of contemporary debates and challenges in international politics. In addition, it highlights the role of the state and the major actors involved in shaping cross-national borders. To this end, the module brings together diverse methodological approaches, current and historical events and critical study skills. By the end of the course, you will have acquired the necessary tools that enable you to critically weigh common academic and policy arguments about global affairs.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a basic understanding of the actors, approaches, issues and institutions in IR
  • 2. Explain the connections between global problems and the theories used by political scientists to understand their causes, effects, and possible solutions

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Compare and contrast major schools of thought in IR
  • 4. Use these concepts, vocabulary, and theories to analyse issues facing political leaders and societies.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Communicate arguments effectively
  • 6. Develop good research and indexing praxis
  • 7. Identify, locate, evaluate, and responsibly use and share information relevant to the discussions at hand

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some of the following topics or readings:

  • IR as a field of knowledge: IR Myths, voice and place and the subject/object divide
  • Classic and (Neo)Realist Approaches: “is international anarchy the permissive cause of war?”
  • Liberalism/Idealism: “is there an international society?”
  • Constructivism: is anarchy “what states make of it?”
  • Globalization: are we “at the end of history?”
  • Institutionalism and Liberal World Order

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity1510 x 1.5hr lectures
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activity1010 x 1hr seminars
Guided Independent Study66Private study – students are expected to read suggested texts and make notes prior to seminar sessions. They are also expected to read widely to complete their coursework assignments. More specifically, students are expected to devote at least 6 hours per topic/week to directed reading.
Guided Independent Study59completing assessment tasks

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio exercise500 words1-7Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio1002,750 words1-7Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio (2,750 words)1-7August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Stephen McGlinchey, Rosie Walters and Christian Scheinpflug. 2007. International Relations Theory.

Berenskoetter, Felix, ed. (2016). Concepts in World Politics. London: Sage.

Agnew, John. (1994). “The Territorial Trap: The Geographical Assumptions of International Relations Theory’, Review of International Relations 1(1): 53–80.

Butler, Judith. (2003). ‘Violence, Mourning, Politics’, Studies in Gender and Sexuality 4(1): 9–37.

Buzan, Barry, Ole Wæver, and Jaap de Wilde. (1998). Security: A New Framework for Analysis. London: Lynne Rienner.

Chowdhry, Geeta and Sheila Nair, eds. (2002) Power, Postcolonialism and International Relations: Reading Race, Gender and Class. New York: Routledge.

Enloe, Cynthia. (1989). Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. London: Pandora.

Cynthia Weber (2010, 3rd Ed). Textbook International Relations Theory: A Critical Introduction.

Fanon, Frantz. (1967). Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press.

Harvey, David. (2001). Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

Huntington, Henry P. (2013). ‘A Question of Scale: Local versus Pan-Arctic Impacts from Sea-Ice Change’, in Media and the Politics of Arctic Climate Change: When the Ice Breaks, edited by Miyase Christensen, Annika E. Nilsson and Nina Wormbs, 114–127. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Kaldor, Mary. (2010). ‘Humanitarian Intervention: Toward a Cosmopolitan Approach’, in The Cosmopolitanism Reader, edited by Garrett W. Brown and David Held, 334–350. Cambridge: Polity Press.

MacKenzie, Megan. (2010). ‘Securitization and de-Securitization: Female Soldiers and the Reconstruction of Women in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone’, in Gender and International Security: Feminist Perspectives, edited by Laura Sjoberg, 151–167. London: Routledge

Pankhurst, Donna. (2008). ‘Introduction: Gendered War and Peace’, in Gendered Peace: Women’s Struggles for Post-War Justice and Reconciliation, edited by Donna Pankhurst, 1–30. New York: Routledge

Rawls, John. (1971). A Theory of Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Weber, Cynthia. (2014). ‘Why is there no queer international theory?’, European Journal of International Relations 21(1): 27–51.

Wendt, Alexander. (1992) ‘Anarchy is What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics’, International Organization 46(2): 391–425.

Key words search

IR, liberalism, realism, decolonial approaches, hegemony, power, global politics

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date