UCL European & International Social & Political Studies


UCL European & International Social & Political Studies


ESPS0004/POLS0001 - International Conflict and Co-operation

Course value: 15 credits
Convenor: Prof Kristin Bakke
Duration: One Term (term 1)
Teaching structure: One-hour lecture and one-hour seminar
Assessment: 2 assessed essays of 2,000 words (40% and 60% respectively)
Available to: All Years and Affiliates. EISPS students should register on ESPS0004, all non-EISPS students should apply for POLS0001 through the Department of Political Science.
Module level: Intermediate

Course Description:

This course introduces students to the major theoretical traditions in International Relations (IR). It uses these different theoretical approaches to shed light on historical and current events in world politics. The course aims to link theory and the 'real world' by providing students with different lenses for understanding and explaining questions related to war(s), nuclear weapons, terrorism, globalization and environmental challenges. The course begins by discussing some key theoretical approaches through which IR scholars analyse world politics, including realism, liberalism, Marxism, constructivism and feminism. These theoretical approaches differ across several dimensions. Some focus on the role of states, while others place more emphasis on non-state actors. Some look at structural features of international relations to understand events and processes, while others prefer to look at the behaviour of states to do so. Some argue that states' actions in the international system are driven by self-interest, while others maintain that norms and ideas shape behaviour. In discussing the different theoretical approaches, we will reflect on both their strengths and limitations. We will do so by asking how they can help us analyse important empirical issues in world politics.

The second half of the course will, therefore, focus on the following questions: Why do states go to war with one another? Why do some states maintain peace within their borders, while others have experienced long-lasting and bloody civil wars? What are the causes and consequences of nuclear proliferation? What is globalization, and what are its effects? How do state and non-state actors address global environmental challenges? By the end of the course, you should be familiar with the major theoretical approaches in the field, be able to demonstrate how these theories influence our explanations, be aware of their strengths and limitations and have some background knowledge of substantive questions in world politics.