Universität Wien FIND

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to courses and exams may be necessary at short notice (e.g. cancellation of on-site teaching and conversion to online exams). Register for courses/exams via u:space, find out about the current status on u:find and on the moodle learning platform.

Further information about on-site teaching and access tests can be found at https://studieren.univie.ac.at/en/info.

Warning! The directory is not yet complete and will be amended until the beginning of the term.

030157 KU International Relations Theory (2020S)

2.00 ECTS (1.00 SWS), SPL 3 - Rechtswissenschaften
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 20 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

The number of participants is limited to 20 students. Due to high demand, we ask you to provide a brief statement detailing your motivations for participating in the course, your expectations, and potential comments or questions to brigitte.weidinger@univie.ac.at from 10.2.2020 until 02.03.2020.

Tuesday 10.03. 09:00 - 10:30 Seminarraum SEM64 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum 6.OG (Kickoff Class)
Friday 13.03. 10:00 - 12:00 Seminarraum SEM63 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum 6.OG
Friday 20.03. 10:00 - 12:00 Seminarraum SEM63 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum 6.OG
Friday 27.03. 10:00 - 12:00 Seminarraum SEM63 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum 6.OG
Friday 03.04. 10:00 - 12:00 Seminarraum SEM63 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum 6.OG
Friday 08.05. 10:00 - 12:00 Hörsaal U12 Schottenbastei 10-16, Juridicum, KG1


Aims, contents and method of the course

The course aims to introduce participants to the main theories of international relations – the study of global affairs from a theoretical perspective. We will discuss various approaches, such as Realism, Liberalism and Institutionalism, Social Constructivism and the English School, Critical Theory etc, while aiming to consider them in the context of global history as well contemporary international affairs.

(Preliminary) Detailed Syllabus:

1. Introductory Class (Tuesday 10.03. 09:00 - 10:30)
The class provides an introduction to the major theoretical perspectives, and introduces common concepts of international relations. We will examine different conceptions of the international system and discuss the historical evolution of the modern international society, with an assessment of various traditions of thought that have influenced our understanding of international politics until today.

2. Realism / Contemporary Realist Theory (Friday 13.03. 10:00 - 12:00)
This class discusses realist and neo-realist understandings of international relations. We will discuss particular issues that arise out of the concept of the balance of power and examine realism’s foreign policy prescriptions and developments in recent international politics.

3. Liberalism and Institutionalism (Friday 20.03. 10:00 - 12:00)
We will discuss classical liberalism, its account of war and change in international relations, and contemporary analytical liberalism. Furthermore, we will examine institutionalism and its analysis of inter-state cooperation as well as the origin, design, and form of international institutions.

4. Constructivism and the English School (Friday 27.03. 10:00 - 12:00)
This class examines contributions of Social Constructivism and the English School to the theory of international relations. It will involve a discussion of the work of Alexander Wendt and scholars such as Hedley Bull, Andrew Hurrell, Edward Keene, and others.
We will also examine constructivist claims about the origins, evolution, and impact of norms in international relations, for example why norms emerge and spread and how they influence international politics.

5. Critical Theory, Non-Western/Feminist Approaches (Friday 03.04. 10:00 - 12:00)
We will discuss those theories of IR that have explicit normative commitments, their challenges of and contributions to international relations theory. In particular, we will discuss the merits and limitations of critical theory and how accounting for gender and non-Western perspectives can provide insights into our understanding of international relations theory and global politics.

6. Globalisation, Governance, and Developments in Contemporary International Affairs (Friday 08.05. 10:00 - 12:00)
Students will have the opportunity to discuss various topics (related to their final essays) of global history and contemporary international politics, through the lens of the theories we have discussed in previous classes.
Potential topics include:
contemporary developments in international politics/ foreign policy;
the impact of globalisation and global governance;
technological change and the changing character of war;
the emergence and impact of human rights norms and international law;
changing power relations in the world (USA, China, Russia, Middle East, Africa, South America, Europe and the EU);
the role of religion and civilisation in IR;
global threats in the 21st century;
and whether our understanding of IR might still be too focused on the ‘Western’ experience.

Assessment and permitted materials

• Class Participation: 50%
Seminars will be interactive. We will discuss assigned readings during class. Class participation counts for 50 percent of the final grade.
• Reflection Paper: 50%
Participants will write a final essay (1500-2000 words) related to a seminar of their choice. The paper can consist of critique, elaboration, expressions of disagreement or puzzlement, suggestions for further inquiry, and so on – as long as it is directed to the readings for the seminar concerned.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Prior knowledge of international relations theory is not required, however, a general interest in global affairs will be very helpful.

Examination topics

Topics addressed in the assigned readings and in the seminars.

Reading list

For an overview, I recommend having a look at:
John Baylis, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens, The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford University Press, 8th ed, 2019)
and/or: Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal, The Oxford Handbook of International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2008) - "Major Theoretical Perspectives"

A detailed syllabus with readings will be available on Moodle.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:19