Introduction to international relations

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International conflict, co-operation, and world order

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Aims and scope: 

This course presents the strategic approach to the study of international relations. The course provides a comprehensive review of important topics in international relations, such as rational choice and game theory, conflict and war, co-operation and trade, development and democratisation. Why do wars start? Do economic sanctions against Russia or Iran work? Why is it so difficult to stop climate change, even if so many agree it should be done? Are human rights a luxury good for rich countries alone? Why are some countries more protectionist than others? Does globalisation reduce inequality? Does foreign aid help corrupt leaders to stay in power? Can terrorism be rational? Why did Afghanistan not become a democracy after 20 years of US intervention?

The course is divided into four parts. The first part of the course lays the foundations, offering highly accessible coverage of key concepts, introducing students to different ways to think about the national interest and showing them how to use the strategic perspective to better understand what happens in all aspects of international and European politics. Also covered is a basic, intuitive introduction to game theory and other evidence- and logic-based tools for analyzing international relations. The second part focuses on war, and provides a more thorough evaluation of how domestic political incentives and the domestic institutions of governance shape choices about conflict initiation, escalation, and termination. The third part focuses on peace, and builds on the logic of collective action to help students see why it is so difficult to get national governments to do what is right even when they can agree on what is right, with chapters covering the effectiveness of international organizations and international law, as well as a thorough evaluation of environmental issues, human rights enforcement, and the domestic and the international political economy of trade. Finally, the fourth part discusses world order, and emphasizes efforts to promote the spread of democracy, alleviate poverty, and fight terrorism, examining which strategies work, which do not, and why.

Methodology: 
This course will consist of a series of lectures, seminars and written discussion questions.
Topics: 
FUNDAMENTALS: 1. Evaluating arguments about international politics. 2. The strategic perspective: when foreign policy collides with domestic politics. 3. Tools for analyzing international affairs. 4. An introduction to game theory. CONFLICT: 5. Why war: the big picture. 6. Domestic theories of war. CO-OPERATION: 7. How international organizations work, or don’t work. 8. Global warming: designing a solution. 9. Human rights, international law and norms. 10. Free trade or fair: the domestic politics of tariffs. WORLD ORDER: 11. Globalization: international winners and losers. 12. Foreign aid, poverty and revolution. 13. Can terrorism be rational? 14. A democratic world order: peace without democratization.
Indicative reading: 

Bueno de Mesquita, B. (2013). Principles of international politics (5th edition). CQ Press.

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