Seminar on IR Theory

What is International Relations?  I offer a graduate course at the University of Chicago that provides an overview of the field with a focus on International Relations (IR) theory. The course syllabus therefore attempts an impossible task:  summarizing decades of work in an entire subfield of political science, all in ten short weeks.  While inevitably overlooking important material, the reading list is intended to serve as course syllabus and a starting point for students preparing for comprehensive exams.

A few notes about my approach.

First, I attempted to strike a balance between covering paradigmatic debates (the “-isms”) and post-paradigmatic, middle-range IR theory popular in the 2000s and 2010s. My own training at Ohio State included exposure to both. The hope is that this reading list exposes graduate students to both classic debates and the contemporary lay of the land. Given the composition of our IR faculty, exposure to both periods of IR theory is one of the strengths of IR graduate training at the University of Chicago.

Second, constructing this kind of reading list raises questions about how to organize the field. My syllabus balances my own editorial judgment with conventional thematic divisions. Many weeks feature typical themes (e.g. “Vareities of Realism”). Other weeks feature a theme that is less obvious and may impose a bit more coherence than exists in the work itself (e.g. “Communication: Signals, Perceptions, and Inferences”). Still other weeks have standard themes but pair work not typically classified together, such as readings on systemic constructivisms and network analysis in “International System II: Other Kinds of Structure.”

Third, I tried hard to build in meaningful gender balance in the assigned and supplemental readings. As anyone who has designed a course like this knows, this is easier for some weeks than others. The result, in the aggregate, hopefully showcases the wide range of authors that have contributed to the development of IR.

Click here to access the syllabus. If you have comments, feel free to email me:  acarson [at] uchicago [dot] edu. If you dig it, feel free to share it on social media (my Twitter handle is @carsonaust).  And hat tip to Ron Krebs of University of Minnesota whose own version inspired me to try my hand.