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IR105: Understanding Foreign Policy: the Diplomacy of War, Profit and Justice


Course Content

This course examines the key concepts and schools of thought in the study of foreign policy. Concentrating on the process of decision making, internal and external factors which influence foreign policy and the instruments available to foreign policy decision makers, the course will provide an understanding of the role and effect that foreign policy has on international politics. Students will learn about the differing strategies that great powers and small states employ in achieving their aims; the foreign policy challenges posed by terrorism, rogue and failed states; and the significance of new foreign policy powers like China. The classes will combine a discussion of these theories with their application to selected countries in the North, and South, international organisations and transnational actors.

The principle themes to be addressed by the course are: 

  • How do states formulate and implement their foreign policy?
  • Does leadership make a difference in successful foreign policy?
  • Can national foreign policies ever be ethical?
  • What can states and international organisations do to prevent common threats like terrorism, nuclear proliferation and climate change?
  • Are democracies more likely to pursue aggressive foreign policies than dictatorships?
  • How are the foreign policies of emerging powers reshaping the practices, structure and institutions of the international system?

Each of the lectures will be followed by a discussion seminar on a topic drawn from the lecture and readings. Active student participation is encouraged.

Dr Alvaro Mendez provides annual guest lectures and teaching as a feature of the IR105 course.

World-class LSE teaching

With a vibrant research culture, the LSE Department of International Relations is one of the oldest and largest in the world, and remains a leading world centre for the development of the subject. Its reputation for international excellence was recognised in the most recent National Research Assessment Exercise when the International Relations and Government Departments, received one of the highest rankings.                

On this three week intensive programme, you will engage with and learn from full-time lecturers from the LSE.


Chris Alden and Amnon Aran, Foreign Policy Analysis: New approaches, 2nd Edition, London: Routledge (2016)

S. Smith, Amelia Hadfield and Tim Dunne, eds., Foreign Policy: Theories, Actors, Cases, 3rd Edition, Oxford UP (2016)

 *A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

**Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice



Session: Two

Dates: 10 July - 28 July 2017

Lecturer:  Professor Chris Alden

Level: 100 level

Fees: Click here for information

Prerequisites: None

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*:  One written examination, one essay and a class presentation

Typical credit**: 3-4 credits (US)
7.5 ECTS points (EU)

How to apply?

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*assessment is optional – see FAQs

**You will need to check with your home institution. Read more about credit transfer here.