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IR130: Athens to Al-Qaeda: Political Theory and International Politics


Course Content

  • When is a terrorist attack an act of war? 
  • Is it the case that only states can exercise a right of war and if so why? 
  • Can you have a war on ‘terror’ or on ‘crime’? 
  • What is the fundamental difference between state violence and non-state violence? 
  • Where does state power come from and is the state system the ‘end of history’? 

From earliest times to the most contemporary ‘threats’ these questions have been posed and a variety of answers have been given. By examining the development of international political theory, from the Ancient Greeks to the present, this course will explore and criticise theories and arguments that have been offered to defend or challenge the power of political communities and explain the sources and varieties of conflict and cooperation that can occur within and beyond political communities. 

The course will examine the ideas of great political thinkers from Thucydides, Machiavelli and Hobbes to Kant, Hegel and Marx as well as the use to which these arguments have been put in the world of politics and international relations by contemporary thinkers. These thinkers and the concepts they identify and use will provide us with a window into the structures that shape much international politics such as states’ rights and international humanitarian obligations; the nature and status of international law, and the prospects for global democracy and democratisation. 

The course will provide both an introduction to political theory and to key approaches to international relations.

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.



The main course readings can be found in:
C. Brown, T. Nardin and N. Rengger eds., International Relations in Political Thought, Cambridge University Press (2002). 
See also D. Boucher and P. Kelly eds., Political Thinkers: from Socrates to the Present, 2nd edition (2009).

Students should purchase both books. Additional reading and lecture notes will be available online on the course Moodle page.

*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: One

Dates: 19 June - 7 July 2017

Professor Chandran Kukathas
Professor Katrin Flikschuh

Level: 100 level

Fees: Click here for information

Prerequisites: None

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: One essay and one written examination

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

How to apply?

Join our mailing list and access detailed course outline 

*assessment is optional – see FAQs

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