Not available in 2018/19
IR462      Half Unit
Introduction to International Political Theory

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Kirsten Ainley CLM 7.07


This course is available on the MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Global Politics, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Relations (Research), MSc in International Relations Theory, MSc in Political Theory and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is not available as an outside option.

All students are required to obtain permission from the Teacher Responsible by completing the Student Statement box on the online application form linked to course selection on LSE for You. Admission is not guaranteed.

Course content

The background to International Political Theory; the moral standing of the state; international human rights; critiques of human rights and universal values; the ethics of war and violence; international humanitarianism; international law and international politics; global social justice. Watch a short introductory video on this course:


18 hours of seminars in the MT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

1 x 800 word book report 1 x 2,000 word essay

Indicative reading

Appiah, K.A. Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Allen Lane, 2006); Benhabib, S. Another Cosmopolitanism (Oxford, 2006); Brown C. International Society, Global Polity (Sage, 2015); Crawford, N. Argument and Change in World Politics (Cambridge, 2002); Erskine, T. Embedded Cosmopolitanism (Oxford, 2008); Griffin, J. On Human Rights (Oxford, 2009); Hutchings, K. Global Ethics: an Introduction (Polity, 2010); May, L. Crimes Against Humanity: A Normative Account (Cambridge, 2005); Orford, A. International Authority and the Responsibility to Protect (Cambridge, 2011); Walzer M. Just and Unjust Wars (Basic Books, 2006).


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in January.

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay and 1 other piece of coursework in the MT.

Students will produce one 2,000 word formative essay due in week 6 of the Michaelmas Term.  The essay question is to be selected from past exam papers.  The purpose of the essay is to provide experience of summarising succinctly and engaging with complex empirical and theoretical material, develop research and writing skills necessary for the assessed essay, and to assist in the development of ideas and arguments for the assessed essay.  Independent study, based on the readings indicated on the reading list, is required.

Students will also produce a 1.5-2 page outline of their summative essay in week 9.  The outline will include the essay question/title, an overview of the argument, a draft of the structure, and an indicative reading list.  Feedback will be given to students by the end of week 11.

Teachers' comment

The principal aim of this course is to confront key ethical issues in international relations by engaging with and applying difficult and demanding material at the cutting edge of contemporary international political theory. Students will be expected to read widely for seminars and participate in discussions, therefore a strong grasp of academic English is necessary. The objectives of the course are to facilitate students 1) in a critical engagement with a wide range of literature in contemporary international political theory, broadly defined; and 2) in the display of this engagement via the development of a succinct writing style and the ability to present complex arguments orally.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2017/18: 23

Average class size 2017/18: 12

Controlled access 2017/18: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills