IR4A1      Half Unit
International Relations: Core Theories and Debates

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr. Rohan Mukherjee


This course is available on the MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in International Relations (Research). This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This course is a graduate-level introduction to the study of international relations. It has 4 objectives: (i) to enquire into the nature of international politics and the role of theory in advancing our understanding of it; (ii) to introduce students to the main contributions and debates in theories of international politics; (iii) to provide students with a range of concepts, ideas, and perspectives to enable them to widen and deepen their understanding and analysis of international politics; and (iv) to encourage critical, independent thought. At the end of the course students should be able to think, talk and write in an informed, precise and analytical manner about developments within the field of International Relations, past and present.


10 hours of lectures and 13 hours and 30 minutes of lectures in the AT.

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

Formative coursework

Students will write one 2,000-word essay for their seminar teachers

Indicative reading

  • Jennifer Mitzen. Power in Concert: The Nineteenth-Century Origins of Global Governance. 2013
  • Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink. International Norm Dynamics and Political Change. 1998
  • Ayse Zarakol. Before the West: The Rise and Fall of Eastern World Orders. 2022
  • James D. Fearon. Rationalist Explanations for War. 1995
  • Robert Axelrod and Robert O. Keohane. Achieving Cooperation under Anarchy: Strategies and Institutions. 1985
  • John J. Mearsheimer. The False Promise of International Institutions. 1994
  • Joshua Shifrinson. Rising Titans, Falling Giants: How Great Powers Exploit Power Shifts. 2018
  • Helen V. Milner. Interests, Institutions, and Information: Domestic Politics and International Relations. 1998


Essay (100%, 3500 words) in the WT.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2022/23: 94

Average class size 2022/23: 14

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills