Questions of IR Theory
University of Chicago
Syllabus for Autumn 2006
meets Wednesdays, 1:30 til 3:50, Pick 506
Lipson's office is Pick 418b
Hours: Tuesdays, 4-5, Wednesdays at 4
about this course should include PS454 somewhere in subject line.
The goal of this
course is to explore a series of major questions in international relations
theory, to understand the scholarly debates and the paths different
researchers take to answering them. In the process, we hope to shed
light on what makes for good resarch questions and fruitful approaches
I have selected
some questions and associated readings for the first several weeks.
After that, the questions and readings will be chosen by members of
the class, either individually or in small groups.
The course presumes
a familiarity with IR literature and some prior courses in the field.
It will build on that prior coursework.
- Books are available at UC/Barnes
& Noble Bookstore and the Seminary Cooperative Bookstore.
- All assigned books are required
- All materials should be available
at Regenstein Reserve.
- This seminar is exclusively
for graduate students. Each
will receive a letter grade unless he or she receives written permission
otherwise before Week 8.
- Because this is a seminar,
enrollment is limited. Priority will go to students with
strong backgrounds in international relations and social theory.
- All interested
students are welcome to attend the first class session.
- After the first session,
Mr. Lipson will decide on final class enrollment. His written permission
is required to enroll.
is one short paper and one longer paper in this course.
1) The shorter paper, approximately 2-3 pages, should define
one hard question in IR, saying something about why it is interesting
and a good topic for inquiry. It should laying out several key
readings in the subject. These readings plus your short paper
will form the basis for a seminar discussion on the topic.
2) Building on your short paper, you should write a longer one,
approximately 15 pages, exploring this self-defined hard question
in more depth. There should also be a one-paragraph abstract.
This longer paper can be one of two types, explained below.
Each paper should have a
title, plus your name and e-mail address on the first page. Each should
be double spaced, stapled, with numbered pages. Please give me a hard
copy. You may also send me an e-mail attachment, if you wish, but I
will still need a hard copy of each paper.
|Shorter paper (approximately
The goal of the short paper
is two fold. One is to set the stage for a fruitful class discussion.
The other is to lay the groundwork for your own deeper exploration of
the question, reflected in your longer paper.
Due date for shorter
paper: Week 5, Tuesday, 3 pm (hard copy delivered to my office).
I will make copies of these short papers and distribute them to the
class the next day. We will discuss them at that class session.
For most students,
the shorter paper serves as a foundation for the longer paper. That
is not a rule, though. After completing the shorter paper, you may change
topics for the longer paper, or refine the topic, if you wish. You do
not need permission to do so.
|Longer paper (approximately
Each student will
write a 15 (double-spaced) paper, exploring a hard question in IR theory..
This paper may be either an original research paper or a comparative
analysis of several authors who have delved into the topic. It's your
- Research paper:
Independent research on a topic of your choice dealing with some aspect
of a hard major theoretical question in IR. You may explore it mainly
in theoretical terms or you may do some empirical research, including
case studies, that bear on the question. You have a wide range of
choices here; the only requirement is that it explore a hard theoretical
question and shed some light on answering it.
- Comparative review:
A critical analysis and comparison of two or more books or articles
dealing with a particular theoretical question. You should build on
your short paper, but you certainly can modify the readings and shift
the terms of the question a bit as you move further into it. You may
focus on a debate or, if you prefer, on one side of a debate or one
approach to an issue. You may use any readings you choose.
The paper should have a
title and its text should be organized in sections (each with a title),
just as published articles are. Fluid, tightly-edited writing is welcomed,
with pleasure. If you want to learn more about good writing, take a
look at William Zinsser's On Writing Well or the sections on
academic writing in my book, How to Write a BA Thesis. Despite
the title, it is appropriate to graduate-level writing.
Due dates for longer
paper: Monday of exam week, 4 pm. Hard copy delivered to
my office, plus an electronic copy, if you wish.
|Each longer paper
should include a brief abstract of approximately 150-200 words.
The abstract should be resemble
those in International Organization, briefly summarizing your
questions, methods, and findings. Do not follow the misguided
model of so many abstracts, which only say only what will be done in
the paper: "This paper will examine the problem of international
order, using data on modern wars. Important conclusions are reached."
Don't do it that way. Instead, treat the abstract as a very condensed
version of the paper itself.
Here's an example of a first-rate
abstract, for Virginia Page Fornta's "Scraps of Paper? Agreements
and the Durability of Peace" IO 57 (Spring 2003).
In the aftermath
of war, what determines whether peace lasts or fighting resumes,
and what can be done to foster durable peace? Drawing on theories
of cooperation, I argue that belligerents can overcome the obstacles
to peace by implementing measures that alter incentives, reduce
uncertainty about intentions, and manage accidents A counterargument
suggests that agreements are eipiphenomenal, merely reflecting the
underlying probability of war resumption. I test hypotheses about
the durability of peace using hazard analysis. Controlling for factors
. . . that affect the baseline prospects for peace, I find that
stronger agreements enhance the durability of peace. . . . Agreements
are not merely scraps of paper; rather, their content matters in
the construction of peace that lasts.
Fortna's abstract is brief
and clear. It tells readers exactly what her article concludes and how
it reaches that conclusion. Use it as a model. For others, please look
at the opening pages of International Organization.
Presentations: Each student will participate in one group presentation.
At each class session, students
will present assigned materials plus some supplementary materials. These
presentations will be done by small groups, based on student research
interests. Students should select three potential topics (such as the
English School or Realism) in order of preference. Based on these preferences,
Prof. Lipson will assign each student to one group.
are "Hard Questions in IR Theory?"
Question of the Democratic Peace
Charles Lipson, Reliable Partners: How Democracies Have Made a Separate
Sebastian Rosato, "The Flawed Logic of the Democratic Peace Theory",
American Political Science Review 97 (2003): 585–602.
International Structure Really Explain Anything?
Kenneth Waltz in Robert O. Keohane, ed., Neorealism and Its Critics,
chapters 4, 5, and 11.
Chapters 4 and 5 are from Waltz' Theory of International
Politics. If you have this important (but expensive) little book,
please consider reading all of it. Keohane's edited volume includes
several important critiques, plus Waltz' response (chapter 11).
Sections of Mearsheimer's Tragedy dealing with his structural
States Ever Trust Each Other?
Andrew Kydd, Trust and Mistrust in International Relations.
Sections of Mearsheimer's Tragedy dealing with intentions.
Sections Lipson's Reliable Partners dealing with trust, learning,
James D. Fearon, “Bargaining, Enforcement
and International Cooperation,” International Organization
52 (Spring 1998), 269-306.
James D. Fearon, "Rationalist Explanations
for War," International Organization 49 (Summer 1995),
David Edelstein, “Managing Uncertainty:
Beliefs about Intentions and the Rise of Great Powers,” Security
Studies 12 (Autumn 2002): 1-40.
Role Do Norms and Ideas Play in International Politics?
Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, chapters 1, 5-7,
additional readings to come
Assigned Books Are Required
Purchases for This Course
at Seminary Coop or UC/Barnes & Noble
O. Keohane, ed., Neorealism and Its Critics (Columbia
University Press, 1986). ISBN
H. Kydd, Trust and Mistrust in International Relations (Princeton
University Press, 2005). ISBN: 0691121702 (only in hardback)
Lipson, Reliable Partners: How Democracies Have Made a Separate Peace
(Princeton University Press,
Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics (Cambridge
University Press, 1999). ISBN