The University of Southampton

PAIR6001 International Relations Theories

Module Overview

The module will chart the developments in IR theory, from the classical positions to contemporary debates on post-modernism. The module provides an essential introduction required for an informed understanding of contemporary international affairs.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To familiarise students with the core theoretical positions in international relations.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Apply written communication skills
  • Apply independent working skills
  • Apply problem solving skills
  • Demonstrate application of this knowledge to contemporary events
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the dominant traditions in International Relations and how they link to developments in philosophies of the social sciences
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the schools of IR which offer the main challenges to the dominant traditions
  • Demonstrate the capacity to elucidate and evaluate the principal ideas and arguments of different IR theoretical positions


The module introduces key theoretical perspectives on international relations. It starts with the more traditional ones, such as International Political Theory, Liberalism and Neoliberal Institutionalism, Classical Realism and Structural (neo) Realism, The English School and International Society and Marxism and Critical Theory. It subsequently moves to more recent theoretical developments in the field of IR, including Constructivism and Post-positivism

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning is organised around seminars including interactive lectures, group work and the advanced discussion of selected academic resources. The in-class sessions are supplemented by the PBL-based student group work in the form of the final-week Simulation of the UN Security Council

Independent Study164
Total study time200

Resources & Reading list

Steve Smith, Ken Booth and Maria Zalewski (1996). International Theory: positivism and beyond. 

Tim Dunne, Milja Kurki, and Steve Smith (2007). International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity. 

S.Burchill and A.Linklater (Eds.) (2009). Theories of International Relations. 

M. Griffiths (Ed.) (2007). International Relations Theory for the Twenty First Century. 

P. Viotti and M. Kauppi (Eds.) (1999). International Relations Theory. 

C.Brown (2001). Understanding International Relations. 

J.Baylis and S.Smith (Eds.) (2001). The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations. 

Steve Smith, Ken Booth and Maria Zalewski (1996). International Theory: positivism and beyond. 

Reus-Smit, C. and Snidal, D. (2008). The Oxford Handbook of International Relations. 

Hollis and Smith (1999). Explaining and Understanding International Relations. 

Jackson and Sorenson (2007). Introduction to International Relations. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 40%
In-class simulation 30%
Reaction paper 30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s)  (4000 words) 100%
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