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Unit information: Contemporary International Relations in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Contemporary International Relations
Unit code POLI20002
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Filippo Dionigi
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit provides students with a critical understanding of contemporary world politics. Drawing on a variety of approaches to the study of world politics, it introduces students to key concepts - including War, Peace, Security, Globalization and Justice - and related issues and debates. In doing so the unit will equip students with the conceptual tools with which to understand and interrogate the nature of contemporary world politics. It also assesses how different approaches to world politics address shared issues such as the causes of conflict, the nature of the contemporary world order, the impact of globalization on world politics and the prospects for international cooperation. The lectures and seminars give students the opportunity to assess the relationship between theories and practices of world politics, to engage the central themes of power and representation, and the question of 'who gets what, when and how' in world politics.


  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of key concepts in the study of world politics.
  • To provide a critical understanding of contemporary issues in world politics.
  • To provide a critical understanding of the relationships between theories of world politics and contemporary practices of world politics.
  • To explore major theoretical and empirical debates in contemporary world politics around the central themes of power and representation.

Intended learning outcomes

As can be evaluated via the unit assessment, by the end of this unit students will be able to:

a) Demonstrate an ability to critically analyze key concepts in the study of world politics.

b) Review, explain and discuss selected contemporary issues in world politics

c) Critically evaluate theoretical approaches to the study of world politics

d) Apply and evaluate theories and concepts in relation to contemporary issues in world politics

e) Develop independent arguments by synthesising a wide range of relevant information and evidence

f) Engage critically with key themes raised by the unit including: the relationship between power and representation in world politics; the role of the state as an actor in world politics; and the role of theories and concepts in comprehending the nature of contemporary world politics

Teaching details

1 x 2 hours of lectures and 1 hour seminar

Assessment Details

Group Presentation (10%)

2 Hour Unseen Exam (90%)

Both assessments test all learning outcomes as listed above.

Reading and References

  • John Baylis, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens (eds.), The Globalisation of World Politics, 4th edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • Tim Dunne, Milja Kurki and Steve Smith (eds.), International Relations: Discipline and Diversity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Robert Jackson and Georg Sorensen, Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches, 3rd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • Chris Brown and Kirsten Ainley, Understanding International Relations, 3rd edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)
  • Scott Burchill et al (eds.), Theories of International Relations, 3rd edition (Basinstoke: Palgrave, 2005)
  • Martin Griffiths, Terry O'Callaghan and Steven C. Roach, International Relations: The Key Concepts, 2nd edition (New York: Routledge, 2007)