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Syllabus: Advanced IR Theory

January 8, 2008

Below, a draft of my syllabus for Government 761, International Relations: Theories and Approaches. Because, well, why not?

Government 724: Theories and Approaches

Professor Daniel Nexon


Government 761 is an advanced class in the understanding and production of international-relations theory. I expect that students have previously taken Government 551 or an equivalent graduate-level survey of international-relations theory.

This course, as I see it, has two primary objectives. First, to enhance students’ understanding of aspects of international-relations theory and contemporary debates in the academic study of international relations. Second, to help prepare students to be producers of international-relations scholarship by focusing their attention on issues in epistemology, methodology, and research design beyond those addressed in their standard allotment of methods and introductory courses.

We pursue these objectives by reading and discussing “recent-ish” articles and books by, with a few exceptions, international-relations scholars. Because we cannot possibly cover all of the important contemporary debates and issues in the study of international relations, we instead read a variety of works, of varying quality, that showcase how scholars attempt to theorize and explain important aspects of world politics. They provide examples—although you may decide some are cautionary rather than productive—of how to identify analytical and empirical puzzles, develop concepts and explain empirical outcomes, and respond to criticisms.


This class involves the following requirements:

• Class participation 40%
• Class presentation 15%
• Research paper 45%


Students are expected to regularly attend class, complete most of the readings, and to contribute to an environment of shared intellectual exploration, questioning, and debate.

My standard for evaluating class participation is “regular and informed contribution to the class.” This does not mean that you must speak in every session. I recognize that some students will be unable, on occasion, to complete a sufficient proportion of the readings to contribute. I also know that even the most gregarious students have “off days.” But you should be prepared to make an average of one significant intervention in class discussion—whether in the form of a question or an argument.

If you skip a class without my prior approval or in the absence of acceptable extenuating circumstances (e.g., a medical emergency, a death in the family, a genuine transportation failure), you will receive a “zero” in class participation for that session.

I will provide a diagnostic class-participation grade prior to Spring Break. This grade will not be averaged into your final participation grade. Rather, it should be treated as information about what you need to do to maintain or improve your trajectory to achieve a strong class-participation grade.

Class Presentation

Students will sign up to present for one class section. Presentations should not simply regurgitate the readings—in fact, those that do are unlikely to receive high marks—but isolate a number of key issues for class discussion.

The Paper

I expect students to write an article-length research paper (approximately 10,000-12,000 words) of submission or near-submission quality. The ideal paper is a standalone essay that students will, pending further revisions, send to a journal for publication. But you students also use this paper, as appropriate, to flesh out ideas for your doctoral or masters thesis. Or simply to write a high-quality research paper.

Students may write on any topic, so long as that topic falls within the discipline of international relations. Students may utilize any appropriate qualitative or quantitative methods. I will accept not only papers with an empirical focus—those that seek to explain some outcome or set of outcomes in international politics—but also papers that contribute exclusively to conceptual or theoretical debates in international-relations scholarship.

The production of your paper will proceed in four phases.

1. The submission of a provisional paper topic. Each student must email me a short (maximum of one page) paper topic by midnight of Friday, March 14th. This write-up should include a brief discussion of what you intend to write about, why the topic is significant, and the methodology of the paper. I will email you brief comments and alert you to any potential problems or pitfalls. You may want to discuss my comments in greater detail either over email, via IM, or during my office hours.
2. The submission of longer research proposal. Each student must email me a 3-5 page synopsis of his or her core argument, overview of related empirical and conceptual literatures, and discussion of methods, by midnight on Monday, March 31st.
3. Paper Presentations and Discussions. We will schedule meetings between, I expect at this time, April 22nd and April 28th for students to present preliminary drafts of their papers and get feedback from the rest of the class.
4. Submission of final paper. Your final paper is due on Monday, May 12th. You must email me a copy of the paper by that time, as well as provide a hard copy of the paper in my box by 5pm on May 13th. Extensions will only be granted in the case of a medical emergency, death in the family, or subject to my discretion. Students who fail to turn in the paper by that time and do not receive an extension will receive a grade of “incomplete.”

All of this means that students should start thinking about what you want to write about fairly early on. Students may, however, change your topic at any time prior to the submission of your longer research proposal.

I recommend that you do not treat steps 2 and 3 (the “longer research proposal” and “small-group meetings”) as separate from ongoing work on your paper; if you do, you may find yourself under a great deal of pressure to complete a process that you will have an easier time spreading out over the bulk of the class.

Students who fail to complete each of these steps will lose points on the final paper, e.g., failure to hand in a research proposal will result in a loss of a 1/3 of a grade.


All books marked with a “*” are available for purchase at the bookstore. I will make every effort to ensure that they are also placed on reserve. Readings marked with “ER” are available on electronic reserve. All required readings, and most supplementary readings, are available through Georgetown’s “journal finder” service. A few readings, marked “BB”, may be available on Blackboard or on e-reserve “ER” (as marked).

Texts under the “Readings” heading are required. “Supplementary” readings are optional, and reflect a range of related works that you might want to look at if you want to explore themes from the required readings in further detail. My list of supplementary readings is far from exhaustive, and should be treated as such.

Note that the required readings for some weeks are not in alphabetical order. If this is the case, then I recommend that you read them in the order I have placed them in. If they are in alphabetical order, then what order you read them in is pretty much irrelevant.

Plan of the Course

January 9th: Concepts


Bachrach, Peter and Morton Baratz, “Two Faces of Power,” American Political Science Review 56 (1962).

Guzzini, Stefano. “Structural Power: The Limits of Neorealist Power Analysis,” International Organization 47,3 (Summer 1993), pp. 443-478.

Barnett, Michael and Raymond Duvall. “Power in International Politics,” International Organization 59,1 (2005): 39-75.

Dessler, David. “What’s at Stake in the Agent-Structure Debate,” International Organization 43,3 (1989): 441-473.

Wendt, Alexander. “On Constitution and Causation in International Relations,” Review of International Studies 24,5 (1998): 101-117

January 14th: The Balance of Power, Part I


Wohlforth, William C. “The Stability of a Unipolar World,” International Security 24,1 (1999): 5-41.

Pape, Robert A. “Soft Balancing Against the United States.” International Security 30,1 (2005): 7-45.

Paul, T.V. “Soft Balancing in the Age of U.S. Primacy.” International Security 30,1 (2005): 46-71.

Brooks, Stephen G. and William C. Wohlforth “Hard Times for Soft Balancing.” International Security 30,1 (2005): 72-108.

Lieber, Keir A. and Gerard Alexander. “Waiting for Balancing: Why the World is Not Pushing Back.” International Security 30,1 (2005): 109-139.

Art, Robert J. et al. “Correspondence: Striking the Balance.” International Security 30,3 (2005/2006): 177-196.


Mearsheimer, John J. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003.

Paul, T.V. et al, eds. Balance of Power: Theory and Practice in the 21st Century. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.

Rose, Gideon. “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy,” World Politics 51,1 (1998): 144-172.

Schweller, Randall L. “Bandwagoning for Profit: Bringing the Revisionist State Back In,” International Security 19,1 (1994): 72-107.

Schweller, Randal L. “Unanswered Threats: A Neoclassical Realist Theory of Underbalancing.” International Security 29,2 (2004): 159-201.

Snyder, Glenn H. “Mearsheimer’s World — Offensive Realism and the Struggle for Security,” International Security 27,1 (2002): 149-173.

Taliaferro, Jeffrey W. “Security Seeking under Anarchy: Defensive Realism Revisited,” International Security 25,3 (2000/2001), pp. 128-161.

Walt, Stephen M. “Alliance Formation and the Balance of Power,” International Security 9,4 (1985): 2-43.

January 28th: The Balance of Power, Part II


Kaufman, Stuart et al, eds. The Balance of Power in World History. New York: Palgrave, 2007.*

Wohlforth, William C., et al. “Testing Balance-of-Power Theory In World History.” European Journal of International Relations 13,2 (2007): 155-185.


Adams, Karen Ruth. “Attack and Conquer? International Anarchy and the Offense-Defense-Deterrence Balance,” International Security 28,3 (2003/2004): 45-83.

Barfield, Thomas. The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China, 221 BC to AD 1757. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1989.

Buzan et al. The Logic of Anarchy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).

Cioffi-Revilla, Caludio. “Origins and the Evolution of War and Politics,” International Studies Quarterly 40,1 (1996): 1-22.

Gilpin, Robert. War and Change in World Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

Goddard, Stacie E. and Daniel H. Nexon. “Paradigm Lost? Reassessing Theory of International Politics,” European Journal of International Relations 11,1 (2006): 9-61.

Hui, Victoria Tin-bor. “Toward a Dynamic Theory of International Politics: Insights from Comparing Ancient China and Early Modern Europe,” International Organization 58,1 (2004): 175-205.

Hui, Victoria Tin-bor. War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Kennedy, Paul. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000. New York: Random House, 1987.

Kaufman, Stuart. “The Fragmentation and Consolidation of International Systems,” International Organization 51,2 (1997): 173-208.

Lemke, Douglas. Regions of War and Peace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Levy, Jack and William Thompson. “Hegemonic Threats and Great Power Balancing in Europe, 1495-2000,” Security Studies 14,1 (2005): 1-30.

Taliaferro, Jeffrey W. “State Building for Future Wars: Neoclassical Realism and the Resource-Extractive State,” Security Studies 15,3 (2006): 464-495.

Tilly, Charles. Coercion, Capital, and European States AD 990-1992. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1992.

February 4th: International Hierarchy, Part I


Lake, David A. “Anarchy, Hierarchy and the Variety of International Relations,” International Organization 50,1 (1996): 1-30.

Weber, Katja. “Hierarchy Amidst Anarchy: A Transaction Costs Approach to International Security Cooperation,” International Studies Quarterly 41,2 (1997): 321-340.

Keene, Edward. “A Case Study of the Construction of International Hierarchy: British Treaty-Making Against the Slave Trade in the Early Nineteenth Century,” International Organization 61,2 (2007): 311-319.

Ikenberry, G. John and Charles Kupchan. “Socialization and Hegemonic Power,” International Organization 44,3 (1990): 283-315.

Hobson, John M. and J.C. Sharman. “The Enduring Place of Hierarchy in World Politics: Tracing the Social Logics of Hierarchy and Political Change,” European Journal of International Relations 11,1 (2005): 63-98.

Nexon, Daniel H. and Thomas J. Wright, “What’s at Stake in the American Empire Debate,” American Political Science Review 101,2 (2007): 253-271.


Barkawi, Tarak and Mark Laffey. “The Imperial Peace: Democracy, Force and Globalization,” European Journal of International Relations 5,4 (1999): 403-434.

Chase, Ivan D. “Social Processes and Hierarchy Formation in Small Groups: A Comparative Perspective,” American Sociological Review 45,6 (1980): 905-924.

Donnelly, Jack. “Sovereign Inequalities and Hierarchy in Anarchy: American Power and International Security,” European Journal of International Relations 12,2 (2006): 139-170.

Galtung, Johan. “A Structural Theory of Imperialism,” Journal of Peace Research 8,2 (1971): 81-117.

Gortzak, Yoav. “How Great Powers Rule: Coercion and Positive Inducements in International Order Enforcement,” Security Studies 14,4 (2005): 663-697.

Lake, David A. “The New Sovereignty in International Relations,” International Studies Review 5,3 (2003): 303-324.

Lake, David A. “Escape from the State of Nature: Authority and Hierarchy in World Politics,” International Security 32,1 (2007): 47-79.

Press-Barnathan, Galia. “Managing the Hegemon: NATO under Unipolarity,” Security Studies 15,2 (2006): 271-309.

Wendt, Alexander and Daniel Friedheim. “Hierarchy under Anarchy: Informal Empire and the East German State,” International Organization 49,4 (1995): 689-721.

Wendt, Alexander. “Why a World State is Inevitable,” European Journal of International Relations 9,4 (2003): 491-542.

February 11th: International Hierarchy, Part II


Alexander Cooley, Logics of Hierarchy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005.*


Barkey, Karen. Bandits and Bureaucrats: The Ottoman Route to State Centralization (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994).

Barkey, Karen. “Rebellious Alliances: The State and Peasant Unrest in Early Seventeenth-Century France and the Ottoman Empire,” American Sociological Review 56,6 (1991): 699-715.

Doyle, Michael. Empires. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986.

Motyl, Alexander. Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001)

Motyl, Alexander. “Why Empires Reemerge: Imperial Collapse and Imperial Revival in Comparative Perspective,” Comparative Politics 31,2 (1999): 127-145.

February 25th: International Institutions, Part I

Thompson, Alexander. “Coercion Through IOs: The Security Council and the Logic of Information Transmission,” International Organization 60,1 (2006): 1-34.

Voeten, Eric. “The Political Origins of the UN Security Council’s Ability to Legitimize the Use of Force,” International Organization 59,3 (2005): 527-557.

Hurd, Ian. “The Strategic Uses of Liberal Internationalism: Libya and the UN Sanctions, 1992-2003,” International Organization 59,3 (2005): 495-526.

Barnett, Michael and Martha Finnemore. “The Politics, Power, and Pathologies of International Organizations,” International Organization 53, 4 (1999): 699-732.



March 10th: International Institutions, Part II


Johnston, Alistair Iain. Social States China in International Institutions, 1980-2000. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007. (Must be ordered on-line)


Checkel, Jeffrey ed. “International Institutions and Socialization in Europe” Special Issue of International Organization 59,4 (2005).

March 17th: International Reputation, Part I

Press, Daryl G. “Power, Reputation, and Assessments of Credibility During the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Paper Presented at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, 30 August-2 September.

Mercer, Jonathan. “Rationality and Psychology in International Politics,” International Organization 59,4 (2005): 77-106.

Kollock, Peter. “The Emergence of Exchange Structures: An Experimental Study of Uncertainty, Commitment, and Trust,” American Journal of Sociology 100,2 (1994): 313-345.

Crescenzi, Mark J.C. “Reputation and Interstate Conflict,” American Journal of Political Science 51,2 (2007): 382-396.

Steele, Brent J. “Making Words Matter: The Asian Tsunami, Darfur, and “Reflexive Discourse” in International Politics,” International Studies Quarterly 51,4 (2007): 901-925.

Tomz, Michael. “Domestic Audience Costs in International Relations: An Experimental Approach,” International Organization 61,3 (2007): 821-840.


Mercer, John. Reputation and International Politics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996.

Press, Daryl G. Calculating Credibility: How Leaders Assess Military Threats. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005.

March 31st: International Reputation, Part II


Tomz, Michael. Reputation and International Cooperation: Sovereign Debt Across Three Centuries. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.*

April 7th: Arguing and Bargaining: Norms and Rhetoric, Part I

Price, Richard. “Reversing the Gun Sights: Transnational Civil Society Targets Land Mines,” International Organization 52,3 (1998): 613-644.

Risse, Thomas. “’Let’s Argue!’: Communicative Action in World Politics,” Intenrational Organization 54,1 (2000): 1-39.

Schimmelfennig, Frank. “The Community Trap: Liberal Norms, Rhetorical Action, and the Eastern Enlargement of the European Union,” International Organization 55,1 (2001): 47-80.

Mitzen, Jennifer. “Reading Habermas in Anarchy: Multilateral Diplomacy and Global Public Spheres,” American Political Science Review 99,3 (2005): 401-417.

Busby, Joshua. “Bono Made Jesse Helms Cry: Jubilee 2000, Debt Relief, and Moral Action in International Politics,” International Studies Quarterly 51,2 (2007): 247-275.

Krebs, Ronald and Patrick Jackson. “Twisting Tongues and Twisting Arms: The Power of Political Rhetoric,” European Journal of International Relations 13,1 (2007): 35-66.


Abdelal, Rawi et al. “Identity as a Variable” Perspectives on Politics 4,4 (2006): 695-711.

Barnett, Michael. “Culture, Strategy, and Foreign Policy Change: Israel’s Road to Oslo,” European Journal of International Relations 5,1 (1999): 5-36.

Checkel, Jeffrey T. “The Constructivist Turn in International Relations Theory,” World Politics 50,2 (1998): 324-48.

Checkel, Jeffrey T. “Norms, Institutions, and National Identity in Contemporary Europe,” International Studies Quarterly 43,1 (1999): 83-114.

Crawford, Neta. Argument and Change in World Politics: Ethics, Decolonization, and Humanitarian Intervention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Farrell, Henry. “Constructing the International Foundations of E-Commerce—The EU-U.S. Safe Harbor Arrangement,” International Organization 57,2 (2003), pp. 277-306.

Flynn, Gregory and Henry Farrell, “Piecing Together the Democratic Peace: The CSCE, Norms, and the Construction of Security in Post-Cold War Europe,” International Organization 53,3 (1999): 505-536.

Hurd, Ian. “Legitimacy and Authority in International Politics,” International Organization 53, 2 (1999): 379-408.

Kratochwhil, Friedrich. Rules, Norms, and Decisions: On the Conditions of Practical and Legal Reasoning in International Relations and Domestic Affairs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Krebs, Ronald and Jennifer Lobasz, “Fixing the Meaning of 9/11: Hegemony, Coercion, and the Road to War in Iraq,” Security Studies 16,3 (Fall 2007), pp. 409-451.

Sending, Ole Jacob. “Constitution, Choice and Change: Problems with the ‘Logic of Appropriateness and its Uses in Constructivist Theory,” European Journal of International Relations 8,4 (2002): 443-470.

April 14th: Arguing and Bargaining: Norms and Rhetoric, Part II


Jackson, Patrick Thaddeus. Civilizing the Enemy: German Reconstruction and the Invention of the West. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2006.*


* See Recommended Readings for Prior Session

Jackson, Patrick Thaddeus. “Defending the West: Occidentalism and the Formation of NATO,” Journal of Political Philosophy 11,3 (2003): 223-252.

Huntington, Samuel. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Searle, John R. The Construction of Social Reality. New York: Free Press, 1995.

Shotter, John. Cultural Politics of Everyday Life. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993.

Shotter, John. Conversational Realities: the Construction of Life Through Language. New York: Sage, 1993.

April 21st: Indivisibility, Commitment, and Conflict


Fearon, James. “Rationalist Explanations for War,” International Organization 49,3 (1995): 379-414.

Toft, Monica. “Indivisible Territory, Geographic Concentration, and Ethnic War,” Security Studies 12,2 (2002):82-119.

Hassner, Ron. “To Halve and to Hold: Conflicts over Sacred Space and the Problem of Indivisibility,” Security Studies 12,4 (2003):1-33.

Hassner, Ron. “The Path to Intractability: Time and Entrenchment of Territorial Disputes,” International Security 31,3 (2006/2007): 107-138.

Goddard, Stacie E. “Uncommon Ground: Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimation,” International Organization 60,1 (2006): 35-68.


Diehl, Paul, ed. 1999. A Road Map to War: Territorial Dimensions of International Conflict. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

Elster, Jon. 1989. Solomonic Judgements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Elster, Jon. 1995. Strategic Uses of Argument. In Barriers to Conflict Resolution, edited by Kenneth Arrow, 236—57. New York: Norton.

Kniss, Fred. 1996. Ideas and Symbols as Resources in Intrareligious Conflict: the Case of American Mennonites. Sociology of Religion 57 (1):7-23.

Lustick, Ian S. 1993. Unsettled States, Disputed lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Powell, Robert. “War as a Commitment Problem,” International Organization 60,1 (2006): 169-203.

Toft, Monica. The Geography of Ethnic Violence: Identity, Interests, and the Indivisibility of Territory. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Walter, Barbara. “Explaining the Intractability of Territorial Conflict,” International Studies Review 5,4 (2003): 137-153.

Week of April 28th: Paper Presentations

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.