Crowdsourcing Syllabus Design: A Bleg

Dec 3, 2009

It may come as a surprise to you that, having spent most of my career in a policy school, I have never taught a doctoral seminar surveying the field of IR theory. Until now. Frankly, I’m pretty daunted by trying to squeeze the empirical, substantive, methodological, epistemological and theoretical complexity of the entire field into a semester. I’ve settled on making sure they have a basic foundation on which to begin the IR comp reading list: a grasp of relevant international history, parameters of debate between major theoretical schools, familiarity with the substance of the key subfields, plus a chance to develop the basic skill-sets they need to survive doctoral work at UMass, where cross-subfield work is encouraged.

So the plan is to have them to read seven canonical books in seven weeks, each one exemplifying a major school of thought or IR subfield.* The rest of the readings will be articles to complement the books. My problem is in identifying the single most important canonical book to exemplify each of these thematic weeks.

Question: If you were going to assign one and only one book for each of the following weeks to a gateway doctoral seminar in IR theory for political science students who may or may not choose IR as their major field, what would that book be?

1) Realism and Neorealism
2) Liberalism and Neoliberal Institutionalism
3) Constructivism
4) Critical Theory (will incorporate feminist IR here)
5) International Security
6) International Political Economy
7) International Institutions (Law and Organizations)

*The remaining six weeks will include the Introduction, a Concepts and History week to give them some working facts and jargon, and a Classical IR Theory week where we do Thucydides, Kant, Hobbes etc, plus three weeks of skill-building at the end where guest speakers come through to present work in progress on cross-cutting themes that engage the various theories and/or subfields.

Many thanks in advance.


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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.