The Duck of Minerva

More on Zombies and Drezner


8 February 2011

Charli’s post raises a number of good points about TIPZ. I’ve written elsewhere about how much I enjoyed Drezner’s presentation about the book, but until today I hadn’t confessed that I’ve taken my enjoyment one step further … by assigning the book for my summer school Intro to IR course.

This will be my first time teaching. I hope assigning TIPZ doesn’t mean that it will be my last.

Drezner’s book, of course, is part of a balanced meal that includes Frieden, Lake, and Schultz’s textbook and a great selection of accessible IS and Foreign Affairs articles, among other readings. But I really wanted to have a reading that would allow me to review the “grand theories” of IR without having to go over the same! old! examples! that everyone uses. Hence, Zombies.

So, here’s my question for Charli and others. Drezner leaves a lot out in his account of IR theory, and includes some things (like American foreign policy) that are hardly au courant instead. But how much of IR theory should we introduce undergrads to in their first courses? Right now, 20 percent of my lecture time in the syllabus is given over to realism–liberalism–constructivism, which is about as much as the courses for which I’ve TA’d. I could incorporate more theoretical diversity, but that would mean dropping my coverage of bread-and-butter IS and IPE issues or giving up one of the substantive days I’ve programmed for terrorism, ethnic conflict, the rise of China, and so forth. Post-colonialism is important, but does it belong in intro courses?

I ask sincerely. To put it bluntly, I think that there are some topics in IR theory intro courses which are basically zombie examples themselves. One of my goals in putting together my syllabus was to de-emphasize historical topics like the Cold War (which, yes, is historical these days). Students in the courses for which I’ve TA’d over the past three years simply do not have the preparation in twentieth century history to grasp these examples as swiftly as their counterparts in 1981 or 1991 would have. But if by throwing history overboard to make room for more recent theorizing I’ve instead overly narrowed the course, I’d certainly like to know so that I can revise the syllabus for the next time I teach (if they let me!).