This Module aims at providing you with the theoretical tools lending explanations to your field of research. You will get to know both traditional theories of international relations as well as innovative strands of thought from related fields of social inquiry. This Module thereby incorporates available insights from the fields of sociology, neurosciences, (behavioral) economics as well as network-analysis, and joins them with political science. Furthermore, the connection between theoretical lenses and their application to genuine policy questions will be established.
Explaining Global Politics: The Game of Using Theories
|12 Weeks à 15hrs|
|Flexible Starting Date - Details on Request|
|Optional on-site Workshop|
|Credits: 8 ECTS|
|Supervision by Dedicated Instructor|
|State of the Art LMS Canvas|
- You will get the opportunity to discuss and assess the comparative strengths and weaknesses of theoretical approaches in explaining social processes.
- You will be able not only to deal with theoretical considerations but also to work on practical tasks such as making policy recommendations in regard to different theoretical understandings of a conflict situation.
- You will be provided with practical skills concerning linking theories with practice, active participation in controversial discussions, presenting and supporting your own arguments and elaborating a well-structured research paper.
- Submitting two reaction papers as blog entries addressing the material covered in the corresponding part.
- Taking an active part in the subsequent discussion and commenting on the reaction papers of your peers.
- Researching and evaluating the work of either an intergovernmental or a non-governmental organization in the form of a final paper.
Part 01: Introduction to Global Politics
This unit sets the stage for introducing you to a range of theories—classical state-centric international relations theories as well as other approaches presenting tools for understanding and explaining policy challenges. It introduces the concept of global politics and how theories about global politics can be differentiated along three dimensions: (1) ontologically, (2) epistemologically, and (3) normatively. After completing this unit, the student will also be familiar with the concept of ‘levels of analysis’ as a conceptual typology that helps to meaningfully structure research by reflecting who counts as an actor and what causal mechanisms might be involved in global politics as a result.
- What are ‘global politics’ and why is it a more adequate term than ‘international relations?’
- How can we distinguish between theories of global politics?
- What is the difference between rationalist / positivist and post-positivist theories of global politics?
- What are the levels of analysis?
- How can levels of analysis structure research in global politics?
Part 02: Global Politics and the State
After completing this unit, you will have gained an understanding of the realist school of thought in global politics, including classical realism. You will be familiar with realism’s assumptions and history. In addition, you will gain insight into the difficulty realists (and neorealists) anticipate regarding the establishment of international cooperation.
- What makes a theory ‘realist?’
- What are key assumptions of most realist theories?
- In global politics, what is the key variable for realists?
- What is the security dilemma?
- How does realism relate to the levels of analysis?
- After completing this unit, you will have an understanding of neorealism. You should be able to state the theory’s key hypotheses, describe the theory’s causal mechanisms, and explain logical and empirical critiques of the theory. Furthermore, you will have an understanding of subsequent debates in neorealism.
- What is neorealism?
- How does neorealism differ from classical realism?
- Why is bipolarity less conflict-prone than multipolarity?
- Why is neorealism described as a ‘systemic’ theory?
- How could you empirically test neorealism?
- What is the source of threat in neorealism?
- What criticisms have been levelled against neorealism?
- One of the main competitors to neorealist theories are institutionalist theories. This unit will familiarize the student with both complex interdependence and regime theory as the two main forms of institutionalist thought in the study of global politics. In closing, the student has the opportunity to learn about neo-institutionalism and institutional change.
- What are the advantages of neo-institutionalist approaches?
- Do international institutions matter?
- What does interdependence mean?
- How does interdependence relate to power?
- What is a regime?
- How can we explain cooperation under anarchy?
Part 03: Global Politics Beyond the State
- In this unit, you will learn about the liberal school of thought. You will know about the assumptions and history of the school of liberalism and also learn about what sets it apart from both realist and institutionalist thought. Specifically, we will focus on three important varieties of new liberal theories of global politics: (1) new liberalism, (2) democratic peace theory, and (3) transnationalism.
- What are the basic characteristics of new liberalism?
- What are the differences and similarities between liberalism and realism?
- What are the differences and similarities between liberalism and institutionalism?
- What is the rationale for the democratic peace argument?
- What is transnationalism?
- After completing this unit, you will understand the essentials of constructivism on different levels of inquiry: the philosophical, the metatheoretical, the theoretical, and the empirical levels. In addition, the constructivist claim to international cooperation will be discussed and Alexander Wendt’s findings will be introduced as a particular strand of constructivist thought in international affairs. At the end of this unit you should be able to explain the major differences between constructivism and traditional approaches in the study of global politics.
- What are the basic characteristics of constructivism?
- What are the four levels of constructivism?
- How is Wendt’s constructivist theory similar to neorealist theories?
- How is Wendt’s constructivist theory different from neorealist theories?
- How would you know if a state were Lockean?
- How would you now if a system were Kantian?
Part 04: New Challenges in Global Politics
The network as a specific organizational form has become increasingly widespread. There are different forms of networks. This unit defines key characteristics of the network form of organization and discusses the main factors that explain its emergence. It then looks specifically at transgovernmental and at transnational non-governmental networks. The last section addresses some legitimacy concerns that are raised by the phenomenon of governance through networks.
- What are networks? How do they differ from other types of organized interaction?
- What specifically are transgovernmental networks and what different types exist?
- How are non-governmental networks different from transgovernmental ones?
- Is governance by and through networks normatively acceptable or problematic?
- This unit introduces you to fundamental questions of political organization in the 21st century. It provocatively asks you whether politics can still be organized in conventional ways or whether we witness an era, in which we will have to find entirely new ways of ‘doing’ politics. You will also be introduced to examples of this broader problem: first, you will learn about the phenomenon that policy seems no longer be able to solve problems. We will then discuss the post-modern space-time compression, before finally turning to ‘new adhocracy,’ the phenomenon that traditional political actors are substituted or replaced by new ad hoc coalitions.
- What are challenges traditional research in global politics faces today?
- How are messy policy problems and power deadlocks interrelated?
- What are the implications for studying and doing global politics?
- How has the compression of time and space created problems for traditional conceptions of politics?
- What do we mean by ‘new adhocracy?’