[skip to content]

Department of Politics and International Studies

The international organisation of world politics

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Term 1

This course provides an advanced introduction to the function and study of major international organisations in the international system. Attention will be devoted to: the idea and history of the international institution as a form of political order; conceptual frameworks to explain and understand international organisations, including neorealism, neoliberal institutionalism, constructivism, and critical approaches; debates focused on security, reconstruction, and development in relation to the United Nations system; political economy problems centred on the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the World Trade Organisation; and the management of the global climate crisis involving the United Nations and other political agencies. Consideration will also be devoted to the importance of regionalism in the EU context. International institutions have shaped world politics in complex and multiple ways. 

However, they have not had quite the impact on international relations for which many people hoped. One key objective when studying international organisations is to evaluate what contributions to international life they make; specifically in terms of achievements, illusions of internationalism, endemic faults of multilateralism, as well as boundary disputes between what is classified as ‘public’ and ‘private’. Another key objective is to not divorce theoretical knowledge from practical knowledge but, rather, to identify how conceptual approaches can shape the definition of empirical problems and the means by which such problems may be explained.

Students of this course must have taken International Politics in Year 2. 


153400001 Introduction to Political Theory AND 153400063 Comparative and International Politics AND 153400014 International Politics.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

On successful completion of this course, students should be able to demonstrate skills in the following areas:

Course-specific skills
  1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of debates within field of international organisations, including relevant conceptual frameworks, the international institutional history of such bodies, and major contemporary problems in key issue areas;
  2. Demonstrate the ability to articulate one’s own ethical and political positions on questions of international organisation;
Discipline-specific skills
  1. Demonstrate a systematic understanding of knowledge on international organisation, and a critical awareness of current problems;
  2. Demonstrate a conceptual understanding that enables you to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline;
  3. Evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, propose new hypotheses;
Personal and key skills
  1. Communicate effectively in speech and writing.
  2. Work independently and with peers to achieve common goals.

Method of assessment


Suggested reading

Initial readings:
  • Clive Archer, International Organizations (London: Routledge, 2001).
  • Michael Barnett and Martha Finnemore, Rules for the World: International Organizations in Global Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004).
  • Andrea Hasenclever, Peter Mayer, and Volker Rittberger, Theories of International Regimes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
  • Ian Hurd, International Organizations: Politics, Law, Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
  • Margaret P. Karns and Karen A. Mingst, International Organizations: The Politics and Processes of Global Governance (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009).