SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

International theory

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

This ten-week International Theory module aims to introduce postgraduate students to a selection of historically significant, interesting and challenging ways of thinking about world politics. These theoretical concepts and approaches will inform your further specialised coursework and independent dissertation research in the MSc programme, but are also objects of academic research in and of themselves.

As well as exploring the value, logic of and evidence for different approaches to the ‘international’, we will pay particular attention to the historical conditions in which ideas emerged and were contested, and how they are reconstituted in the present. Of central relevance here is the emergence of International Relations as a scholarly discipline. We will look at how approaches deploy key concepts such as power, identity, authority and historical development, and which levels of analysis they highlight. We will also reflect on their authors’ aspirations for political relevance, scholarly validity and social progress. Moreover, we will examine the transformational potential of international theories to reframe our own political questions.

Each week’s study will consist of a lecture, independent reading and a group tutorial on a specific topic, and two written assignments are due. As a rough guide, you should be spending an average of ten hours per week on work for the module, although this may vary according to your own module loads etc.

Objectives and Learning Outcomes of the module

By the end of the module you should be able to:

  • Understand the historical emergence of the international system
  • Understand, appreciate and critique a range of different theoretical approaches to world politics with clarity, precision and imagination
  • Identify how international theory interacts with the practices of world politics
  • Discuss questions about the status of theory and social scientific knowledge
  • Apply your understanding of theoretical problems in new domains and to new events

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  • An ability to engage with competing scholarly perspectives in international politics
  • A sound knowledge of the academic literature in international politics and international relations
  • An ability to deploy relevant concepts appropriately given their theoretical grounding
  • Familiarity with alternative theoretical frameworks
  • Competence in sustaining their own arguments and supporting them with evidence, theoretical grounding and reference to relevant literatures


  • One hour lecture per week
  • One hour tutorial per week

Method of assessment

Assessment is 30% coursework and 70% unseen exam.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules