International Relations 2: Contemporary World Politics

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

International Relations 1: Foundations of World Politics (IR1) and International Relations 2: Contemporary World Politics (IR2) are linked half-units that together provide a comprehensive grounding in international relations theory and contemporary world politics. Although linked conceptually, theoretically, and thematically, the half-units can be taken as stand-alone courses.

International Relations 2: Contemporary World Politics is designed to provide students who have a background in international relations theory and post-1945 world politics, or who have completed IR1, with an in-depth critical overview of key developments and issues in contemporary world politics. Focusing on the period since 1989, the module develops a critical understanding of an era defined by rapid institutional innovation and development as well as a number of global issues, problems and policy dilemmas. IR2 enables students to build a layered and nuanced account of contemporary world politics by which to analyse concrete issues and policies as they impact the global north and south, and the relations between them. Specific topics include the centrality of the United States to the post-Cold War international order and its implications for structures and institutions of global governance, emerging patterns of global biopolitics associated with regulation of disease, famine and resources, the role of transnational corporations in the political economy of global governance as well as trade, production, and the environment, the rise of global resistance movements (from Seattle to Occupy and the Arab Spring), the politics of migration (refugees, diasporas and workers), and the diverse north-south interventions associated with new wars, securitized development and peacebuilding.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Critical knowledge of international relations theory
  • Critical knowledge of contemporary global policy frameworks including globalization, neoliberalism and the Global War on Terror
  • Knowledge of key international institutional and organizational developments in the post-1989 period
  • Knowledge of key policy issues and developments in the post-1989 period
  • Ability to apply international relations theory critically to post-1989 period in order to explain and understand key policy and political developments and events


The module will be taught over 10 weeks with one 1 hour lecture and one 1 hour tutorial per week.

Method of assessment

  • Assessment one (5000 words); 100%

Suggested reading

  • Rita Abrahamsen and Michael Williams, Security Beyond the State: Private Security in International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)
  • Pratap Chatterjee and Mattias Finger, The Earth Brokers: Power, Politics and World Development (London: Routledge, 1994)
  • Mark Duffield, Global Governance and the New Wars: The Merging of Development and Security (London: Zed Books, 2001)
  • Derek Gregory, The Colonial Present: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004)
  • David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)
  • Branwen Gruffydd Jones (ed.) Decolonizing International Relations (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006)
  • Robert Pollin, Contours of Descent: US Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity (London: Verso, 2005)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules