Mike Rossi


Actual Position

Courses » International Relations

Content: International Relations

Table of Contents


This introductory course seeks to develop students’ skills in understanding how states and non-state actors interact with one another at the international level. Through an examination of the actors, the issues, and events, which transcend national boundaries, we will examine three general themes:

Several disciplines, including history, economics, philosophy and power politics, help us to understand international relations. Introductory IR courses have traditionally placed the state at the center of all analyses. States have traditionally been seen as unitary actors expressing the collective interest of the entire population (or at the very least, sectors of the population that mattered in terms of policy-making). As argued by the Realist tradition for more than 2,500 years, the state is the dominant actor in the international arena, but its prominence has increasingly come under competition by the rise in a variety of non-state actors over the past fifty to seventy-five years. Some are intergovernmental organizations like the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. Others are non-governmental organizations, such as Red Cross, Amnesty International, and multinational corporations (some of whose annual profit margins excel the GDP of many Third World countries). With this in mind, a fourth question is added to our central focus:

Target Group

This class is open to all students, but is geared specifically for Freshmen and Sophomores who are just beginning their study of international politics, foreign affairs, causes of war, conflict resolution, and international organization. It is a 100-level course that is designed to give students a basic understanding of theory, historical events of the past two hundred years and American foreign policy. Students who want to focus on international studies should use this class as a path to more advanced classes on specific IR studies and disciplines. I assume students have little to no prior knowledge of international issues, and spend considerable time in the first half of class covering theories and understandings of state interaction and the reasons for and against warfare.

Course Structure

The class is balanced between dedicated focus on theory and empirical examples. There is more theory in the first half of class than the second, but I feel the need to keep an alternating curriculum is both necessary and beneficial. Because this is an introductory class, it is primarily lecture oriented, with students banking as much information as possible. It doesn't rely on memorization, but it does necessitate an understanding of prevailing theories in the discipline before any empirical examples can be studied: realism, liberalism, constructivism, Marxism, institutionalism, etc. The second half of class examines international affairs since the League of Nations, and includes studies of the Cold War, America as a unipolar power, the "war on terror", theories of globalization, evolving understandings of warfare, and contemporary challenges to state sovereignty.

As with most introductory courses, there is an in-class midterm and final, a short paper, and class participation all factored into the final grade.

Work Material

I've tried a number of combinations of readings, areas of study and textbooks over the years and finally settled on the Jackson and Sørensen reader for its good reference material. The big problem with any course textbook is that there's always some struggle between something that is readable to undergraduates and something that is informative. I decided to go with substance over comfort, saving that for the lectures and supplementary readings. Students have noted that the book can be "dry", "boring", and at times "complicated", but have also noted it gives them what they need to know, and does a good job explaining the many different theories.

Additional readings, particularly in the second half of class, draws from Joseph Nye's book Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation, which was the book I used when I was an undergraduate. Both serve as textbook readings that are accompanied by a few extra scholarly articles I read while taking the graduate-level seminar.

Author Bibliographic Data
Bennett, A. LeRoy and James K. Oliver International Organizations, Principles and Issues. Prentice Hall, 2001 [LeOl01]
Carr, E.H. The Twenty Years’ Crisis – 1919 – 1939. New York: Harper and Row, 1964 [Car64]

Doyle, Michael “Liberalism and World Politics”, American Political Science Review, vol. 80, no. 4 (1986), pp. 1151 – 1169 [Doy86]
Hopf, Ted "The Promise of Constructivism in International Relations Theory”, International Security, vol. 23, no. 1 (1998), pp. 171 – 200 [Hop88]
Jackson, Robert and Goerg Sørensen Introduction to International Relations Theories and Approaches 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010

Jervis, Robert “Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma” World Politics,, vol. 30, no. 2 (1978), pp. 167 – 214

Layne, Christopher “The Unipolar Illusion: Why New Great Powers Will Rise” International Security, vol. 17, no. 4 (1993), pp. 5 – 51

Machiavelli, Niccolo 
The Prince. New York: Penguin Books, 1961
Mansfield, Edward and Jack Snyder “Democratization and the Dangers of War”, International Security, vol. 20, no. 1 (1995), pp. 5 – 38

Mearscheimer, John “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War”, International Security, vol. 15, no. 1 (1990), pp. 5 – 56
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004 [NatCom04]
Nye, Joseph S. Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation, 8th edition. New York: Longman Press, 2010
Scheuer, Michael 
Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. Washington DC: Brassey’s Inc, 2004
Wendt, Alexander 
“Constructing International Politics”, International Security, vol. 20, no. 1 (1995), pp. 71 – 81


©Michael Rossi – http://michael-rossi.demokratio.info