cod. 1005945

Academic year 2017/18
1° year of course - First semester
Academic discipline
Storia delle dottrine politiche (SPS/02)
Type of training activity
54 hours
of face-to-face activities
9 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

The course’s main aim is twofold: on the one hand, students will be provided with a basic knowledge on the dynamics that shape international politics (from past to more recent and current developments); on the other hand, it is expected that students will acquire both the basic analytical tools and the ability to critically understand those dynamics through the lenses of great International Relations (IR) paradigms.

Knowledge and understanding

The course will provide students with a deep knowledge of authors, works and topics that have characterized the discipline’s main debates, putting them in historical perspective. At the end of the course, students will acquire the ability to critically understand IR main approaches (realism, liberalism, constructivism and the English School) and to interpret major events and dynamics of current international politics.

Applying knowledge and understanding.

The course will take in consideration main IR theoretical approaches and, for each of them, a case study taken from recent history will be analyzed. Also recent international politics dynamics and possible future scenarios will be considered, with a specific focus on current international events and phenomena. At the end of the course, students should acquire the ability to analyze current international politics main issues and to critically understand the debate on the causes of war, peace, cooperation and conflict. The analysis of IR great traditions will help students to develop their own critical understanding of the events and dynamics that have shaped international politics over the last few decades, providing them with the capacity to interpret and evaluate future political scenarios. 

Making judgments

On the basis of historical and theoretical analytical tools, and through the reference to the thought of authors that have contributed to shape IR main theoretical debates, at the end of the course students will gain the ability to critically interpret international politics major dynamics. They should also be able to present their own point of view on the current political debate in a clear and proper manner, also taking in consideration other existing analytical perspectives


The study of International Politics represents a discipline that is even more relevant today. As for other social sciences, International Relations is characterized by its own jargon and its own way to present concepts and theoretical paradigms. At the end of the course, students should be able to clearly express and debate IR issues, also with the reference to the main theoretical views and approaches that characterize the discipline.


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Course unit content

The course will provide students with an overview of International Relations’ (IR) main theoretical approaches (realism, liberalism, constructivism and the English School), paying attention also to current global political dynamics and with a specific regional focus on the Middle East. The course is divided in two main sections, one institutional and one monographic.

- The institutional section will be devoted to the analysis of great IR theoretical traditions (classical realism, neorealism and heterodox realism, liberalism and neoliberal institutionalism, constructivism and the English School). Building on the analysis of the work of classical political thinkers (i.e. Hobbes, Machiavelli, Locke, Kant and Grotius), the course will focus on main approaches to International Relations, paying attention to those notions (anarchy, balance of power, hegemony), theories (both “Second Image” and Systemic), hypotheses (the democratic peace, the decline of war) and debates (the clash of civilizations, terrorism) that have shaped the discipline over the last thirty years.

- In the monographic part, the course will focus on the Middle East and its recent history, with a particular reference to inter-state wars and current dynamics (the effects of the Arab Springs, internationalized civil conflict and terrorism).

Between the first and the second part, a workshop session will be scheduled (5 classes): the first three classes of the workshop will involve only LM-RIE students; they will critically debate realist approaches to IR and the English School and prepare a short presentation. The last two classes of the workshop will involve all the students (including LM-PGSS students); in these two classes LM-RIE students will present their topic to their mates.

Attending this workshop session is highly recommended for both groups:

- LM-PGSS students (Social Services) will have the opportunity to get the basic elements of realist approaches to IR and the English School, thus acquiring a fundamental key to approach the readings.

- LM-RIE students (Political Science) who will choose to present in this workshop session will have the possibility to get an early assessment: for this, a grade will be assigned to the speakers; they can decide either to refuse it (if it does not match with their expectations) or take it as a bonus to the exam (that will be reduced in this case).

Full programme

Detailed schedule for both groups: h

First Week | Introduction [GROUPS LM-RIE and LM-PGSS]

1. Zones of War and Zones of Peace: introduction and Course overview

2. Introduction to the study of International Politics: classic works, main questions. International relations as a field of study: an overview

3. One world, many theories: Realism, Liberalism, Constructivism, basic assumptions and criticism. Why is there no international Theory?

Second Week | Liberal Utopianism, liberalism and neoliberal institutionalism [GROUPS LM-RIE and LM-PGSS]

4. Introduction to liberalism: the fathers of the liberal thought. The “great illusion” of war (Angell). 

5. Neoliberalism and institutionalism: the limits of war and collective security mechanisms. Utility and limits of collective security. The persistence of international institutions after the end of the cold war.

6. The Democratic Peace research program: monadic causes of peace, Kant and his tripod (Triangulating peace). Critiques to the Democratic Peace. Are there other separated peaces? Wealth, development and peace.

Third Week | Realism, Neorealism and Heterodox realism [GROUP LM-RIE only]

7. Introduction to Realism: classical realism (Morgenthau, Niebuhr, Carr); the importance of being parsimonious; basic concepts.

8. Neorealism: anarchy and the international system; systemic explanations (Waltz); offensive (Mearsheimer) and defensive realism

9. Heterodox Realism (Aron): the systemic relevance of ideology; bipolar and multipolar systems; homogeneous and heterogeneous systems

Fourth Week | The balance of power [GROUP LM-RIE only]

10. Balance of power (I): from classical realism to neorealism; balancing and bandwagoning; the balance of power in bipolar and multipolar systems

11. Balance of power (II): from the balance of power to the balance of threat (Walt). The historical view of George Liska. 

12. Case study: the (Second) Thirty Years War (1914-1945)

Fifth Week | Hegemony, the English School and Civilizations in Conflict [GROUP LM-RIE only]

13. Hegemony and stability: the hegemonic cycles. Causes and phases of hegemonic war. The limits of hegemony; American hegemony: the stability of a unipolar world; China as an anti-hegemonic power?

14. The English School: Historical context and basic traits. The Anarchical society: Order, Justice and Institutions. The expansion of the International Society

15. Civilizations in conflict: Huntington’s cultural realism.

Sixth Week | Discussion and Presentations [GROUP LM-RIE only]

16. Discussion on Realism and Neorealism and presentation set up
17. Discussion on Reflective realism and presentation set up
18. Discussion on the English School and presentation set up

Seventh Week | Students’ Presentations and introduction to constructivism [GROUPS LM-RIE and LM-PGSS]

19. Students’ presentations
20. Students’ presentations
21. Introduction to constructivism: describing and understanding (Weber). Constructivist assumptions: agency, social practices and structures. Social Theory of International Politics: different cultures of anarchy; brutal and social facts.

Eighth Week | Monographic part I. The Middle East [GROUPS LM-RIE and LM-PGSS]
22. The Middle East: historical and political coordinates I
23. The Middle East: historical and political coordinates II
24. Iran and Turkey

Ninth Week | Monographic part II. The Middle East [GROUPS LM-RIE and LM-PGSS]

25. The causes of the Arab Springs

26. The effects of the Arab Springs
27. The strategies of terrorism: the strategic logic of suicide terrorism; the target of terrorism; how terrorism ends. Jihadist terrorism


The bibliography for the final exam includes two books and, for non attendants, an additional book.

Institutional Part:
- Political Science Students (LM-RIE): Andreatta F. (ed. by) 2017, Classic Works in International Relations, EBOOK available at, Bologna: Il Mulino (All chapters excluding Ch. 4, 6, 9, 10 and 15). Please get in contact with the Instructor for details.
- Social Services Students (LM-PGSS): L. Bonanate, La politica internazionale tra terrorismo e guerra, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2004 (163 p.) [Students who cannot read in Italian are kindly asked to get in contact with the Instructor for substitutive readings]
** Please note that the book by Bonanate is no longer available. In substitution, PGSS students must study the book by Andreatta F. (ed. by) 2017, Classic Works in International Relations, EBOOK available at, Bologna: Il Mulino (All chapters excluding Ch. 4, 6, 9, 10 and 15).

Monographic part:
For both groups (LM-RIE and LM-PGSS):
- A.Locatelli, V.E. Parsi, L’onda lunga della primavera araba. Implicazioni teoriche e sfide geopolitiche, Milano, Vita&Pensiero, 2013 (245 p.) [Students who cannot read in Italian are kindly asked to get in contact with the Instructor for substitutive readings]

Non attending students must study an additional book from the following list:
- A. Colombo, La guerra ineguale. Pace e violenza nel tramonto della società internazionale, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2006 (330p.)
- A. Colombo, Tempi decisivi. Natura e retorica delle crisi internazionali, Milano, Feltrinelli, 2014 (266 p.)
- M. Clementi, Primi fra pari. Egemonia, guerra e ordine internazionale, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2011 (368 p.)
- M. Wight, Le tre tradizioni, Il Ponte editrice, 2011 (481 p.)

Students who cannot read in Italian are kindly asked to get in contact with the Instructor for substitutive readings

For an overview of readings see:

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons, during which students will be involved on international politics’ main debates. A workshop session is also scheduled between the institutional and the monographic part.

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam is different for the two groups (Political Science and Social Services Students). A further distinction is between attending (at least 80% of the course) and non attending students.

>Social Services Students (LM-PGSS):
- Attending Students: the exam is written on the notes, slides and the two books;
- Non attending Students: the exam is oral on the three books (two compulsory and one selected)

>Political Science Students (LM-RIE):
- Attending students: the exam is oral on the notes, slides and the two books. Students who take part to the Workshop session can redeem their bonus
- Non attending: the exam is oral on the three books (two compulsory and one selected)

Other information

The class is divided in two separate groups:

- LM-RIE Students (Political Science) have to attend all the course from September to December (54 hours, 9CFU), i.e. three classes a week (Classes 1 to 27)

- LM-PGSS Students (Social Services) have to attend the first part (i.e. the introduction to the institutional part, 6 classes in the first 2 weeks) and the last part of the course (i.e. the monographic part, 3 weeks - last 9 classes) 30 hours in total (6CFU). This means that LM-PGSS students do not have to attend class in October (Classes 7 to 18), coming back at the beginning of November (classes 19 to 27).