Explanatory Models in International Relations

6 credits

Teacher responsible: Prof. Leonardo Parri

The subject that we today call “International Relations” (IR) is heterogeneous: while the discipline originated from a marriage between political science and history, today’s IR theories have strong links with sociology and economics, too. IR is therefore a member of the family of social sciences, with which it shares many characteristics. The analysis of the scientific status of social research is thus relevant for the proper understanding of IR. Like natural sciences, social sciences aim in fact at answering “what?”, “why?” and “how?” questions concerning phenomena.

The first part of the course provides students with the basic conceptual tools of the philosophy and methodology of social science.Theoretical models capable of explaining empirical social phenomena, connecting their macro and micro aspects, are singled out as crucial analytical instruments.

The second part of the course is devoted to explanatory models in IR, which are theoretically examined and empirically applied. In particular, the models of strategic rational action, the security dilemma and the outbreak of war are considered. The issues of strategy, security and war are then analyzed in the framework of the game theoretical approach, both in its classical version and in the more recent variant of the theory of moves, which will be applied to three case studies taken from world politics.

The third part of the course is devoted to seminar discussions of two game theoretical case studies of international crises, which are explained by means of the theory of moves.

Preparatory Readings:

Elster, J. (1989), Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences, Cambridge UP.

Boudon, R. (2002), Sociology That Really Matters, European Sociological Review, v. 18, n. 3, pp. 371-378.

Walt, S. M: (1998), International Relations: One World, Many Theories, Foreign Policy, n. 110, Spring, pp. 29-46.

Snyder, J. (2004), One World, Rival Theories, Foreign Policy, n. 145, Nov.-Dec., pp. 52-62.

Walt, S.M. (2002), The Enduring Relevance of the Realist Tradition, in I. Katznelson, H.W. Milner (eds.), Political Science. The State of the Discipline, New York, Norton, 197-230.

Levy, J.S. (1997), Too Important to Leave to the Other: History and Political Science in the Study of International Relations, International Security, v. 22, n. 1, pp. 22-33.

Levy, J.S. (1998), The Causes of War and the Conditions of Peace, Annual Review of Political Science, v. 1, pp. 139-65.

Enrolled students may view the full course syllabus via Kiro.