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Michigan State University

International Relations: Theory

Covers international law, institutions, theory of international relations, foreign policy, international political economy, environment, human rights, food security, national security.

Role of Theory

"The standard IR article consists of pushing a huge rock of theory up a steep hill, in order to roll it down to smash a few pebbles of fact at the bottom. That is, the modal manuscript starts by outlining the three standard theories: realism, liberalism, constructivism (sometimes subdivided into neo-realism, neo-liberalism, and so on). Articles then diverge slightly - some seek to show that these apparently different theories can really be combined to show X; others seek to show that one of the theories is right and the other two are wrong, as evidenced by an explanation of X; a few argue that none of the three quite suffices to explain X, so we need a new theory (or more frequently, a variant of one of the old ones)." J. Hochschild (2005), as cited in The Oxford Handbook of International Relations (p.110).

Other Useful Websites

Conversations with History: International Relations Theory and Practice - UC Berkeley Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation  video interviews with long list of IR Theorists and Practitioners.

Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations - William and Mary College

International Relations Theory: Wikipedia - outline to various elements within Wikipedia dealing with IR

Background Sources

International Relations Theory (Oxford Bibliographies Online) -

International Relations Theory for the 21st Century: An Introduction  Main Library Stacks JZ 1305 .I5658 2007

IR Theory - Knowledgebase list of various theories; good list of research institutes and key journals, and link to an international discussion list on IR theory.

Millennial Reflections on International Studies (2002) -

Oxford Handbook of International Relations - Main Library Stacks JZ 1242 .O94 2008

Progress in International Relations Theory - Main Library Stacks JZ 1242 .P76 2003 (Also available online)

Rethinking International Relations Theory - Main Library StacksJZ 1305 .G76X 2011

Finding Journal Articles and Papers

Political Science Complete. Provides full text for over 500 publications, and cover-to-cover indexing and abstracts for more than 1995 journals. The database also features more than 189 full-text reference books and monographs, and over 27,000 full text conference papers, including those of the International Political Science Association.

Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO). Indexes and selectively publishes post-1990 scholarship and reports on international affairs. Provides full-text access to relevant Columbia University Press titles and many recent journals, papers from university research institutes and non-governmental organizations, foundation-funded research projects, and conference proceedings. CIAO also has links to international affairs centers, institutes, and other resources; U.S., international, and foreign government sites; environmental studies web pages; and news media services.

Subject Guide

Julia Ezzo's picture
Julia Ezzo
Michigan State University