International relations

The Politics of Foreign Policy

Module code: L2090
Level 5
15 credits in spring semester
Teaching method: Seminar, Lecture
Assessment modes: Coursework, Essay

Who acts in international relations, and why? All too often, in international relations theory the answer seems to be states, or other collective actors, with their interactions determined by the logic of broad systemic forces. However, this leaves out that actors may have choices and how they arrive at such choices. Foreign policy making is a political process with domestic implications, and concepts such as 'the national interest' are by no means as clear and uncontested as foreign policy elites would like to make out. The module draws on classical and critical literature in foreign policy analysis to explore the broad tension between agency and structure (domestic and international) in international politics. It asks how decision-making in international politics may be less than rational, for a variety of reasons; how lobby groups and (perhaps) public opinion may influence foreign policy; and whether foreign policy still matters in an age of globalisation. The module will conclude with a look at the contemporary foreign policies of selected states.

This module will be assessed by a 3,000-word essay.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a theoretical appreciation of the meaning of foreign policy in contemporary global politics.
  • Demonstrate an empirical appreciation of the key contemporary issues in foreign policy.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking and reasoning skills in writing about the analysis of foreign policy.