ASTK15634U  CANCELLED - COURSE: Sociological approaches in International Relations

Volume 2015/2016

Elective in the Specialisation "International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies"

Bachelor level 10 ECTS

Master level 7.5 ECTS



Twenty years ago, constructivism rose within the discipline of International Relation (IR) as the main challenger of rational theory (liberalism and realism).  Instead of approaching the world as a given as do rationalism, constructivism defended a position that can be summarised by the two following claims: the social constructions of knowledge and the social construction of reality (Guzzini 2000, 149). Nowadays, constructivists are firmly established within IR discipline, which geared the theoretical attention of the discipline to the role of social construction. In so doing, constructivism has opened the door for IR to develop richer analytical frameworks through disciplinary borrowing from the field of sociology. In that spirit, the International Studies Association has sought to engage deeper with sociology and social theory by creating in 2007 an International Political Sociological section as well as the journal of International Political Sociology. In light of these recent developments within the discipline of IR, the course explores how sociology has contributed to IR theory and the study of world politics. The objective is twofold. On the one hand, it critically engages with the interconnection between sociology and IR theories by combining readings from both fields. On the other, it looks at specific empirical issues and aims to critically assess the merits and limits to approach international relations from a sociological point of view.


The course is expected to be structure according to the following headings

Part 1

1. Introduction

2. The early days: the theoretical project of constructivism

3. Pioneer 1: The agent-structure problem and structuration theory

4. Pioneer 2:  Social Institutions

5. The role of discourse 1: Self and Others

6. The role of discourse 2: Speech Acts

7: The role of social interactions 1: Assessing social practice

8:  The role of social interactions 2: Micro-macro

9: Issue area 1: States

10- Issue area 2: Market

11- Issue area 3: Security

12- Issue area 4: International Organisations

13- Issue area 5: International Law

14: Conclusion

Learning Outcome

After the completion of the class, the student should a) be able to critically engages with scientific work that are at the intersection between international theory and sociology, b) be able to critically assess the merits and limits to approach international relations from a sociological point of view 3) have the capacity to formulate research questions that open the door to sociological approaches in international relations 4) be able to make informed analysis of the constructivist literature.

Week 1. Introduction

Week 2. Constructivism in IR

  • Hollis, Martin and Steve Smith, Explaining and Understanding in International Relations (Oxford University Press, 1990) : 1-15, 45-91.
  • Adler, Emanuel, “Constructivism and International Relations: Sources, Contribution, and Debates,” Handbook of International Relations edited by Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse and Beth A. Simmons (London: SAGE Publications, 2013) : 112-145.
  • Fearon, James, and Alexander Wendt. "Rationalism v. Constructivism: A Skeptical View," Handbook of International Relations edited by Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse and Beth A. Simmons (London: SAGE Publications, 2002) : 52–72.

Week 3. Pioneer 1: Alexander Wendt

  • Wendt, Alexander. "The Agent-Structure Problem in International Relations Theory." International Organization 41, no. 3 (1987): 335–70.
  • Wendt, Alexander. "Anarchy is What States Make of It : the Social Construction of Power Politics," International Organization 46, no. 02 (1992) : 391-425
  • Wendt, Alexander. "On Constitution and Causation in International Relations," Review of International Studies 24, no. 05 (1998): 101–18

Week 4. Pioneer 2:  John Gerrad Ruggie

  • Ruggie, John G. “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” International Organization 36, no. 2 (1982): 379–415.
  • Ruggie, John G., “Territoriality and Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations,” International Organization 46, no.1 (1993), 139–74.
  • Ruggie, John G.  “What Makes the World Hang Together? Neo-Utilitarianism and the Social Constructivist Challenge,” International Organization 52 (1998):  855-885.

Week 5. Discourses in IR (1)

  • Milliken, Jennifer. "The Study of Discourse in International Relations: A Critique of Research and Methods," European Journal of International Relations 5, no. 2 (1999): 225–54.
  • Jackson, Patrick Thaddeus. Civilizing the Enemy : German Reconstruction and the Invention of the West. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006) : 1-45.
  • Foucault, Michel,  "The discourse on Language" in The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language (New York : Pantheon Books, 1972) : 215-230.

Week 6. Discourses in IR (2)  

  • Hansen, Lene. Security as Practice : Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War. London; New York: Routledge, 2006 : 84-101.  
  • Hall, Rodney Bruce. "The Discursive Demolition of the Asian Development Model". International Studies Quarterly 47, no. 1 (2003): 71–99.
  • Tannenwald, Nina. ‘The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Normative Basis of Nuclear Non-Use’. International Organization 53, no. 03 (1999): 433–68.
  • Fujii, Lee Ann. "Shades of Truth and Lies: Interpreting Testimonies of War and Violence". Journal of Peace Research 47, no. 2 (2010): 231–41.

Week 7: Practices in IR (1):

  • Adler, Emanuel, and Vincent Pouliot. ‘International Practices’. International Theory 3, no. 01 (2011): 1–36.
  • Adler-Nissen, Rebecca. Bourdieu in International Relations: Rethinking Key Concepts in IR. New York: Routledge, 2013 : 1-23
  • Pouliot, Vincent. "The Logic of Practicality: A Theory of Practice of Security Communities". International Organization 62, no. 2 (2008): 257–88.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. Outline of a Theory of Practice. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977) : 1-10.

Week 8:  Practice in IR (2):

  • Mérand, Frédéric. European Defence Policy beyond the Nation State. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) : 113-135.
  • Adler Nissen, Rebecca. ‘Stigma Management in International Relations: Transgressive Identities, Norms, and Order in International Society’. International Organization 68, no. 01 (January 2014): 143–76.
  • Adler, Emanuel. "The Spread of Security Communities: Communities of Practice, Self-Restraint, and NATO’s Post-Cold War Transformation". European Journal of International Relations 14, no. 2 (2008): 195–230.
  • Sending, Ole Jacob., and Iver B. Neumann. ‘Banking on Power : How Some Practices in an International Organization Anchor Others’. In International Practices, edited by Emanuel. Adler and Vincent. Pouliot. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011) : 231-254.

Week 9. Meeting for written assignments

Week 10. States

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. ‘Rethinking the State: Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field’. In State/Culture: State-Formation After the Cultural Turn, edited by George Steinmetz. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999 : 53-75.
  • Tilly, Charles, “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime,” in Peter Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer and Theda Skocpol (eds) Bringing the State Back In (Cambridge University Press, 1985) : 169-186
  • Weber, Max, Economy and Society Volume 2 (University of California Press, 1978) : 901-952
  • Foucault, Michel, Security, Territory, population : lectures at the Collège de France (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) : 126-145.

Week 11. International System

  • Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. (Beacon Press, 2001) : 3-30.
  • Reus-Smit, Christian, The Moral Purpose of the State (Princeton University Press, 1999) : 3-11, 26-39.
  • Branch, Jordan. ‘Mapping the Sovereign State: Technology, Authority, and Systemic Change’. International Organization 65, no. 01 (January 2011): 1–36.

Week12. Markets

  • Smelser, Neil J., and Richard. Swedberg. ‘Introducing Economic Sociology’. In The Handbook of Economic Sociology. (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2005) : 3-25
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. The Social Structures of the Economy. (Cambridge: Polity, 2005) 1-14.
  • Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. (Beacon Press, 2001) : 43-76.
  • Preda, Alex. ‘The Investor as a Cultural Figure of Global Capitalism’. In The Sociology of Financial Markets, edited by K. Knorr-Cetina and Alex. Preda. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005) : 141-162.

Week 13. International Markets

  • Abdelal, Rawi. ‘Writing the Rules of Global Finance: France, Europe, and Capital Liberalization’. Review of International Political Economy 13, no. 1 (2006): 1–27.
  • MacKenzie, Donald. An Engine, Not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008) : 37-88.
  • Barnett, Michael, and Martha Finnemore. “Expertise and Power at the International Monetary Fund,” in Rules For the World: International Organization in Global Politics. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004) : 45-72.

Week 14: Conclusion

Students should have a basic knowledge of international relations theory. Students should also come to class having done the required reading for each week’s work and should participate fully in the various discussion and other exercises that will take place in class.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28