ASTK15431U  CANCELLED - COURSE: Sociological Approaches in International Relations

Volume 2017/2018

Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS
Masterlevel: 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 summarized 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 course is divided in three parts. The first part addresses early constructivist work to understand how constructivism challenged mainstream IR theory. The second part looks at two distinct approaches that have heavily drawn on sociology, namely the discursive approach and the practice-based approach. Finally the last part addresses privileged concrete empirical objects for sociology and IR.  

Part 1


1. Introduction

2. Constructivism in IR

3. Rationalism vs Constructivism

4. The Practice Turn

5. The role of interaction

6. An interactionist approach of international relations

7:  The power of discourse

8:  The role of discourse in international relations

9:  Governmentality

10- The governmentalisation of international relations

11- International System

12- International Organisation

13- International Markets

14: Conclusion

The course is a part of the Specialization 'International Relations'

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.

Adler, Emanuel, “Constructivism and International Relations, “Handbook of International Relations, 95-118.


Adler, Emanuel, and Vincent Pouliot. ‘International Practices’. International Theory 3, no. 01 (February 2011): 1–36.


Adler-Nissen, Rebecca. Bourdieu in International Relations: Rethinking Key Concepts in IR. New York: Routledge, 2013.


———. ‘Stigma Management in International Relations: Transgressive Identities, Norms, and Order in International Society’. International Organization 68, no. 01 (January 2014): 143–76. doi:10.1017/​S0020818313000337.


Barnett, Michael, and Martha Finnemore. Rules For the World: International Organization in Global Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004.


Bourdieu, Pierre., and Loïc J. D. Wacquant. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.


Branch, Jordan. ‘Mapping the Sovereign State: Technology, Authority, and Systemic Change’. International Organization 65, no. 01 (January 2011): 1–36.


Callon, Michel. ‘Introduction: The Embeddedness of Economic Markets in Economics’. In Laws of the Markets, edited by Michel. Callon, 1st ed., 1–57. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1998.


Foucault, Michel, Security, Territory, population : lectures at the Collège de France (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) : 126-145.

Jackson, Patrick Thaddeus. Civilizing the Enemy : German Reconstruction and the Invention of the West. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006.


Mérand, Frédéric. European Defence Policy beyond the Nation State. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Ruggie, John Gerard, « "Territoriality and Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations," International Organization 47/1 (1993), 141-176.

Wendt, Alexander. ‘On Constitution and Causation in International Relations’. Review of International Studies 24, no. 05 (1998): 101–18.

———. ‘The Agent-Structure Problem in International Relations Theory’. International Organization 41, no. 3 (1987): 335–70.


** A complete reading list would be ready by the beginning of the course. 

Good knowledge of IR theories
The course features two-hour sessions that partly comprise mini-lectures and seminar activities, and are partly student led. To this end, the assessment will encourage students to build on their knowledge. Assessment will take the form of an oral exam.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Oral exam
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