ASTK18011U Core Subject: Theory and Practice in Foreign Policy

Volume 2018/2019

Core subject in the core-subject line in Foreign Policy. Only accessible to students who are admitted to Foreign Policy.


The aim of the course is to offer a comprehensive introduction to the theory and practice of foreign policy.


The first part of the course focuses on theory. It reconstructs the history of Foreign Policy Analysis and define a theoretical roadmap. We discuss the main theoretical traditions including various approaches within each tradition and their applicability for understanding different aspects of foreign policy. Discussion include International Relations theories such as Realism, Liberalism, Constructivism and Post-Structuralism as well as specific theories and models for foreign policy analysis.


The second part of the course focuses on practice. We discuss topics such as security policy, foreign economic policy, diplomacy, US foreign policy, the EU as a foreign policy actors and the foreign policy of rising powers and small states. Guest lecturers, including practitioners, will join us to share their experience as policy-makers and offer their view on current affairs. Students will choose their own paper topics within the overall thematic of the course and discuss these with other students and lecturers in two paper workshops.


This course enhances the students’ ability to think critically and to combine complex theories with insights from the contemporary political world. Emphasis will be on the ability to present a coherent argument, to discuss and evaluate competing claims, and to write in concise and clear manner. The course will be relevant for students interested in working with complex issues in politics and elsewhere.

Learning Outcome


Demonstrate knowledge of the theories and concepts of foreign policy analysis

Understand core institutions and diplomatic processes involved in contemporary foreign policy making and practices, in relation to specific cases, including small state diplomacy, militarization of foreign policy, globalization and foreign economic policy, bureaucratization of foreign policy and value-based foreign policy.



Demonstrate informed, convincing and precise knowledge of foreign policy, including relevant literature review, theoretical debates and empirical analysis. 

Make informed, analytical evaluations of different approaches to the study of foreign policy and their applicability to historical and contemporary examples of foreign policy.



Critically reflect upon key contemporary issues and developments in contemporary foreign policy trade in the light of relevant historical, theoretical and methodological considerations.

Translate knowledge about theories and concepts of foreign policy into concrete empirical analysis and identify opportunities and challenges for foreign policy change.

Illustrative readings

Alden, Chris/Aran, Amnon 2017: Foreign policy analysis, new approaches, 2 nd Edition. New York: Routledge.


Hellmann, G./Fahrmeir, A./Vec, M. (eds.) 2016: The Transformation of Foreign Policy: Drawing and Managing Boundaries from Antiquity to the Present. Oxford: University Press.


Hellmann, Gunther/Jorgensen, Knud Erik (eds.) 2015: Theorizing Foreign Policy in a Globalized World. Basingstoke, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.


Hill, Christopher 2003: The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Hudson, Valerie M. 2007: Foreign Policy Analysis: Classic and Contemporary Theory. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.


Hudson, Valerie M. (ed.) 1997: Culture and Foreign Policy. London: Lynne Rienner.


Jørgensen, K. E./Alejandro, A./Reichwein, A./Rösch, F./Turton, H. 2017: Trends in European IR Theory, Vol. 1: Reappraising European IR Theoretical Traditions. London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


Jørgensen, K.E./Aatstad, A.K./Dieskens, E./Laatikainen, K./Tonra, B. (eds.) 2015, The SAGE Handbook of European Foreign Policy Vol. 1. London: SAGE Publications.


Mouritzen, Hans/Wivel, Anders 2012: Explaining Foreign Policy. International Diplomacy and the Russo-Georgian War. Boulder/Col./London: Lynne Rienner.


Smith, S./Hadfield, A./Dunne, T. (eds.) 2008: Foreign Policy. Theories, Actors, Cases. Oxford: Univ Press.

A mix of in-class lectures, student group work, invited guest-lectures and student workshops.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Total
  • 56
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

Free written assignment

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