729 Elm
Norman OK 73019-2105
(405) 325-3580
FAX: (405) 325-7738
uschina at ou dot edu

The University of Oklahoma
Department of International and Area Studies

IAS 5503 Fall 2016 Graduate Seminar:
Theory and Practice of International Politics

Prof. Peter Hays Gries

Class meets Thursdays 3-5:40 pm in Hester Hall 230 seminar room
Office Hours by appointment in Hester Hall 223

 Course Description

This seminar provides a wide-ranging introduction to international politics. War, democratization, nationalism, multilateralism, revolution, globalization, religious fundamentalism, resource scarcity, global warming, and human rights are some of the very many topics that come under the broad heading of international politics. These issues manifest themselves both within and between nation states. Therefore, in this seminar, “international politics” will be understood to include the political science subfields of both international relations and comparative politics.

International relations (IR) is the study of the relations among nations. What is the nature of the international system? What are the primary drivers of state behavior, and is interstate conflict inevitable? How do states make their foreign policies? We will explore realist, liberal, constructivist, and political psychological answers to such questions.

Comparative politics (CP) is the study of politics beyond our borders—the domestic politics of foreign countries. “Comparative” can refer to a method: the explicit analysis of patterns of similarity and difference across (usually country) cases. But our understanding of foreign countries also frequently involves an implicit comparison to ourselves. Our assumptions about politics everywhere are derived from the American experience. Studying the world will help expose those assumptions, allowing us to move beyond the navel-gazing often apparent in the U.S. media coverage of the world to try to understand foreign countries in their own terms.

“Theory and practice.” Theories simplify to elucidate complex realities. We will take a utilitarian approach to the theories we explore. Do they help us better understand the world, or do they distort our understandings? What can theories developed to explain interstate cooperation and conflict, revolutions, nationalisms, and social movements of the past teach about such phenomena today?

The goal of this course is not to teach you what to think about international politics; it is, instead, to provide you with some analytic tools and concepts that you can use to think critically and for yourself about the world beyond the USA.