POLT 12800, section 1
Introduction to International Relations
Prof. Chip Gagnon
MWF 9-9:50am Friends 210
Office: 324 Muller Center
Office hours: MWF, 10-11am, and by appointment
course website: http://www.ithaca.edu/gagnon/ir/
The past few decades have seen tremendous changes in the international arena. The attacks of 9/11/2001 and other terrorist bombings in Russia, England, Spain, Australia, India and elsewhere refocused the world's attention towards threats from small non-state groups. The US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have seen debates about whether and how to fight insurgencies, as well as about the best way to deal with terrorism. The effects of economic globalization, and the recent economic crisis, have also led to reappraisals of the existing global economic order. The issue of ethnic and religious conflict has also become a major focus of international politics since the end of the Cold War.
In this course we will explore these issues. First we look at a number of ways in which the "international" is thought about and studied, the assumptions about human nature, equality, justice, and politics in general that determine how scholars, journalists, and policy makers explain and understand international politics. We also consider the role of the mass media in what we know and how we think about the international.
Then we explore a number of specific issues related to the international: the changing nature of warfare and terrorism; security and the changing definition of that term; the international economy, processes of globalization of trade and investment that challenge the traditional understanding of the nation-state and have direct impacts on local communities in every part of the world, including the US; and the effect of culture -- ethnic, national, religious -- on international relations.
By the end of the course you should:
The course also has the following objectives as part of the overall Politics Departmental mission:
Readings listed as "Required" are mandatory -- you should have read and thought about them before class -- and serve as background for the class discussion. Readings listed as "Suggested" are not required, but provide further background and information on the topic under discussion.
The readings are of varying complexities; some are quite difficult. If you have any questions on the readings, please ask in class, or stop by my office.
I would suggest taking notes on the readings as you do them to ease review for exams. The assigned essays require an indepth understanding of specific assigned readings, so it is in your interest to do all required readings carefully. The amount of reading is generally small enough that you should have time to carefully read and take notes on the readings before each class.
What does "doing the readings" mean?
It doesn't mean just sitting down and mechanically going through the articles; that's a sure way to make even an interesting article boring.
Reading is an active and interactive process between the reader and the text. If you're really reading a text you are also reacting to it. I've included a wide range of texts in order to provoke a wide range of responses from readers.
Reading should also be a reflective process. To really understand an article deeply it is usually necessary to read it and think about it, and then read it again, and think about it, and discuss it with others, write about it and read it yet again. I've found that even after many readings, when I read a text in order to explain it to someone else I get new perspectives on the author's arguments and assumptions, on the text's strengths and weaknesses.
So when I say "do the readings," I mean "engage yourself with the ideas of the text." I understand that some of the texts are quite complex and that not all of them are entertaining. But struggle is part of the reading experience. If something's not clear, if it's confusing, talk about it with others outside of class, and/or bring it up in class.
If it's a long or complex reading, don't try to do it all in one sitting; take breaks, come back to it, read it in small doses. As I mentioned above, taking notes on a text while you read it or re-read it is also a very good way to engage the text and to make sure you understand it.
If you do not understand the readings after we discuss them in class, please see me immediately. Some of the readings are very challenging, and I expect you to speak with me if anything is not clear.
NOTE: If you come to class consistently unprepared, I reserve the right to unilaterally drop you from the course.
The final grade in the class will be determined by:
Please note: You cannot pass the course unless you have
handed in all written assignments.
Meaning of grades:(1)
A = excellent: intense effort and remarkable achievement.
B = good: good effort and pretty good understanding
C = okay: barely adequate amount of effort or effort that is somewhat misfocused or mistargeted
D = inadequate effort or mistargeted effort
F = little or no effort or complete misunderstanding of expectations
If you get below a C, you should immediately come to see me so we can discuss your paper or exam.
If you have any questions about the class, the readings, the discussions, or anything else, I will be more than happy to meet with you either during office hours or at some other time. To schedule another time please see me after class, or contact me by or phone (274-1103).
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Last revised 1/10/2013