Reviewed by Alexis Henshaw, Visiting Assistant Professor, Miami University, on 6/21/2017.
The book at least touches on all of the subjects that I routinely cover in my introductory course on international relations, but the coverage of the
Comprehensiveness rating: 3 read less
The book at least touches on all of the subjects that I routinely cover in my introductory course on international relations, but the coverage of the subjects vary greatly. I thought the chapters on the environment and food security were particularly well-developed, but other chapters like the one on connectivity, communications, and technology would have been made stronger through more details or applied examples. The historical context given to today's political world is also a bit shaky. Some historical developments are more thoroughly explained than others, and students using this book might find it confusing that some background material is spread across chapters. Also noteworthy, the book contains no finding aids (index, glossary) which would make it cumbersome to students trying to use this in an introductory course.
Accuracy rating: 5
I found the book to be accurate on the topics it covers.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 3
It was not clear to me whether or how the publishers plan to update this text. This is particularly key for an international relations textbook with such a heavy emphasis on current world affairs. Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that the book is less than a year old, some sections are already debatably in need of updating (particularly Ch. 17, as it relates to U.S. foreign policy). While the basic information conveyed in each chapter will remain relevant, I would want to know the editor's intentions for updating the text before implementing it in a course.
Clarity rating: 5
The text is written in a very accessible way, and the various authors do a good job of explaining terms fully in the text.
Consistency rating: 5
The chapters are consistent in length and style.
Modularity rating: 5
The chapter structure is well-defined and appropriate for an introductory course. Potential users may want to be aware that the text is designed to flow in a certain order, so in most cases rearranging chapters out-of-order would not be advised.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4
The book is mostly well structured. I did have some issue with some concepts or historical developments being explained out-of-order or across multiple chapters, for example the history and development of the UN--which is spread across chapters 4, 5, and 6--and the Cold War, which is discussed piecemeal in multiple chapters.
Interface rating: 3
My biggest issue with the interface is that there is none. The book contains no links, pictures, charts, graphs, or visuals at all--even where the addition of these materials could help students using the text. I appreciate the editor's note indicating that these items were sacrificed in order to produce a free text, but I feel there were some extremely low- or no-cost ways of enhancing the text that would have been beneficial. Even having authors use bold font for key terms would facilitate student learning. Authors might also have been encouraged to recommend further reading or links to online resources related to each chapter. Combined with the lack of finding aids, I think the lack of interface would frustrate some students.
Grammatical Errors rating: 5
I did not find any obvious grammatical errors in the text.
Cultural Relevance rating: 5
The text is largely inclusive, and the individual authors are representative of the global nature of the discipline.
Overall, my impression of this book was that it could not be a standalone text for an introductory, college-level IR course. The professor using this text would almost certainly need to supplement it with additional readings, and would probably also need to put a good deal of thought into designing exercises, lectures, tests, and study guides based on this material. Most importantly, I personally would not want to adopt this textbook without understanding the plan for updating it, as some of this information will likely seem outdated or obsolete in the next 5-10 years.
Reviewed by Emily Channell-Justice, Visiting Assistant Professor, Miami University of Ohio, on 6/21/2017.
The book is presented as a beginner's guide to International Relations and in this way is comprehensive in its presentation of basic issues relevant
Comprehensiveness rating: 2 read less
The book is presented as a beginner's guide to International Relations and in this way is comprehensive in its presentation of basic issues relevant to the subject. But the book refuses to use "buzzwords" like "globalization" because the authors do not want to get "bogged down in big debates" around complex terms. This seems like an inappropriate stance, as many beginners may be studying IR precisely to better understand such words. The book does not have an index. It has a bibliography, but throughout the text, is uses very few references, even when it seems obvious that the reader would like to know more.
Accuracy rating: 2
The book appears accurate, but with so few citations, it's quite hard to know the perspectives of the authors of each chapter. It is not unbiased; the book is extremely Eurocentric. Countries in the global south are presented as object of diplomacy, or as the sites of problems like famine, rather than presented as active participants in globalization (I guess if they'd be willing the use the term globalization, they could have avoided this problem).
Relevance/Longevity rating: 4
The book seems up to date, including citations from 2015. Because the text is so theory heavy and includes almost no examples, this might prevent it from seeming out of date quickly. At the same time, the second half ("global issues") that focuses on contemporary problems, would have to be updated quite regularly (i.e. examples like the environment, global food crisis). But the book should do this, because students need to be presented with examples of how IR works and how we can respond to these global issues.
Clarity rating: 3
The book is written clearly, if dispassionately. There is little jargon, as was the author's intention, but this makes the writing seem even too simplistic for college students. Why should we not be asking them to understand challenging terms? The book's introduction also gives recommendations for how to read, which, if idealistic, could be useful to college freshmen who are not used to reading long texts. Additionally, the authors state clearly that the chapters should not be "cherry picked" and must be read one after another--I did not find this to be the case and had no issues jumping around.
Consistency rating: 5
The book is very consistent. Each chapter looks quite the same, although several of the "global issues" chapters are quite short. Again, the book is meant to be read completely linearly, so this consistency was a priority for the authors.
Modularity rating: 1
The book presents itself as NOT predisposed to modularity. As a reader in the field, it seemed to me that this was a little strict and that a good professor could easily reorganize the book in order to, for example, assign an "issues" chapter along with a "basics" chapter in order to illustrate some points. But the authors do not encourage any sort of creativity so such a task would require significant extra work on the instructor's part.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3
The book is clearly organized based on the priorities of the authors: this means that it is theory heavy up front, features one completely inadequate chapter about "culture," and then presents a series of "issues" to bring IR into the real world. The book fits clearly into the authors' pedagogy.
Interface rating: 1
There are no images or any other illustrations. This is another part of the authors' pedagogy in which they find such things distracting. There are no interface errors, but the book is entirely page after page of similar-looking text. This is ridiculously boring and very far out of touch from how students actually learn.
Grammatical Errors rating: 5
I did not note any errors.
Cultural Relevance rating: 1
The book is very Eurocentric and is focused on the diplomatic world through the eyes of Europe and North America. This is an archaic way of teaching and learning about the world. There is one chapter about "culture and religion" (which, first of all, each deserve there own attention) which tells us nothing about how cultural diversity impacts international relations. The "global issues" section is extremely weak. For instance, the chapter on the environment focuses almost exclusively on international agreements, but not on differential expectations for countries, debates around these policies, and the real-life impacts of climate change and environmental policy. This book is not culturally sensitive because there are no people in it. It's as if the authors see IR as outside of the realm of human relevance.
Since there are no images or suggestions for discussion or further reading, a faculty member using this book would have to do a huge amount of work to make the text engaging for students. The instructor would have to find creative ways to do any practical exercises, and this seems like way too much work when much better texts exist. This book is not worth using just because it is open access. Why on earth would you want to teach IR without thinking about any examples and without getting students thinking about what policies have what impact on the people living around the world?