International Relations Theory
Copyright Year: 2017
ISBN 13: 9781910814208
Publisher: E-International Relations
Conditions of Use
The editors here provide a comprehensive overview of the varied theoretical perspectives that can be found within the discipline of international relations. They begin with the established theories (e.g. realism and liberalism) that have dominated... read more
The editors here provide a comprehensive overview of the varied theoretical perspectives that can be found within the discipline of international relations. They begin with the established theories (e.g. realism and liberalism) that have dominated thought in the field historically, but then delve into numerous critical perspectives that are often not discussed in detail, or at all, in traditional IR textbooks (e.g. green theory, critical geography, indigenous perspectives). The editors also include a few chapters at the end of the text that serve its readers by contextualizing the competing theories presented, and some of the theoretical contests that persist within the discipline. The chapters are well cited, written, and detailed giving students new to the field a relatively easy entry point into the discipline's rich theoretical foundations while not overwhelming the reader overly burdensome jargon. While the coverage of the number of IR theories presented is rich, the depth and detail provided is somewhat sparse. I think the text best serves as a centerpiece in which additional "outside" readings are used to supplement the theoretical core that is presented here. The indexing here is admittedly limited for hard copy editions of this text (which the authors readily admit), but the authors do point the reader toward solutions utilizing the PDF versions of the text.
Each theory is given its own chapter and as an entry point this serves its readers well. The content presented is fairly clear, concise, and bereft of any controversy from an academic perspective. I would argue, however, that relative brevity of each contribution may not give its readers a complete view of each theory presented. Now in many cases, especially when one is trying to introduce these many theories, this text is fine and will certainly serve its purpose. There may be cases, however, where more depth and detail is desired or warranted. For instance, the chapter on realism misses out on the depth and richness of the realist project. There is no detailed discussion of offensive, defensive, or neoclassical realism, and consequently these areas would need to be supplemented by a professor that wants to delve more deeply into realism (and other theories). The depth I am writing of here, however, is not the aim of this text - it provides an introduction to theories - but I do think this is something one should consider when considering how best to incorporate this text into any course offering they may be planning.
International Relations Theory gives us a good balance of both the foundations of each theory and its modern applications. Some theories can trace their origins backs millennia while others were "born" in living memory. The authors give its readers a balance of both the foundational works, but also its more recent additions, innovations, controversies, and paths forward. The nature of the material itself, as well as its recent publication, suggest that this text could be used for quite some time without any need for major revisions or additional readings to keep the theories contained relevant for years to come.
Each chapter is written by a different author, but the overall style and tone of the chapters seamlessly meld together presenting a coherent whole. The selections provided here give novices an accessible entry into the discipline by avoiding unnecessary jargon and detail which often serves to detract, rather than enhance the reading and learning experience for undergraduates. Arguably, this text and its chapters are best used to supplement an introduction to IR course where professors seek to include more, or diverse, IR perspectives. To this end, this text serves its purpose. I would, however, argue that more detail and depth is needed if one were to use this text as the only (or main) reading for a text designed for an IR Theory course designed for political science/IR majors in an advanced course.
The text consists of theories and perspectives that are often engaged in a conversation about how global politics works. This results in each chapter (theory) often having a different starting point, and in some cases directly contesting what was posited in previous chapters. While this could be confusing to someone entering the field, the text does a good job of keeping the reader focused on each theory being presented, and the editors synthesize these theories into a coherent view of the discipline.
The text shines in this aspect of its organization. International Relations Theory possesses 20 distinct chapters, of which 18 of the chapters, cover distinct IR theories ranging the so-called traditional theories (realism) to middle ground theories (English School) to numerous examples of critical theory. Each chapter is easily digestible and gives the reader a relatively pain-free introduction to IR theories. Consequently, this text serves as an excellent spring board for any professor seeking to create their own IR theory course utilizing any of the chapters as they please, while extending and expanding the scope as the will.
The flow of the text is presented in what most in the field (I would think) is a logical progression. Building upon the foundational theories of the discipline the editors then proceed to unveil the theoretical progression of the discipline from its historical roots to the modern day.
International Relations Theory is well written and easily accessible to any reader. The typeface and formatting are straightforward and do not present any major pitfalls for its readers. One thing missing, however, are opportunities to include pictures, diagrams, tables and similar items that could be used to more clearly depict the concepts, terms, assumptions, and relationships within and between the numerous theories presented here. While their absence does not detract from the text, their addition would certainly assist some initiates to the discipline.
The text is clean and well written.
This entry provides its readers with a wide array of views. This diversity of thought is not limited only to the number of theories, but also the types of theories included. For instance, several chapters directly and indirectly engage the prominence given to Western IR theories. Non-Western perspectives are given a fair amount of attention in this text, including entries on global, Asian, Global South, and Indigenous perspectives.
The text is extremely comprehensive, if not overly so. Some of the theories covered are a bit far-fetched. Some of the examples used are limited or not included where they would be in other introductory texts on IR theory. For example, there is no... read more
The text is extremely comprehensive, if not overly so. Some of the theories covered are a bit far-fetched. Some of the examples used are limited or not included where they would be in other introductory texts on IR theory. For example, there is no mention of the Kantian Triangle and in the realism chapter, the author mentions Thucydides, but really does not provide any context for why his writings are argued to form the roots of realism. The book does not contain an index or glossary, but terms are relatively well defined within the text so that students could reasonably find definitions, although there are no boxes or bold letters as one might find in a traditional textbook.
Overall, the context is accurate. I believe some of the discrepancies can be attributed to differing perspectives in IR scholars. For example, chapter 6, entitled critical theories, indeed addresses critical theories, but makes some of the theories covered in other chapters appear to not be critical theories, such as Marxism and feminism because those theories are not covered explicitly within the critical theory chapter.
The content and examples provided are extremely up to date. The format of the chapters, with the basic explanations at the beginning and the contextual example toward the end makes it easy and straightforward to update should the need arise.
The text is well written and accessible for nearly any level of reader. Any use of jargon/technical terminology is well defined, although not always as obvious in this text as it might be in other textbooks (e.g. with boxes, definitions in the margins, etc.).
The text is extremely consistent in its presentation of the theories. Each chapter provides an explanation of the theories and historical context and follows with a clear and relevant example.
The book is very well formatted for modularity in a syllabus. That is, an instructor can easily pick and choose the relevant theories to assign for the course. This makes it incredibly desirable. Additionally, there is not an excessive amount of references to other theories within each chapter (which some may see as a weakness for comparison purposes), but that means that it is possible to learn about one theory (say feminism) without having to have read the chapters on realism and liberalism. Each of the chapters has very few subheadings, but I think this is appropriate.
Overall, the theories are presented in a clear fashion. The exception to this is the discussion of critical theories, which appears as chapter 6 and should probably be sooner, perhaps before the discussion of constructivism. Additionally, the division between "Established Theories" and the "Expansion Pack" seems a bit odd to me and is more of a reflection of the editors' own delineation of what is established vs. "expansion" in the discipline. One organizational issue is that all of the references are found at the end rather than at the end of each chapter, making it more difficult for students to pursue original source material.
No interface issues found during the review.
No grammatical errors found during the review.
The book does a great job in including many theories that other texts often omit, highlighting opportunities in international relations to be more inclusive. The examples used are also well-rounded and not completely Western-centric.
This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the various theories of International Relations, ranging from traditional perspectives such as Realism and Liberalism to newer and emerging theories, including Green Theory, Queer Theory, and... read more
This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the various theories of International Relations, ranging from traditional perspectives such as Realism and Liberalism to newer and emerging theories, including Green Theory, Queer Theory, and Securitization Theory.
The theoretical foundations presented are accurate and reflect the views of scholars in those fields, including women and people of color.
The theoretical content is very current and each chapter offers an empirical example or case study of the theory as applied to a contemporary event. For example, a brief discussion of the Islamic State and global conflict illustrates the nature of Realism and an overview of migration and refugees illuminates the chapter on Marxism.
The text is engaging and well-written, as well as accessible to an introductory class, and the book defines and explains terms specific to the field of International Relations.
The book's structure is uniform and consistent. The Introduction provides brief definitions of each International Relations theory, followed by a chapter on each theory. The established or classic theories of IR are explained clearly and each chapter includes a case study. The newer, evolving theories are presented in a second section of chapters that follow this pattern.
Because the chapters are not overly dense or lengthy, they are suitable for assigned readings in an IR course. Each chapter is independent of the others and students need not have read the preceding chapters to understand later chapters, so an instructor could easily rearrange the order of the chapters as reading assignments.
The structure of the book is well-organized and consistent. Each chapter follows the same method of presenting a specific IR theory.
There are no interface or navigation problems with this book, as each theory is presented in a stand-alone chapter. The book does not contain any boxes, maps, charts, or images to distract from the material, and frankly, such extraneous matter would not be helpful.
There are a handful of typographical errors, but nothing that detracts from understanding the text.
The material is not presented in a culturally biased or insensitive manner and the references include significant authors in the field who are female and/or people of color.
This book provides a mostly thorough understanding on the topic of IR theories with a diverse and highly-qualified set of authors from universities around the world. The myriad of intellectual styles contributes nicely to a book that feels more... read more
This book provides a mostly thorough understanding on the topic of IR theories with a diverse and highly-qualified set of authors from universities around the world. The myriad of intellectual styles contributes nicely to a book that feels more like an edited volume and less like a standard textbook (but this is a positive). Students will find thorough and salient discussions of the influence of various theories in the 21st century, and how the development of certain theories were motivated by previous schools of thought.
I found most of the content to be accurate and free from error. I also did not see any broad ideological bias, but certain chapters did "lean" towards the left. I was surprised, however, to see a discussion of intersectionality in Sheila Nair's chapter on "Postcolonialism" without attribution to Kimberle Crenshaw, the scholar who coined the term. While Nair does cite bell hooks, the lack of a Crenshaw citation is troubling.
In its current form, the book IS relevant and timely. Updates will most likely be required every two years, but can be supplemented by online readings (which are already available). Since the first half of the textbook focuses on "established theories," the text cannot become obsolete.
The text and its editors have done a marvelous job asking the chapter authors to unpack each theory in concise and cogent ways. From that perspective, this textbook is accessible by undergraduates as well as graduate students.
While there are many authors with many different writing styles, I found the book overall to be consistent.
This is probably the best feature of this textbook. I would suggest my colleagues offer just the introduction in certain courses; it provides an overview of key theories; makes suggestions about study skills; and references online resources to help those still struggling to understand. The modularity also works because the book can be broken up by chapter, but also paragraphs within each chapter, and can be assigned out of sequence.
I am not fully convinced that splitting the book into "established" versus "emerging" approaches is the best way to organize this book. Doing so results in an awkward situation where students might be led to believe that the second half of the book is experimental while the first half is tried and true. While there are some political scientists and diplomats who might like to think so, undergrad students might be confused.
I found the book very easy to read and navigate.
There are occasional punctuation and grammatical errors, but nothing that takes away from the project as a whole.
The book does an excellent job of respecting cultural, ethnic, sexual, and racial differences, and I found it mostly inclusive. I did appreciate the detailed discussion in Benabdallah et al.'s chapter on the "Global South" on the omission of African theorists from IR, and why it is impossible to reduce a multi-generational and cultural legacy to one singular "African theory." I would have appreciated a more diverse tone in Yeophantang's chapter on "Asian Perspectives" because it was too reductive; India, China, and Japan do not make Asia. Here again the author posits that a single unifying "Asian theory" of IR is absurd, but I believe the absurdity is focusing only on a few countries and presuming they speak for others. Doing so minimizes Asian political theoretical influence ... which is precisely what the author wanted to avoid.
I was surprised to see no discussion of white nationalism in the textbook. I can understand that the term has gained popularity since the election of President Trump, but white nationalism affects global politics. It has influenced rhetoric, violence, elections, campaigns, public opinion, and policy across the world. White nationalism and its connection to Islamophobia, "replacement theory," and antisemitism must be mentioned in ANY work on international relations theory.
Yes, it is definitely comprehensive. Maybe a bit too comprehensive, with some of the theories being from really far afield. It will be up to the instructor to guide the students in understanding which theories are the mainstream ones, which are... read more
Yes, it is definitely comprehensive. Maybe a bit too comprehensive, with some of the theories being from really far afield. It will be up to the instructor to guide the students in understanding which theories are the mainstream ones, which are the key challengers, and which ones are more of curiosities rather than leaders in IR scholarship. Spelling this out in the intro would be helpful to the uninitiated readers, so that they are not lost in the sea of theories presented.
The content is unbiased for the most part.
Yes, this is something that can definitely be built on, which could be done easily.
Yes, no issues here.
Pretty much. There are a lot of different chapter writers, so some inconsistency is to be expected. This will be more of an issue for IR beginners than experienced readers used to various IR terminologies.
This is one of the strongest assets of this book. An instructor can definitely and easily pick and choose among the many theoretical options provided.
Yes. This is basically a list of various IR theories, with the mainstream ones being up front and the others following. Such organization makes good sense.
No such issues were noticed.
Maybe a few here and there, but nothing of major concern.
The book does well on this score.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Getting Started With International Relations Theory (Stephen Mcglinchey, Rosie Walters & Dana Gold)
Part One – Established Theories
- Realism (Sandrina Antunes & Isabel Camisão)
- Liberalism (Jeffrey W. Meiser)
- The English School (Yannis A. Stivachtis)
- Constructivism (Sarina Theys)
- Marxism (Maïa Pal)
- Critical Theory (Marcos Farias Ferreira)
- Poststructuralism (Aishling Mc Morrow)
- Feminism (Sarah Smith)
- Postcolonialism (Sheila Nair)
- Towards A Global Ir? (Amitav Acharya)
Part Two – Expansion Pack
- Green Theory (Hugh C. Dyer)
- Global Justice (Alix Dietzel)
- Queer Theory (Markus Thiel)
- Securitisation Theory (Clara Eroukhmanoff)
- Critical Geography (Irena Leisbet Ceridwen Connon & Archie W. Simpson)
- Asian Perspectives (Pichamon Yeophantong)
- Global South Perspectives (Lina Benabdallah, Victor Adetula & Carlos Murillo-Zamora)
- Indigenous Perspectives (Jeff Corntassel & Marc Woons)
- A Contemporary Perspective On Realism (Felix Rösch & Richard Ned Lebow
- The ‘Isms' Are Evil. All Hail The ‘Isms'! (Alex Prichard)
About the Book
This book is designed as a foundational entry point to International Relations theory – structured to condense the most important information into the smallest space and present that information in an accessible manner. The first half of the book covers the theories that are most commonly taught in undergraduate programmes. The book then expands to present emerging approaches and offer wider perspectives. Each chapter sets out the basics of a theory whilst also applying it to a real-world event or issue, creating a lively, readable and relevant guide that will help students to see not only what theories are – but why they matter.
About the Contributors
Dr Stephen McGlinchey is the Editor-in-Chief of E-International Relations and Senior Lecturer of International Relations at the University of the West of England, Bristol. He is the author of International Relations (2017) and US Arms Policies Towards the Shah’s Iran (2014).