21 Aug 2014

World Politics


Full title: World Politics
Course number: PS 0500
University/Department: Pitt, PoliSci
Offered: Summer 2010 (1 section), Fall 2010 (1 section), Spring 2012 (2 sections).


Background Information

PS 0500 is Pitt’s introductory international relations course. The class introduces students to major theoretical frameworks in the field, identifies the discipline’s general areas of research (conflict, IPE, IOs), and discusses current debates within these research areas. Optimally, after taking the course, students should be well-equipped to take any of the Department’s upper-level international relations courses (PS 15xx).

Course Description
This course is an introduction to the study of international relations (IR, also referred to as “world politics”). While it does not formally serve as a prerequisite for any upper-level IR course (PS 15XX), it discusses the basic concepts and questions that often arise in such courses. The academic study of world politics focuses on explaining and understanding the events occurring between different individuals, groups, and countries in the world we live in. We ask questions like: Why do wars occur? Why are some countries rich and other countries poor? What explains differences in countries’ trade policies? How can small groups, like terrorists, affect policies within and among countries?

These are questions we have an interest in answering because of the continuous impact and presence the events have on our lives. There are obvious examples of this. For car owners, we worry about the price of oil. For those with friends or family serving in Afghanistan, we worry about the people we care about fighting thousands of miles from home. For those hailing from cities heavily reliant on manufacturing jobs, we worry about the impact of globalization and how much longer these jobs will be around. However, as will become clear throughout the course, there are some not-so-obvious examples. College students, for instance, may wonder why the interest rate on their school loans is higher now than it was two years ago.

To answer the questions we have about world events, and to understand the impact these events have on our lives, the course moves in four sections. Section I contains basic concepts often employed in international relations. We survey the history of our world, and in doing so, we notice the stark differences in peace and prosperity that exist across different periods. To explain these differences, we focus on three concepts (interests, interactions, and institutions) that allow us to compare and contrast over time. These concepts act as the building blocks of theories, which is evident as we discuss the four major IR theories often used to explain political outcomes to end Section I. The remaining sections apply these tools by examining specific areas of research within IR. Section II deals with questions of interest to conflict scholars; Section III, international political economy (IPE); and Section IV, international organizations (IOs) and transnational politics.


Syllabus (Spring 2012)