About POLS 051 OL1

Examines the major theories of international relations, important concepts in the study of international relations (such as the balance of power and democratic peace theory), dilemmas leaders face when formulating foreign policies, and current international events.


Dates: July 17 - August 11, 2023; Synchronous online

Section Description

This is an exciting time to be studying international relations. There is a great deal of instability and conflict in our world. For example, international institutions seem to be in crisis mode. NATO and the EU are experiencing unanticipated political, economic, and social consequences of expansion, including border closings in reaction to a wave of refugees. As a result of a historical referendum, Britain has left the EU. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. withdrew from critical international agreements including the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate Accord, and the TPP trade deal (Trans-Pacific Partnership). Under the Biden administration, the U.S. has rejoined or is trying to rejoin some of these agreements. Global powers are asserting or reasserting themselves as the U.S. plays a smaller role in the international community. Russia is asserting itself abroad: it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, got involved in Syria, meddled in the US 2016 elections, and launched a full scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. China continues to exert influence as it asserts its financial power abroad through the “Belt and Road Initiative,” which involves investment and infrastructure development in more than 100 countries. Trade is an increasingly controversial topic. While China increases trade networks with Africa, the U.S. imposes tariffs on imported goods from China and Japan. The US and China remain deadlocked in a trade war – or is it a series of trade battles? Wars in Syria and Yemen seem to have no political solution, the Arab-Israeli conflict is ongoing, and political stability continues to evade Afghanistan as the Taliban once again governs the country. North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests present challenges to the international community but also opportunities for multilateral cooperation. The U.S.-North Korean summit in 2018 was historic, but it was not a game changer. Yet there are examples of cooperation between states in this sea of conflict. For example, after decades of mutual hostility and distrust, the US and Cuba are building a relationship marked by the 2015 opening of a US embassy in Havana. In 2018, NAFTA was renegotiated and the USMCA (US, Mexico, Canada Agreement) went into effect. The United States and its allies are united in efforts to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The purpose of this course is to provide you with the theoretical tools necessary to critically analyze the conflict and cooperation that characterize international relations. POLS 051 will address a number of important questions regarding how states interact with each other, and how states interact with non-state actors such as the United Nations. We will explore competing explanations for state behavior, such as realism and liberalism, as well as theories addressing the same questions including hegemonic stability theory, international regime theory, and democratic peace theory. This course is part of a pilot program that will be using Brightspace, UVM's new learning platform that's replacing Blackboard. Since only a limited number of courses will be piloting Brightspace this coming semester, you are still likely to have courses in Blackboard as well. For more information on Brightspace: go.uvm.edu/brightspace-pilot.

Section Expectation

By the end of the course, students will be able to explain and differentiate between the two dominant theories of international relations: Realism and Liberalism. Students will also be able to identify the premise of hegemonic stability theory, international regime theory, and democratic peace theory. Finally, students will be able to apply Realism and Liberalism to an international event that is characterized by conflict and/or cooperation.


Four online multiple choice/true false exams, each one worth 18.75% of your final grade (75% of your total grade). Participation is worth 25% of your final grade.

Important Dates

Note: These dates may change before registration begins.

Note: These dates may not be accurate for select courses during the Summer Session.

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