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  • Roland Paris

MA seminar syllabus: Concepts and Issues in International Affairs (Fall 2022)

Students: Please check the course page on Brightspace for the most up-to-date version of this syllabus. This version is provided as a courtesy to other instructors and students outside the university.

Concepts and Issues in International Affairs (API 5105A)

Fall 2022

Instructor: Prof. Roland Paris

Course Description

Examination of major concepts and issues in contemporary international affairs. Analysis of the history and development of international relations; major approaches to the study of world politics and global governance; key global issues affecting human welfare in terms of security, economy and environment; practices of governance in a world where the boundary between international and domestic affairs is becoming increasingly blurred.

Learning outcomes

(1) An understanding of different ways of understanding international affairs and of international governance, including the relative importance of power, institutions and ideas; (2) the ability to apply these concepts to a range of current international issues and policy debates; and (3) the ability to read critically, synthesize and analyze information, and communicate clearly in class discussions and written assignments.

Teaching method

Guided seminar discussion to explore themes and issues raised in the weekly readings.


Response Papers (3) 35%

Midterm Exam 15%

Final Exam 30%

Participation 20%

Response Papers

Each student will write three response papers during the semester. Deadline: 12 noon the business day before the relevant class meeting (i.e. the Friday before our Monday class). Submit your completed paper on Brightspace. Late papers will be subject to penalties and may not be accepted (see lateness policy below). Carefully proofread your work to avoid mistakes in spelling, syntax, punctuation, and inappropriate use of terms; you may be penalized up to 15% for poorly written materials, at the professor’s discretion. Further instructions will be provided.

Midterm Exam

The midterm exam will be in-person and will cover the course material up to the date of the exam. Duration: 1.5 hours. Further information will be provided.

Final Exam

The final exam will take place during the exam period, in person, and will cover the entire course. Duration: 3 hours. Further information will be provided in class. Note: Failure to write the final exam will result in a failing grade for the course.


Participation is important in a graduate seminar. The participation grade will be based not only on your involvement in seminar discussions, but also on evidence that you have completed and understood the weekly readings. If you are absent from class you will not be able to participate and your participation grade may be affected. As you prepare for class, you should consider the discussion questions for each week, listed below.


Course readings are available through Brightspace or via the university library website. For free access to subscriber-only material, you must either (1) connect to the library website from a University of Ottawa-networked computer, or (2) follow these instructions for off-campus access:

Electronic devices

You are welcome to use electronic devices in class (laptops, etc.) but solely to access your notes or to take notes. Please shut off your email, social media accounts, and all notifications. No internet surfing is permitted during the seminar discussion.

Office Hours

Office hours are by appointment. Please email me at to set up a meeting. You are welcome to set up a meeting with me to chat about anything.



Session 1 – Welcome and Introduction to the Course

No required reading this week.


Session 2 – Ways of Understanding International Affairs

Required reading

Jill Steans et al., An Introduction to International Relations Theory: Perspectives and Themes, 3rd ed. (Routledge, 2010), two chapters:

Alice Ba and Matthew J. Hoffmann, Making and Remaking the World for IR 101: A Resource for Teaching Social Constructivism in Introductory Classes,” International Studies Perspectives 4:1 (2003), pp. 15-33.

Discussion questions

  • Realism, liberalism, and constructivism each make broad assumptions about world politics. What are their main similarities and differences?

  • What are the prospects for international cooperation according to each of the theories?

  • How does each theory conceive of the role of power, institutions, and ideas in world politics?

Optional further reading

A feminist perspective – J. Ann Tickner, “Hans Morgenthau's Principles of Political Realism: A Feminist Reformulation,” Millennium 17:3 (1988), pp. 429-440.

Classical realism, a primary source – The Melian Dialogue, excerpts from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War (c. 400 BC)

Classical liberalism, a primary source – Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1795)

Session 3 – The Balance of Power

Required reading

Hans J. Morgenthau, “The Balance of Power,” excerpts from Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (McGraw-Hill, 1985).

Reading will be provided by instructor

John Lewis Gaddis, “The Long Peace: Elements of Stability in the Postwar International System,” International Security 10:4 (1986), pp. 99-142.

Graham Allison, “The Russia–Ukraine war, the US-China Rivalry and Thucydides’ Trap,” presentation at IISS (April 19, 2022) – watch the entire video:

Plus three short analyses:

Marc Santora and Steven Erlanger, “Taiwan and Ukraine: Two crises, 5,000 Miles Apart, Are Linked In Complex Ways,” New York Times (August 3, 2022).

Ed Griffith and Moises de Souza, “The Quad: US Efforts to Counter China’s Influence in Asia Mark a New Era of Micro Alliances,” The Conversation (June 1, 2022).

The Economist, “Globalisation and Autocracy Are Locked Together. For How Much Longer?” (March 12, 2022).

Reading will be provided by instructor

Discussion questions

  • Was the Cold War a “stable” system? Why or why not? What lessons might the Cold War offer for international affairs today?

  • What is the relative importance of power, institutions, and ideas in the “balance of power” concept?

  • How would you assess the “balance of power” in international affairs today?

  • What does Graham Allison mean by the “Thucydides trap”?

Optional further reading

Hans J. Morgenthau, “The Balance of Power,” excerpts from Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (McGraw-Hill, 1985).

Reading will be provided by instructor

Roland Paris, “We’ve Reached a New Post-Cold War Era. What Follows May Be Even More Dangerous,” Globe and Mail (March 21, 2022).

David O. Shullman and Andrea Kendall-Taylor, “Best and Bosom Friends: Why China-Russia Ties Will Deepen after Russia’s War on Ukraine,” Center for Strategic and International Studies Briefs (June 2022).

Joseph Stiglitz, “How the US Could Lose the New Cold War,” Project Syndicate (June 17, 2022).

Session 4 – The Changing Face of Multilateralism

Required reading

John Gerard Ruggie, “Multilateralism: The Anatomy of an Institution,” International Organization 46:3 (1992), pp. 561-598.

Ngaire Woods, “The End of Multilateralism?'” in Helen Wallace, Nikos Koutsiaras and George Pagoulatos, eds., Europe's Transformations: Essays in Honour of Loukas Tsoukalis (Oxford Academic, 2021), pp. 181-194.

Michael W. Manulak and Duncan Snidal, “The Supply of Informal International Governance: Hierarchy plus Networks in Global Governance,” in Michael N. Barnett, Jon C. W. Pevehouse and Kal Raustiala, eds., Global Governance in a World of Change (Cambridge University Press, 2021), pp. 182–213.

Roland Paris, “Can Middle Powers Save the Liberal World Order?” Chatham House (June 18, 2019).

Discussion questions

  • What makes multilateralism a distinctive form of international governance?

  • What roles do power, institutions, and ideas play within the existing multilateral system?

  • In what ways is multilateralism changing – and why?

Optional further reading

Bruce Jones and Susana Malcorra, “Competing for Order. Confronting the Long Crisis of Multilateralism,” Brookings Institution (October 2020).

Session 5 – International Law and Norms

Required reading

Karin J. Alter, “The Future of International Law,” in Diana Ayton-Shenker (ed.), The New Global Agenda (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), pp. 25-42.

Anne Orford, “Regional Orders, Geopolitics, and the Future of International Law,” Current Legal Problems 74:1 (2021), pp. 149-194.

Roland Paris, “The Right to Dominate: How Old Ideas about Sovereignty Pose New Challenges for World Order,” International Organization 74:3 (2020), pp. 453-489.

Tom Ginsburg, “Authoritarian International Law?” American Journal of International Law 114:2 (2020) pp. 221-260.

Discussion questions

  • How does international law function as a form of “governance”?

  • How “liberal” is international law?

  • What pressures are currently shaping international law and norms?

Optional further reading

Craig Forcese, “Legal Trolling: Russian Lawfare in the Context of Ukraine,” Intrepid Blog (February 22, 2022).

Session 6 – Midterm


Session 7 – Transnational Activism: Human Rights

Required reading

Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, “Transnational Advocacy Networks in International and Regional Politics,” International Social Science Journal 68 (2018), pp. 89-101.

Suparna Chaudhry and Andrew Heiss, “Closing Space and the Restructuring of Global Activism: Causes and Consequences of the Global Crackdown on NGOs,” in Christopher L. Pallas and Elizabeth Bloodgood, eds., Beyond the Boomerang: New Patterns in Transcalar Advocacy (University of Alabama Press, 2021).

André W. M. Gerrits, “The Crisis of Multilateralism and the Future of Human Rights,” in Thomas Meyer, José Luís de Sales Marques and Mario Telò, eds., Towards a New Multilateralism Cultural Divergence and Political Convergence? (Routledge, 2021), pp. 183-196.

Michael N. Barnett, “The Humanitarian Club: Hierarchy, Networks, and Exclusion,” in Michael N. Barnett, Jon C. W. Pevehouse and Kal Raustiala, eds., Global Governance in a World of Change (Cambridge University Press, 2021), pp. 155–181.

Discussion questions

  • How convinced are you by Keck and Sikkink’s arguments about transnationalism advocacy?

  • Are transnational advocacy networks a form of “governance”?

  • How are changing conditions in international affairs affecting human rights advocacy – and human rights?

Optional further reading

Alex Neve, “We Do Matter A Renewed Global Agenda for Protecting Human Rights,” in Diana Ayton-Shenker (ed.), The New Global Agenda (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), pp. 7-24.

Session 8 – Global Economic Governance

Required reading

Richard Baldwin, “The World Trade Organization and the Future of Multilateralism,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 30:1 (2016), pp. 95-116.

Bas Hooijmaaijers, “China, the BRICS, and the limitations of reshaping global economic governance,” The Pacific Review 34:1 (2021), pp. 29-55.

Henry Farrell and Abraham L. Newman, “Weaponizing Interdependence: How Global Economic Networks Shape State Coercion,” International Security 44:1 (2019), pp 42-79.

Eric Helleiner, “The Return of National Self-Sufficiency? Excavating Autarkic Thought in a De-Globalizing Era,” International Studies Review 23:3 (2021), pp. 933-957.

Discussion questions

  • How did the world trade system evolve?

  • Why is the WTO struggling to perform its role?

  • What is the relationship (if any) between economic interdependence and global governance?

Optional further reading

James Scott and Rorden Wilkinson, “Reglobalizing Trade: Progressive Global Governance in an Age of Uncertainty,” Globalizations 18:1 (2021), pp. 55-69

Kristen Hopewell, “The BRICS—Merely a Fable? Emerging Power Alliances in Global Trade Governance,” International Affairs 93:6 (2017), pp. 1377-1396.

Hiroyuki Suzuki, “Building Resilient Global Supply Chains: The Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific Region,” Centre for Strategic and International Studies (February 2021).

Session 9 – Global Environmental Governance

Required reading

Louis J. Kotzé, “The Anthropocene’s Global Environmental Constitutional Moment,” Yearbook of International Environmental Law 25:1 (2014), pp. 24-60.

Liliana B. Andonova, “Clean Energy and the Hybridization of Global Governance”, in Michael N. Barnett, Jon C. W. Pevehouse and Kal Raustiala, eds., Global Governance in a World of Change (Cambridge University Press, 2021), pp. 288-310.

Anatol Lieven, “Climate Change and the State: A Case for Environmental Realism,” Survival 62:2 (2020), pp. 7-26.

Nikos Tsafos, “How the Energy Transition Will Rewire the World,” Center for Strategic and International Studies (May 12, 2022).

Discussion questions

  • Is the climate change challenge leading to a “constitutional moment” in world politics?

  • What are the impediments to achieving more effective action on climate change?

  • Are we witnessing the “hybridization” of global governance? Are “hybrid” approaches useful?

  • What is the relationship between energy transformation and global politics?

Optional further reading

A classic: Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science 162 (1968), pp. 1243-1248.

Inés Azevedo, Michael R. Davidson, Jesse D. Jenkins, Valerie J. Karpius and David G. Victor. "The Paths to Net Zero," Foreign Affairs 99:3 (May 2020), pp. 18-27.

Edward Greenspon, Kim Henderson and Dave Nikolejsin, “The world needs Canada’s energy. Does Canada want to help?” Globe and Mail (August 18, 2022).

Session 10 – International Development and Global Politics

Required reading

Sarah Babb, “The Washington Consensus as Transnational Policy Paradigm: Its Origins, Trajectory and Likely Successor,” Review of International Political Economy 20:2 (2013), pp. 268-297.

Rory Horner and David Hulme, “From International to Global Development: New Geographies of 21st Century Development,” Development and Change 50:2 (2019), pp. 347-378.

Mingjiang Li, “The Belt and Road Initiative: Geo-Economics and Indo-Pacific Security Competition,” International Affairs 96:1 (January 2020), pp. 169–187.

Kelly Sims Gallagher, "The Coming Carbon Tsunami,” Foreign Affairs 101:1 (January-February 2022), pp. 151-164.

Discussion questions

  • How have understandings of “international development” changed over time?

  • What is the relationship between global power politics and international development?

  • What are the emerging challenges in international development?

Optional further reading

The Economist, “Chinese Loans and Investment in Infrastructure Have Been Huge” (May 20, 2022).

Reading will be provided by instructor

Sophie Harman and David Williams, “International Development in Transition,” International Affairs 90:4 (2014), pp. 925-941.

Shahar Hameiri and Lee Jones, “China Challenges Global Governance? Chinese International Development Finance and the AIIB,” International Affairs 94:3 (2018), pp. 573-593.

“Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy,” Government of Canada (2017).

Session 11 – A Changing International Order: Implications for Governance

Required reading

G. John Ikenberry, “The End of Liberal International Order?” International Affairs 94:1 (2018), pp. 7-23.

Amitav Acharya, “After Liberal Hegemony: The Advent of a Multiplex World Order,” Ethics and International Affairs 31:3 (2017), pp. 271-285.

John M Owen, “Two Emerging International Orders? China and the United States,” International Affairs 97:5 (September 2021), pp. 1415–1431.

Philip Zelikow, “The Hollow Order: Rebuilding an International System that Works,” Foreign Affairs 101:4 (July-August 2022): 107-119.

Discussion questions

  • What type of world order is emerging, in your view?

  • What implications would these different types of world orders have on international governance?

Optional further reading

Cristian Reus-Smit, “The End of Global Pluralism?” European Journal of International Relations 27:4 (2021), pp. 1249-1273.

Elizabeth Economy, "Xi Jinping's New World Order," Foreign Affairs 101:1 (January-February 2022): 52-67.

“Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development” (February 4, 2022).

Session 12 – Canada in a Changing World

Required reading

Roland Paris, “Navigating New World Disorder: Canada’s Post-Pandemic Foreign Policy,” Public Policy Forum (July 2020).

Vincent Rigby and Thomas Juneau, “A National Security Strategy for the 2020s,” Task Force on National Security, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa (May 2022).

Adam MacDonald and Carter Vance, “Developing a Canadian Indo-Pacific Geopolitical Orientation,” International Journal 76:4 (December 2021), pp. 564–93.

Paul Meyer, “A Foreign Policy Review for Canada – Is Global Britain a Model to Emulate?” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 28:2 (2021), pp. 160-165.

Discussion questions

  • What are the principal ways in which global changes are affecting Canada?

  • In what directions, and using what methods, should Canada be seeking to influence international affairs?

Optional further reading

Kari Roberts, “Geopolitics and Diplomacy in Canadian Arctic Relations,” in David Carment and Richard Nimijean, eds., Political Turmoil in a Tumultuous World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), pp. 125-146.

Justin Massie and Srdjan Vuctic, “Canadian Strategic Culture from Confederation to Trump,” in Thomas Juneau, Philippe Lagassé and Srdjan Vucetic, eds., Canadian Defence Policy in Theory and Practice (Palgrave, 2020), pp. 29-44.

Duane Bratt, “Stuck in the Middle with You: Canada–China Relations in the Era of U.S.–China Clashes,” in David Carment and Richard Nimijean, eds., Political Turmoil in a Tumultuous World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), pp. 273-294.

Course policies and notices

[See Brightspace course page.]


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