POLS 586


FALL 2007

 Thursdays 6:30-9:10pm

DuSable 466


Dr. Y.K. Wang

Office: Zulauf 416

Office Hours: T & TH 2:00-3:30, and by appointment

Tel: (815)753-7058

E-mail: ykwang@niu.edu



Course Description:


This course introduces students to the realist paradigm of international relations. Topics include classical realism, structural realism, defensive realism, offensive realism, neoclassical realism, offense-defense theory, and balance of power. Additionally, we will also examine important issues such as the roles of sovereignty and morality in international politics.


This course encourages students to “think theoretically,” as theory is a useful tool to understand the complex world. At the completion of the course, students are expected to grasp the core arguments of various realist theories as well as their disagreements.


Course Requirements:


This is a seminar course. Students should actively participate in class discussion as this is an important part of the learning process. You are expected to complete all the reading and attend every class.


Required Texts:


The following books should be available for purchase at the NIU Bookstore. For students with a limited budget, the books are also on 2-hour reserve at Founders Memorial Library. Items marked E-brary are available in e-Book format through the Library’s website at: http://www.niulib.niu.edu/books.cfm. Other required articles can be found on the course’s Blackboard website.


l            Krasner, Stephen D. Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999 (E-brary)

l            Mearsheimer, John J. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001.

l            Walt, Stephen M. The Origins of Alliances. Ithaca, NY.: Cornell University Press, 1987.

l            Waltz, Kenneth. Theory of International Politics. Reading, M.A.: Addison-Wesley, 1978.

l            Walzer, Michael. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. New York: Basic Books, 1977.



Grading will be based on:


Class Participation               15%

Three Oral Presentations    15%

Book Review                                    20%

Research Paper                     50%


Class participation includes both attendance and discussion. Students should actively participate in class discussion as this is an important part of the learning process. I strongly encourage you to speak and share your thoughts and reactions to the materials covered in class. I will usually add points to your participation grade if you actively contribute to discussion.


During the semester, you will be assigned to do three oral presentations on the readings aimed to stimulate discussion. In your presentation, you should make connections between the readings, offer persuasive criticisms, analyze the methodology used, and raise questions for discussion. Do not simply summarize the readings; everybody is supposed to have read them! You should limit your presentation to ten minutes and distribute an outline beforehand. Your presentations will constitute 15% of your final grade.


For the book review (5-8 pages, double-spaced, size-12 font), you may select from the readings of this course. If you wish to review a book not listed on the syllabus, you must obtain approval from the instructor at least two weeks before the due date. In your essay, you should summarize the book’s main points and offer your own critique. Your summary should be no more than two pages. A good essay should go beyond the summary and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the book under review (e.g., methodology, credibility of sources, coherence of arguments, and structure). The essay is due in class on October 11. Ten percent of your essay grade will be deducted for each day the essay is late.


The research paper (20-25 pages, double-spaced, size-12 font) should be original. You must discuss the topic with me in advance and submit a one-page prospectus by November 1. The prospectus should include the central question, tentative argument, research method, and at leave five bibliographical sources. In addition, you are required to present your paper in one of the last two sessions of class and, depending on class size, serve as discussant for one or more papers of classmates. To give your classmates enough lead time, you must post a copy of your first draft on Blackboard by November 27. These presentations are designed to help you receive constructive feedback and strengthen your final paper. The revised paper is due in the department office on December 13 at 4 p.m. Ten percent of your paper grade will be deducted for each day the prospectus, first draft, or revised paper is late. This penalty is cumulative, so please submit your assignments on time.


Your final letter grades will be based on the following grading scale:


90% to 100% = A

80% to 89%    = B

70% to 79%    = C

60% to 69%    = D

0%   to 59%    = F


Course Policies:


1.      Late Assignments. I will not accept late assignments unless under extreme circumstances. You must inform me as soon as possible before the assignment due date. Requests without prior notification and documented evidence will not be accepted.

  1. Academic Misconduct:  In preparing their work and meeting the requirements of this course, members of this seminar are expected to adhere to all the rules, regulations, and standards set forth by the Department of Political Science, Graduate School, Northern Illinois University, and the scholarly community. This statement encompasses intentional and unintentional plagiarism, cheating on examinations, using, purchasing or stealing others' work, misusing library materials, and so forth. Failure to honor these rules, regulations, and standards could result in a failing course grade and/or disciplinary action. Moreover, do not submit a paper written for another course. “Double-dipping” is strictly prohibited and will result in a failed course grade. If you have questions, consult with the instructor before submitting your paper.
  2. Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework for which they may require accommodations should notify the University’s Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR). CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester. The CAAR office is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building and its phone number is (815) 753-1303.


Important Due Dates:


            Book Review                        October 11

            Prospectus                November 1

            First Draft                  November 27

            Final Paper                December 13





(Any changes will be announced in class or on Blackboard)



Week 1                       APSA Conference (NO CLASS)

August 30


Week 2                       Classical Realism

September 6


l            Sean M. Lynn-Jones, “Realism and Security Studies,” in Craig A. Snyder, ed., Contemporary Security and Strategy (New York: Routledge, 1999): 53-76.


l                  Jack Donnelly, Realism and International Relations (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), chapters 1-2. (E-brary)


l                  Hans J. Morgenthau. Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. 5th ed. (New York: Knopf, 1985): chapters 1-3.


l                  Hans J. Morgenthau, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1946): chapter 7.


Week 3                       Structural Realism

September 13


l            Waltz, Theory of International Politics, read entire book.

Week 4                       Defensive Realism

September 20


l            Snyder, Myths of Empire (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991): chapters 1-2.

l            Charles L. Glaser, "Realists as Optimists: Cooperation as Self-Help," International Security 19, no. 3 (Winter 1994/95): 50-90.

l            Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, "Security Seeking under Anarchy: Defensive Realism Revisited," International Security 25, no. 3 (Winter 2000/01): 128-61.

Week 5                       Offense-Defense Theory

September 27


l            Robert Jervis, "Cooperation under the Security Dilemma," World Politics 30, no. 2 (1978): 167-214.

l            Sean M. Lynn-Jones, "Offense-Defense Theory and Its Critics," Security Studies 4, no. 4 (1995): 660-691.


l            Stephen Van Evera, "Offense, Defense, and the Causes of War," International Security 22, no. 4 (Spring 1998): 5-43.

l            Charles L. Glaser and Chaim Kaufmann, "What is the Offense-Defense Balance and How Can We Measure It?" International Security 22, no. 4 (Spring 1998): 44-82.

l            Keir Lieber, “Grasping the Technological Peace: The Offense- Defense Balance and International Security,” International Security 25, no. 1 (Summer 2000): 71-104.


Week 6                       Offensive Realism—I

October 4


l            Randall L. Schweller, "Neorealism's Status-Quo Bias: What Security Dilemma?" Security Studies 5, no. 3 (Spring 1996): 90-121.

l            Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, chapters 1-5.



l            Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

l            Fareed Zakaria, From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America's World Role (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998).


Week 7                       Offensive Realism—II

October 11



l            Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, chapters 6-10.

l            Christopher Layne, "The 'Poster Child for Offensive Realism': America as a Global Hegemon," Security Studies 12, no. 2 (Winter 2002/3): 120-164.

l            Colin Elman, "Extending Offensive Realism: The Louisiana Purchase and America's Rise to Regional Hegemony," American Political Science Review 98, no. 4 (November 2004): 563-576.


l            Christopher Layne, The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2006).


Week 8                       Bringing the State (and Individual) Back In

October 18


l            Colin Elman, "Horses for Courses: Why Not Neorealist Theories of Foreign Policy?" Security Studies 6, no. 1 (Autumn 1996): 7-53.

l            Kenneth Waltz, "International Politics Is Not Foreign Policy," Security Studies 6, no. 1 (Autumn 1996): 54-57.

l            Randall L. Schweller, "Bandwagoning for Profit: Bringing the Revisionist State Back In," International Security 19, no. 1 (Summer 1994): 72-107.

l            Gideon Rose, "Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy," World Politics 51, no. 1 (October 1998): 144-72.

l            Bradley A. Thayer, "Bringing in Darwin: Evolutionary Theory, Realism, and International Politics," International Security 25, no. 2 (Fall 2000): 124-51.


Week 9                       Balancing, Bandwagoning, and Buckpassing

October 25


l            Walt, The Origins of Alliances, chaps. 1, 2, 5, 8.

l            Re-read Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, chaps. 5, 8.

l            Thomas J. Christensen and Jack Snyder. "Chain Gangs and Passed Bucks: Predicting Alliance Patterns in Multipolarity," International Organization 44, no. 2 (Spring 1990): 137-68


l            John A. Vasquez and Colin Elman, eds. Realism and the Balancing of Power: A New Debate (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2003).



Week 10                     Soft Balancing and U.S. Primacy

November 1

One-page Prospectus Due


l            Robert A. Pape, "Soft Balancing against the United States." International Security 30, no. 1 (Summer 2005): 7-45.


l            T. V. Paul, "Soft Balancing in the Age of U.S. Primacy." International Security 30, no. 1 (Summer 2005): 46-71.


l            Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth. "Hard Times for Soft Balancing." international Security 30, no. 1 (Summer 2005): 72-108.


l            Kier A. Lieber and Gerard Alexander. "Waiting for Balancing: Why the World Is Not Pushing Back." International Security 30, no. 1 (Summer 2005): 109-139.


l            Robert Art, et. al., “Correspondence: Striking the Balance,” International Security 30, no. 3 (Winter 2005/06): 177–196



l            G. John Ikenberry, ed. America Unrivaled: The Future of the Balance of Power (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2002).

l            T.V. Paul, James J. Wirtz, and Michel Fortmann, eds., Balance of Power: Theory and Practice in the 21st Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004). (E-brary)

l            Stephen M. Walt, Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005).

l            Christopher Layne, “The Unipolar Illusion Revisited: The Coming End of the United States’ Unipolar Moment,” International Security 31, no. 2 (Fall 2006): 7–41.

l            Barry R. Posen, "European Union Security and Defense Policy: Response to Unipolarity?" Security Studies 15, no. 2 (April-June 2006): 149-186


Week 11                     Sovereignty

November 8


l            Krasner, Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy, read entire book. (E-brary)


Week 12                     Can Realism be Moral?

November 15


l            Hans Morgenthau, “The Twilight of International Morality,” Ethics 58, no. 2 (January 1948): 79-99.


l            Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, TBA.

l            Michael C. Desch, “It is Kind to be Cruel: The Humanity of American Realism,” Review of International Studies 29 (2003): 415-426.


l            Marc Trachtenberg, “The Question of Realism: A Historian’s View,” Security Studies 13, no. 1 (Autumn 2003): 156-194.


l            Michael C. Williams, The Realist Tradition and the Limits of International Relations (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

l            Noel Malcolm, "What Hobbes Really Said," National Interest, no. 81 (Fall 2005): 122-128.


Week 13                     Thanksgiving Holiday (No Class)

November 22

November 27: First Draft Due on Blackboard


Week 14                     Presentation and Discussion of Research Papers

November 29


Week 15                     Presentation and Discussion of Research Papers

December 6


Week 16                     Final Paper Due

December 13