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International Relations Theory

A Primer

Second Edition

Elizabeth G. Matthews and Rhonda L. Callaway

Publication Date - 18 October 2019

ISBN: 9780190081638

384 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

The only IR theories text that teaches students how to apply and assess contemporary IR issues


Ideal as a brief main text for IR Theories courses or as a supplemental text for IR, American Foreign Policy, or Global Studies courses, International Relations Theory: A Primer, Second Edition, covers the main definitions, concepts, arguments, and criticisms regarding the five predominant IR theories and approaches used in the field today: realism, liberalism, constructivism, economic structuralism, and feminism. Bridging the gap between theory and practice, it helps students understand and critique the theories and apply them to real-world issues.

New to this Edition

  • Includes updated case studies: one on the tension between free trade and protectionism and the other on nonproliferation and arms races
  • Offers an analysis of international relations theories to explain each of the book's case studies
  • Discusses green theory in the final chapter, illustrating the emergence of new theories in the field that are becoming more commonplace and pressing in modern IR courses


  • Focus on five theories identified by the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) project as those most often taught in introductory IR courses
  • Inclusion of two case studies on non-proliferation and trade in each theory chapter
  • Utilizes "Family Tree" visuals that graphically and intuitively illustrate the sub-theories of each major theory
  • Encourages students to apply the theory to real-world scenarios to see both their explanatory power as well as their deficiencies

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth G. Matthews is Professor of Political Science and Global Studies at California State University San Marcos. She is a coauthor of World Politics in a New Era, Sixth Edition (OUP, 2013) and the editor of The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Parallel Discourses (2011).

Rhonda L. Callaway is Professor of Political Science at Sam Houston State University. She is the coeditor of Exploring International Human Rights: Essential Readings (2007).

Dr. Matthews and Dr. Callaway are the coauthors of Strategic U.S. Foreign Assistance: The Battle Between Human Rights and National Security (2008).


"This book is an excellent fit for Intro to IR and Intro to IR Theory courses. It has the distinct competitive advantage of including chapters dedicated to several major IR theories, not just realism and liberalism. It's not overly simplistic, and closes each section with practical application of the theories."--Lan T. Chu, Occidental College

"International Relations Theory is an excellent and comprehensive analysis of the main theories in the field of international relations. The book shows how each significant event or institution is analyzed through each of the theories. Moreover, it looks at the debates in the field and critiques each from that perspective. All students should have a copy to refer to when they are analyzing international issues."--Raymonde Kleinberg, University of North Carolina Wilmington

"It is important for students to understand theories and to see the common connections between them. The application of a specific issue, like nuclear proliferation, provides a good grounding for students to understand and compare the various theories."--John Miglietta, Tennessee State University

Table of Contents

    Each chapter includes Suggested Readings and Key Terms

    Chapter 1: Introduction
    Evolution of International Relations Theories
    The Study of International Relations
    Levels of Analysis
    Case Study I: Proliferation and Arms Races
    Case Study II: Trade and Protectionism
    Organization of the Book

    Chapter 2: Realism
    Roots and Evolution of Realism
    -Central Assumptions
    Classical Realism
    -Pioneers in the Field
    -Spotlight on Policymakers: George Kennan
    Neorealism (Structural Realism)
    -Pioneers in the Field
    -Polarity and Balance versus Imbalance of Power
    Neoclassical Realism
    -Pioneers in the Field
    Criticisms of Realism
    Case Study: Proliferation and Arms Races
    Case Study: Trade and Protectionism

    Chapter 3: Liberalism
    Roots and Evolution of Liberalism
    -Central Assumptions
    Liberal Internationalism
    -Pioneers in the Field
    -Neoliberal Institutionalism
    -Pioneers in the Field
    -Barriers to Cooperation and How States Overcome Them
    Laissez-Faire and Economic Liberalism
    -Pioneers on the Field
    Spotlight on Policymakers: John Maynard Keynes
    -Globalization and Liberal Economic Policies in Crisis?
    Criticisms of Liberalism
    Case Study: Proliferation and Arms Races
    Case Study: Trade and Protectionism

    Chapter 4: Economic Structuralism
    Roots and Evolution of Economic Structuralism
    -Central Assumptions
    Classical Marxism and Imperialism
    -Pioneers in the Field
    Economic Structuralism and Dependency Theory
    -Pioneers in the Field
    Spotlight on Policymakers: Raul Prebisch
    -Marxist Variant of Dependency Theory
    -Non-Marxist Variant of Dependency Theory
    World Systems Theory
    -Pioneers in the Field
    Criticisms of Economic Structuralism
    Case Study: Proliferation and Arms Races
    Case Study: Trade and Protectionism

    Chapter 5: Constructivism
    Constructivism and the Third Debate
    Roots and Evolution of Constructivism
    -Central Assumptions
    Spotlight on Policymakers: Raphael Lemkin
    Emergence of Constructivism
    -Modernist Constructivists: Pioneers in the Field
    -Naturalistic Constructivists: Pioneers in the Field
    -Postmodernist Constructivists: Pioneers in the Field
    Criticisms of Constructivism
    Case Study: Proliferation and Arms Races
    Case Study: Trade and Proliferation

    Chapter 6: Feminism
    Feminism: A Movement
    Spotlight on Policymakers: Margot Wallström
    Roots and Evolution of Feminist International Relations Theory
    -Central Assumptions
    Family of Theories
    -Feminist Empiricism
    -The Feminist Standpoint
    -Feminist Postmodernism
    -Pioneers in the Field
    Criticisms of Feminism
    Case Study: Proliferation and Arms Races
    Case Study: Trade and Protectionism
    Key Terms
    Suggested Reading

    Chapter 7: Conclusion
    Ontology and Epistemology Revisited
    Towards a Holistic Approach to Studying International Relations
    -English School
    -Critical Theory
    -Green Theory
    Case Studies: A Holistic Approach to Proliferation and Trade Liberalization
    -Proliferation and Arms Races
    -Trade and Protectionism
    Where do we go from here?
    Key Terms
    Suggested Reading