The subject that we today call “International Relations” (IR) is heterogeneous: while the discipline originated from a marriage between political science and history, today’s IR theories have strong links with sociology and economics, too. IR is therefore a member of the family of social sciences, with which it shares many characteristics. The analysis of the scientific status of social research is thus relevant for the proper understanding of IR. Like natural sciences, social sciences aim in fact at answering “what?”, “why?” and “how?” questions concerning phenomena.

The first part of the course provides students with the basic conceptual tools of the philosophy and methodology of social science. Theoretical models capable of explaining empirical social phenomena, connecting their macro and micro aspects, are singled out as crucial analytical instruments.

The second part of the course is devoted to explanatory models in IR, which are theoretically examined and empirically applied. In particular, the models of strategic rational action, the security dilemma and the outbreak of war are considered. The issues of strategy, security and war are then analyzed in the framework of the game theoretical approach, both in its classical version and in the more recent variant of the theory of moves, which will be applied to three case studies taken from world politics.

The third part of the course is devoted to seminar discussions of two game theoretical case studies of international crises, which are explained by means of the theory of moves.


Preparatory Readings:

Elster, J. (1989), Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences, Cambridge UP.

Boudon, R. (2002), Sociology That Really Matters, European Sociological Review, v. 18, n. 3, pp. 371-378.

Walt, S. M: (1998), International Relations: One World, Many Theories, Foreign Policy, n. 110, Spring, pp. 29-46.

Walt, S.M. (2002), The Enduring Relevance of the Realist Tradition, in I. Katznelson, H.W. Milner (eds.), Political Science. The State of the Discipline, New York, Norton, 197-230.

Levy, J.S. (1997), Too Important to Leave to the Other: History and Political Science in the Study of International Relations, International Security, v. 22, n. 1, pp. 22-33.

Levy, J.S. (1998), The Causes of War and the Conditions of Peace, Annual Review of Political Science, v. 1, pp. 139-65.

The main aim of the course consists in comparing the developments of governmental systems in the Western World, from the 19th century to the second half of the 20th century, with a particular focus on five main countries: France, Germany, Italy, UK and USA. In order to broaden the students' comparative skills, in the last part of the course -and especially during the discussion time - the analysis will be occasionally extendedto other case studies, with a particular reference to the Eastern Asian countries.

Although a general outline of the constitutional and political systems considered is provided, the course is mainly concerned in using the case studies to shed light on critical aspects of governmental institutions and processes such as political participation and elections, monarchical and presidential vs. parliamentary rule, the politics/administration 'dichotomy', centralization vs. decentralization and federalism and the nation-building process. Attention will be paid to issues like the convergence and the circulation of political models, the use of institutional symbols in the different polities, the relation between the constitutional structures and the underlying social structures.

The course will examine the changing patterns of conflict and conflict management in contemporary international relations, together with their causes and their consequences.

First, the course will present the features and trends that have come to characterize the contemporary international system. In this regard, it will pay particular attention to the main changes in conflict patterns, thus dealing with the shifts from conventional to unconventional international violence; from inter-state to intra-state conflicts; and, from war to military interventions. Second, it will deal with the issue of regionalism, in order to substantiate how and why the contemporary system is strategically diverging from the Cold War global dynamics. Third, it will present and debate what are the main contemporary patterns of conflict management, by focusing both on states and on non state actors as security providers. Fourth, it will focus on the role the US plays in contemporary politics; and, its future prospects.

Course Aims and Objectives:

The course aims at presenting the latest developments in the theory and practice of international law rules governing the relationships between the various subjects and entities of the International Community.

In particular, on successful completion of the course, the students will be able to: (i) recognize the nature of the different actors of the international arena in order to evaluate whether they are subjects under international law and to what extent rights and obligations attributed only to States by traditional theories can be referred to them; (ii) identify the specific sources of international law applicable to hypothetical disputes and practical cases; (iii) analyze the case law rendered by existing international courts having jurisdiction over fundamental human rights' protection and the punishment of international crimes, in order to evaluate the degree of effectiveness  of the rights of individuals, as emerging subjects of international law; (iv) formulate, both individually and as member of a group, a well-organized assertion using proper juridical methodology and terminology in order to either assess or criticize a certain position with regard to a specific legal issue.

Course Structure /Description

The first part of the Course is meant to provide a survey of international law making processes. The way international rules come into being and how they operate in the international legal system will be the core of the analysis. Although the main focus is on customary and treaty law, due attention will be paid also to general principles of law and soft law. The second part will deal with statehood and limits to domestic jurisdiction, with special emphasis on immunities and responsibility of the States to protect human rights through the analysis of the relevant case-law of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The third part will be devoted to the "judicial reaction” to the commission of international crimes by the ICJ, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International Criminal Court (ICC); a study visit to one or more of such international courts will be arranged around the end of the Course for those students who are willing to participate [note: each student has to organize the trip by his/her own and pay for travelling and lodging expenses]. Should the study visit turn out not to be feasible, lectures by prominent International Law Scholars will be organized on the same days.

Course Materials

-Background readings and on-line multimedia materials

Since the Course requires the basic knowledge of the fundamentals, for those who have never taken any exam in International Law, I recommend at least the following materials:

1.V. Lowe,International law, OUP, Oxford, 2007, Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5;

2.A. Clapham, Human Rights. A very Short Introduction, OUP, Oxford, 2007, Ch. 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8;

3.The readings can be complemented by listening to the following lectures, available at the website of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law (

3.a: Judge Christopher Greenwood, "The Sources of International Law”, at the following link:

3.b: Judge Thomas Buergenthal, "A Brief History of International Human Rights Law”, at the following link:

3.c: Mr. Kevin Riordan, "Basic Idea about International Criminal Law”, at the following link:

-Main Reference Textbook

4. J. Crawford, M. Koskenniemi (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to International Law, Cambridge University Press, Oxford, 2012


With the exception of the above mentioned textbooks (at n. 1-2-4 of the previous list), all the required readings (cf. infra the detailed syllabus) will be made available on electronic reserve (within the students' login area - the so called "Area riservata” on the Course webpage with restricted access to attending students), when not available directly on-line. Please print these readings, bring them to class and be prepared to discuss specific points from the readings in class discussion.

Time: Monday, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m; Friday 9 a.m - 11a.m

Location: "Aula Giuridico” of the Department of Political and Social Studies; "Aula B” on Fridays

Teacher: Prof. Adv. Carola Ricci, PhD, LLM

Office Hours: Tuesday, 11.30-12.30 a.m. (Giuridico - 1st floor, follow signs to "Accademia dei giurisprivatisti europei”)

Tutors: Dr. Laura Messina; Dr. Damiano Fuschi; Dr. Adv. Giuseppe Serranò, PhD