Feed on



Students are required to write two essays over the course of the term totaling 3000 words (i.e. roughly twelve pages). Both assignments appear below; and students are encouraged to begin considering these essays the moment they begin the course. Throughout the term, they ought to examine the bearing of each week’s readings on these essay questions.

Students will happily find that these essay assignments are designed to build on one another. The first essay prompts students to analyze one of the major theoretical approaches taken to the study of international politics. The second requires students to evaluate the applicability of this (or another) approach to one of the cases studied in this course. The final essay challenges students to apply their insights to one of the pressing issues that confront intellectuals and policymakers today.

No outside research should be required to earn top marks on these essays. Students who wish to conduct ancillary research must consult with me before they do so. Students are reminded to follow the specifications of the assignments closely.

The essay due dates fall a considerable time after the relevant material is covered. These dates were chosen: (1) to correspond with units where the reading is relatively lighter and/or easier; and (2) to provide plenty of opportunity to reflect on the material and compose the essay. Students are advised to begin work well in advance of these deadlines, particularly since the course tardiness policies will be strictly enforced

Essay 1: Consider the Determinants of Political-Economic Policy

Maximum Length: 1500 words
Help Deadline: 10:00 PM, Tuesday, 31 March
Deadline: 5:30 PM, Friday, 3 April

While international political economy and international economics share many of the same questions and approaches to answering those questions, the former field places much greater emphasis on explaining political-economic policy. Yet, within IPE there is no consensus on a general model of the interactions between ideas, interests, and institutions that combine to shape policy. The division between Keynes and Marx persists in the debate between Schonhardt-Bailey and Irwin.

The question thus remains: how ought we understand the relationship between the ideas, interests, and institutions that give rise to our political-economic policies?

This essay will provide you with an opportunity to gain some traction on this question. Select one of the perspectives from Unit 1. After you are sure you understand the theorist’s perspective on the relationship between these several key variables (ideas, interests, and institutions), use one of the empirical cases from Units 2 or 3 to “test” the veracity of this theory.

For instance, you might examine whether ideas played the role Irwin posits in the creation of the RTAA. Or you might consider whether interests shaped ideas and institutions, as Marx hypothesized, in the establishment of the post-war international monetary system.

For some, this topic may prove challenging. If you find that is the case for you, I strongly encourage you to request help.

Essay 2: Propose a Policy

Maximum Length: 1500 words
Help Deadline: 10:00 PM, Thursday, 23 April
Submission Deadline: 5:30 PM, Friday, 24 April

You are an adviser to the President of the United States (or the leader of another country, if you so choose). One of the President’s other advisers has issued the following statements, and you are tasked with writing a policy brief in response to one of the statements from a better-informed perspective. The President is busy, however, and (s)he will not read more than 1500 words. Be sure to be clear whether you support or reject the adviser’s statement. Also be sure to respond to potential counter-arguments.

  • Statement 1: “The multilateral trade regime is defunct. It only worked when it was underpinned by US power. The decline of relative US economic power has driven more and more states to embrace regionalism. We, too, must embrace regionalism—even if it means sacrificing the multilateral trade regime—before we are left behind.”
  • Statement 2: “The British had it right. Rather than bringing workers to capital through immigration, they brought capital to workers in foreign countries. They combined this with liberal trade policies to allow the goods produced abroad to flow back into their home markets. I don’t see any reason why we can’t do the same thing. The fabric of American civil society is being pulled asunder by immigration. Let’s keep America ‘American’ by keeping the foreigners out and loosening our restrictions on capital controls and trade.”
  • Statement 3: “We do need ‘another Bretton Woods’–but this time, we should make a full rather than a partial return to the gold standard ideal. In the late 19th Century, when states came closest to achieving that ideal, capital flowed freely, the international financial system was stable, and the world was at peace. The current financial crisis is proof enough that the current international monetary system, with its floating exchange rates, is not only disorderly but also dangerously volatile. The very welfare of our populace turns on a return to gold.”
Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.