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Perspectives on International Relations

Perspectives on International Relations
Power, Institutions, and Ideas

Sixth Edition
Experience with SAGE edge

January 2018 | 608 pages | CQ Press

“Nau provides an accessible and deft interweaving of international relations theory and empirical application in this textbook, which is ideal for any Introduction to International Relations course.”

Richard Arnold, Muskingum University

Perspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions, and Ideas shows students new to the field how theories (perspectives) of international affairs—realism, liberalism, constructivism (identity), and critical theory—play a decisive role in explaining every-day debates about world affairs. Why, for example, do politicians and political scientists disagree about the causes of the ongoing conflict in Syria, even though they all have the same facts? Or, why do policymakers disagree about how to deal with North Korea when they are all equally well informed?

The new Sixth Edition of this best-seller includes updates on Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump and other populist leaders, and continuing developments for ISIS, Syria, and Russia.

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About the Author
Figures, Maps, Parallel Timelines, and Tables
Introduction. Why We Disagree about International Relations
The Crisis in Syria  
The Roles of Perspectives, Levels of Analysis, and Causal Arrows  
The Role of History  
Contemporary Foreign Policy Disputes: The 9/11 Attacks  
The Role of Methods  
Is One Perspective or Method Best?  
The Role of Judgment  
The Role of Ethics and Morality  
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
1. How to Think about International Relations: Perspectives, Levels of Analysis, and Causal Arrows
Prisoner’s Dilemma  
The Realist Perspective  
The Liberal Perspective  
The Identity Perspective  
Critical Theory Perspectives  
Levels of Analysis  
Causal Arrows  
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
2. World War I: World on Fire
Europe in 1914  
Realist Explanations  
Liberal Explanations  
Identity Explanations  
Critical Theory Explanations  
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
3. World War II: Why Did War Happen Again?
Causes of Madness  
Liberal Accounts  
Realist Accounts  
Identity Matters  
Critical Theory Perspective  
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
4. The Origins and End of the Cold War
The Long Telegram  
Snapshot of the Cold War  
Realist Explanations  
Identity Explanations  
Liberal Explanations  
Critical Theory Perspective  
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
5. Realist Perspectives on Today’s World: Unipolarity, Balance of Power, and State Actors
Balancing Power  
Domestic State Actors  
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
6. Liberal Perspectives on Today’s World: Collective Security, Diplomacy, International Institutions, and Law
Collective Security  
International Institutions  
Regional Institutions  
Nongovernmental Organizations  
International Law  
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
7. Identity Perspectives on Today’s World: Democracy, Religion, Nationalism, and Human Rights
Human Rights  
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
8. Realist and Liberal Perspectives on Globalization: Security, Domestic Economy, Trade, Investment, and Finance
Snapshot of Globalization  
Security and Economics  
Domestic Economic Policies  
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
9. Identity Perspectives on Globalization: Development and Environment
Latin America  
Sub-Saharan Africa  
Middle East and North Africa  
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
10. Critical Theory Perspectives on Globalization: Inequality, Imperialism, and Injustice
Colonialism and Imperialism  
World Systems  
Multinational Corporations and Exploitation of Labor  
Marginalized Minorities: Global Injustice  
Persisting Global Inequality  
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
Conclusion. Applying Perspectives and Levels of Analysis: The Case of the Democratic Peace
Key Concepts  
Study Questions  
Glossary of Key Concepts


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“Nau provides an accessible and deft interweaving of international relations theory and empirical application in this textbook which is ideal for any Introduction to International Relations course.”

Richard Arnold
Muskingum University

“A theoretically rich, historically informed, and pedagogically sophisticated introduction to the study of international relations.”

Brian C. Schmidt
Carleton University

“This book is detailed, thought-provoking, and theory-oriented, allowing students to both understand and apply major perspectives and levels of analysis in international relations to a wide range of political issues, events, and processes.”

Jennifer L. Dumas
Tulane University
Key features


  • The chapters on the contemporary international system have been fully revised and updated to account for recent developments dealing with: the rise of nationalism in the US and elsewhere; mounting terrorist attacks; the Islamic Caliphate; conflicts in Syria, Iran, and North Korea; Russian aggression in Ukraine; Chinese assertiveness in the Pacific Islands; cyber warfare; Great Britain’s departure from the European Union; and the use of social media in political protests.
  • The chapters on globalization and change have been updated to address: the populist backlash against globalization, growing debt problems worldwide, sluggish energy markets, slowing global growth, migrant and refugee crises, and climate change.
  • To help students better understand the issue of cause and effect, many new causal arrows appear in the margins near the text's discussions of causality.     


  • “Perspectives and Levels of Analysis” features give students an easy visual way to track how each perspective interprets events from the individual, domestic, and systemic levels.
  • “Parallel Timelines” show how the perspectives preference different events, from the origins of WWI to the current era.
  • “Causal Arrows” are visual cues that help students see and better understand causality from the various perspectives, encouraging close reading and critical thinking.
  • A marginal glossary defines every key term in the book and chapters end with a Summary, a Key Concepts list, and a robust set of Study Questions.

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