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Perspectives on International Relations

Perspectives on International Relations
Power, Institutions, and Ideas

Sixth Edition
Additional resources:

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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