Just War Theory
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleMAN-MPOL046
Credits (ECTS)6
CategoryMA (Master)
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Nijmegen School of Management; Master Political Science;
dr. S.P. Ruth-Lovell
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. J.A. Verbeek
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. J.A. Verbeek
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. J.A. Verbeek
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2022
3-4  (30/01/2023 to 02/07/2023)
Starting block
Course mode
RemarksThe registration for the workgroups will happen in Brightspace
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
  • Students gain insight into the interconnectedness of the main sub-disciplines of political science: Political Theory, International Relations and Conflict Studies.
  • Students gain the ability to recognise, in a specific case of a scientifically relevant political question, how the various sub-disciplinary perspectives address a problem and how they differ in their approach.
  • Students acquire the ability to analyse a scientifically relevant political question by using the various sub-disciplinary approaches in the field of political science.
  • Students acquire the ability to reflect critically, and to develop and defend a reasoned perspective of their own, on just war theory.
  • Building on the insights from previous courses in the master’s curriculum, students acquire the ability to reflect critically on the extent to which modern warfare is different from traditional warfare and what implications this has for political science theory.
  • Students gain experience in transferring the insights they acquired in class to different domains beyond academia, e.g. gamification, training and civic education.
  • Students acquire the ability to distinguish different scenarios in situations of moral conflict through developing a board game prototype.
  • Students gain experience in project management and team coordination processes through the collaborative process of developing a board game prototype.

This course aims at the cross-fertilisation of several sub-disciplines within political science. Students explore the relationship between Political Theory, International Relations and Conflict Studies by addressing the normative debate surrounding ‘just wars’. The course also includes an applied perspective, which allows students to move beyond the academic engagement with the topic by developing gamified training materials for politicians and civil servants faced with the dilemmas surrounding the ‘just war’ debate.
In the first part of this course students will gain insights into the ‘just war’ debate, which traditionally focused on the right to initiating a war and on the proper conduct of actors during a war. Recently, a third element has been added: the extent to which post-conflict resolution should be subject to certain norms. All three debates reflect a fourth debate, which some have labelled a ‘non-debate’: the extent to which the domain of international relations can be the subject of moral judgment in the first place. We will address all these issues by examining the political theoretical arguments and by assessing and explaining the extent to which actors in world politics actually follow these political theoretical arguments. Special attention is paid to the exchange of views between normative models from political theory and empirical research in International Relations. In addition we will discuss to what extent the insights of just war theory are challenged by modern political and military reality.

In the second part of this course we will take an applied perspective towards the moral dilemmas of war faced by politicians and civil servants. In small groups, students will take on the role of game designers to develop training materials with the purpose of transferring the dilemmas surrounding the ‘just war’ debate into board game prototypes. The group results will be presented to experts and practitioners in the field in a final conference at the end of the course.


Presumed foreknowledge
Important: in order to maintain the small size of the seminar groups each seminar group is open to a maximum of two elective students who are not part of the master's programme in political science. Such students should approach the lecturers before 15 January 2023.
Test information
Students will (1) co-author an academic paper on a relevant issue of just war theory (50% of total mark); (2) co-author a paper that reports on a gamification assignment (30% of total mark); (3) will be present and actively participate in all meetings (20%v of total mark)
At the end of the course students have fundamental knowledge of different perspectives on the concept of Just War are able to assess and explain the extent to which international actors observe behavioral standards regarding the conduct of war are able to formulate a reasoned, individual position regarding Just War debates. In addition, they will be able to translate moral dilemmas that occur in warfare into gamelike settings that help understand choices actually made by participants in armed conflicts. Finally, they will be capable of co-organizing and co-chairing a class meeting on the topic of just war theory.

Required relevant prior knowledge; max. 5 Exchange students, registration on a first come order
Ma 1

Required materials
Latest edition
Title:Just and Unjust Wars. A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations
Author:Michael Walzer
Publisher:Basic Books
Additional articles

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes

Attendance MandatoryYes

Attendance MandatoryYes

Academic paper
Test weight50
Test typePaper
OpportunitiesBlock 3, Block 4

Most seminar meetings will take place in block 3. Deadline for submitting papers will be halfway block 4.

Gamification Assignment
Test weight30
Test typePaper
OpportunitiesBlock 3, Block 4

Test weight20
Test typeParticipation
OpportunitiesBlock 3, Block 4

Attendance and active participation are required