International Relations

International relations at Penn State emphasizes the study of the causes and consequences of international conflict, as well as intrastate conflict (civil wars), international political economy, and terrorism.  We broadly endorse the bargaining perspective in the study of conflict, and thus leverage departmental strengths in formal and quantitative methods.  Strengths in international political economy, especially in foreign investment and international development are bolstered by political economy offerings in the department’s comparative subfield. The IR subfield includes the Program on Empirical International Relations, a formal program that emphasizes training in applying scientific research methods to international relations. We are also the proud location of the headquarters of the ­Peace Science Society (International).

Faculty Research

Terrorism, civil wars and conflicts within nations

  • Are societies that repress the rights of ethnic or religious minorities more prone to civil conflict and terrorism? [James Piazza]
  • How do conflicts within states relate to conflicts between states? [Doug Lemke]
  • When do Rebel Groups Seek Self-Determination and an Independent State?  [Bumba Mukherjee]
  • What political, economic and social factors drive terrorism? [James Piazza]
  • Do human rights violations reduce or increase political violence and extremism? [James Piazza]

Conflict between nations

  • What international conflicts are more likely to escalate? [Glenn Palmer]
  • What role does conflict play in the development of states? [Doug Lemke]
  • Why are de facto states so common in some places, and what are the consequences of their presence? [Doug Lemke]
  • What are the political constraints that leaders face in their decisions to use force internationally? [Glenn Palmer]
  • How do leaders pay for war? What are the political implications of those choices? [Glenn Palmer]
  • International Political Economy
  • What are the causes and consequences of global economic exchanges such as cross-border investment flows? [Boliang Zhu]
  • What explains the rise of emerging-market multinational corporations and what are the implications? [Boliang Zhu]
  • Why does the IMF fail to prevent Financial Crisis in Fund-Assisted Countries? [Bumba Mukherjee]
  • Do firm characteristics such as ownership structure and asset mobility affect local governments' firm-level environmental regulatory decisions in China? [Xun Cao]