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icono de curso

Game Theory of International Relations


Credits: 4 ECTS

Second semester

Elective Courses




Game theory deals with the analysis of strategic situations, defined as situations of inter-dependence between rational actors. Game theory can thus generate hypotheses about, explain, and even predict outcomes such as:

(a) The sub-optimal levels of effort currently exerted to protect the environment;
(b) The unpopular measures imposed by international organizations on countries experiencing economic meltdown;
(c) The relative rarity of revolutions even under very oppressive regimes;
(d) The fact that some criminals do not need to even hide from the authorities; or
(e) National leaders' and central bankers' sophisticated attempts to come across as more or less predictable -- or indeed as more or less unpredictable.

The objective of this course is to introduce students on the basic notions of game theory applied to international studies, international political economy, and international security. We will study the properties of some of the most important generic models of Game Theory (prisoner's dilema, chicken game, battle of the sexes, stag hunt, etc), but also learn extentions, study sequential-moves games, and produce custom-built models which capture the essence of the specific realities we wish to study. Learning how to do that will prove extremely useful in the study of international affairs, both at the theoretical and at the practical level. We shall therefore use game theory to understand some very important questions concerning cooperation, conflict, uncertainty, incentives, threats, symmetry, autonomy, and dependency.


  • Mid-term exam: 30%
  • Final exam: 40%
  • Participation: 30% (NB. Participation means something specific here. We will talk about it.)

Class methodology
From session 3 onwards every class starts with a brief presentation of a game of international strategy currently in the news.
Then follows a theoretical lecture delivered by the instructor.
Each session finishes with the discussion of one or two examples elaborated by students.