Nicholas Rengger, Professor


Nicholas Rengger is a Professor of Political Theory and International Relations at St Andrews and until 31 August 2016, was also the Head of the School of International Relations. He was also a Carnegie Council Global Ethics Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs, New York (2011 to 2014) and now holds that position emeritus and is a Visiting Senior Fellow of the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life, at Oxford University.

He has held numerous visiting positions at universities:

  • the University of Oxford, Deparment of Politics and International Relations, with an Associate fellowship at Christ Church (AY 2016 to 2017)
  • the Centre for Theology and Philosophy at the University Of Nottingham (AY 2010 to 2011)
  • the University of Southern California (AY 1995 to 1996)
  • the Centre for International Studies at the London School of Economics (AY 1991 to 1992).

He also served on the Executive of the British International Studies Association (2003 to 2010), the Governing Council of the International Studies Association (2000 to 2001) and the Governing Council of the Royal Institute for International Affairs, Chatham House (1997 to 2001).

He is currently a member of the Academia Europeaea.

Research areas

With a background in political and international theory, intellectual history, and philosophy, Professor Rengger's scholarly and teaching interests range across International Relations, Politics, Theology, Philosophy, Social Thought and History and he therefore works across and between disciplines as well as within them.

He is currently a member of the following Centres and Institutes around the University of St Andrews:

  • The Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs (on the Centre's advisory board)
  • The St Andrews Institute for Intellectual History
  • The Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics
  • The Institute for Iranian Studies (on the Institute's Advisory board).

He is currently working on:

  • journal essays or book chapters on the philosophy of Eric Voegelin
  • Chris Brown's contribution to International Political Theory
  • Jean Bethke Elshtain's contribution to contemporary just war thinking
  • Donald Mackinnon's engagement with International relations
  • the idea of Europe in the early to mid-twenty first century.

Over the next few years he will be working on the following projects:

  • The major study for his current research leave will develop arguments made in the epilogue of Just War and International Order. The book - the working title is Political Philosophy and World Order: Narratives, Ironies, Myths - will unpick differing narratives of world order, historically and philosophically, and analyse their component elements. It will emphasize the extent to which such narratives downplay, ignore or even deny the salience of contingency and irony and over emphasize our ability to shape, master or control events. The intention is then to suggest how we might conceptualize world order(s) if we do not valorize our capacity for control and do not deny the role of chance and thus to explore what our narratives of world order might then look like.
  • A second project – a kind of sequel to the 2017 Routledge collection - is to investigate the contemporary significance of Weber’s celebrated lecture Politik als Beruf, 100 years after it was delivered, and trace that significance across five contemporary ethico-political dilemmas: 
    • The rhetoric of politics,
    • the problem of dirty hands and compromise in politics,
    • the notion of security,
    • the character and type of interventions in international politics
    • the character and fate of ‘the West’.
  • A third project is a conference on Human Rights, on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration in 2018, organized through the CEPPA at St Andrews.
  • Longer term projects include a volume on how we might understand sceptical conservatism in the 21st century (in part a critique of what has passed for conservative thought in Britain and America over the last 50 or so years) and a series of essays in the history of international thought.
  • Essays on various other aspects of his existing scholarly interests. 
  • Book reviews for a number of academic journals and more general magazines.



  • The Anti-Pelagian Imagination in political theory and international relation: Dealing in Darkness? (London Routledge, March 2017) 



  • Just War and International order: The Uncivil Condition in World Politics.(Cambridge University Press, 2013)
  • [Ed] Evaluating Global Orders (Cambridge: Cambridge UNiversity Press, 2011).
  • [Ed, with Ben Thirkell-White] Critical International Relations Theory After Twenty Five Years (Cambridge: Cambridge UNiversity Press, 2007)
  • [Ed, with Chris Brown and Terry Nardin] International Relations in Political Thought: Texts From the Ancient Greeks to The First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)
  • International Relations, Political Theory and the Problem of Order: Beyond International Relations Theory (London: Routledge, 2000)
  • Retreat From the Modern: Humanism, Postmodernism and the Flight from Modernist Culture (London; Bowerdean, 1996).
  • Political Theory, Modernity and Postmodernity: Beyond Enlightenment and Critique (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995).
  • [Ed with John Baylis] Dilemmas of World Politics: International Issues in a Changing World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).

Recent articles

  • 2015 'Pluralism in International Theory: three questions' in  International Studies Perspectives, 2.
  • 2013 'On Theology and International Relations: World Politics Beyond the Empty Sky' in International Relations, 27, 2, July 2013
  • 2012, 'Progress with Price?' International Theory, 4, 3
  • 2012 'A Global Ethic and the Hybrid character of the Moral World', Ethics and International Affairs, 26, 1
  • 2011 N Rengger 'The World Turned Upside Down? Twenty Five Years of HUman Rights and International Relations' International Affairs, 87, 4, September
  • 2010 N Rengger 'Remember the Aeneid: Why International Theory Should Beware Greek Gifts' Interational Theory 2, 3.
  • 2008; N Rengger, C Kennedy-Pipe; "Introduction: The State of War"; International Affairs; 84(4)
  • 2008; N Rengger; "The Greatest Treason/ On The Subtle Temptations of Preventive War"; International Affairs; 84(4) 

Recent book chapters

In progress:

  • 'Two Sovereigns: Violence and the Amibguity of Jean Bethke Eslhtain's Christian Realism' in Micheal le Chevallier and Debra Erikson (eds) In Search of the Ethical Polity: Critical Essays on the Work of Jean Bethke Elshtain (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press - under review).


  • 2016 'The Medieval and the INternational: A Strange Case of Mutual Neglect' in W.Bain (ed) The Medieval Foundations of International Relations (London: Routledge
  • 2013 ' Realism Tamed or Liberalism Betrayed? Dystopic Liberalism and International Order' in R.Freidman et al (eds) After Liberalism (London: Palgrave)
  • 2013 'A Wager Lost By Winning? On the 'Triumph' of the Just War Tradition' in J.C.Williams et al (ed) Just War (Washington: GeorgeTown University Press)
  • 2012, 'Tragedy or Scepticism; Defending the Anti-Pelagian Mind in World Politics' in Toni Erskine and Richard Ned Lebow (eds) Tragedy and International Relations (London: Palgrave Macmillan)
  • 2012, 'POlitics and International relations' in Peter Hampson et al (ed) Christianity and the Disciplines
  • 2010 'The Just War Tradition' in Duncan Bell (ed) Ethics and World Politics (Oxford: Oxford UNiversity Press).
  • 2009; N Rengger; "Realism's Hidden Dialogue: Leo Strauss, war and politics"; Political Thought and International Relations: Variations on a Realist Theme; Duncan Bell (ed); Oxford University Press
  • 2009; N Rengger; "Inter arma silent leges? Political Community, Supreme Emergency and the Rules of War"; War, Torture and Terrorism: Rethinking the Rules of International Security; A Lang, Amanda Russell Beattie (ed); Routeledge
  • 2008 'Marxism and International Ethics' in Chris Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal (eds) The Oxofrd Handbook of INternational Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press).


Professor Rengger is not teaching from 2016 to 2018 as he is on research leave.

Research students

Primary supervisor for:

  • John-Harman Valk
  • Francois Sarah
  • Chris Flaherty.

PhD supervision topics

Professor Rengger's supervision interests focus on the following topics: 

  • international political theory
  • general political philosophy
  • international relations theory
  • theories of world order
  • European intellectual history
  • The Just War Tradition
  • political and philosophical theology
  • comparative political theory and philosophy
  • philosophy of the human sciences
  • the thought of Michael Oakeshott
  • George Santayana and Eric Voegelin
  • ancient political thought.

Further information

Scholarly affiliations and learned societies:

  • Britain and Ireland Association of Political Thought
  • Centre for the Study of Political Thought (USA)
  • Centre for Theology and Philosophy, UNiversity of Nottingham
  • British International Studies Association
  • International Studies Association
  • Honourary member, Scots Philosophical Club
  • Fellow, ResPublica, London Based Think tank
  • Global Ethics Fellow (2011-2014), Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs, New York (now emeritus)
  • Visiting Senior Fellow, The McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life, Christ Church, University Of Oxford.

Editorial board member of the following journals:

  • Journal of International Political Theory
  • International Relations
  • Radical Orthodoxy
  • History of European Ideas.

Previous boards:

  • Civil Wars
  • International Affairs
  • Millennium: Journal of International Studies.

Previously edited:

  • The Review of International Studies (2006 to 2010).


  • Appearences on BBC Radio 4 programmes, such as Nightwaves and The Moral Maze
  • Interviews with the BBC and other outlets on varioius aspects of politics, international relations and contemporary culture
  • Blog entries on The CCEIA's Global Ethics Blog.