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2010/1 Module Catalogue
Module Provider: Politics Short Name: POL102
Level: HE1 Module Co-ordinator: OLSSEN ME Prof (Politics)
Number of credits: 20 Number of ECTS credits: 10
Module Availability

Full time only

Assessment Pattern

Unit(s) of Assessment
Weighting Towards Module Mark (%)
Coursework - Essay (1500 words)
Essay (1500 words)
Formal exam (2 hrs)
Qualifying Condition(s
  • 50% attendance at tutorials/seminars is required to take the final exam

Module Overview

This module serves as a general introduction to political and social philosophy through a historical survey of key thinkers and themes. The major themes will be: sovereignty; political obligation; liberty; rights and equality. These themes will be addressed through a study of major writers in political philosophy from Ancient Greece to the present day.



Module Aims

This module will seek to:

  • Introduce central issues and themes in political philosophy.
  • Introduce central thinkers in political philosophy from the Ancient Geeks to the late twentieth century. 
  • Increase students’ awareness of conflicts in perspectives between different approaches. 
  • Produce a sound knowledge of the major thinkers and themes in political philosophy.
  • Develop and deepen the students' interest in understanding political issues in terms of the central thinkers and principles involved. 
  • Enable students to integrate a wide range of views from various sources and to identify the philosophical schools to which they attach.
  • Enable students to produce succinct, cogent arguments aware of the philosophical assumptions and frameworks on which they depend.
Learning Outcomes

Subject Specific Learning Outcomes

The successful student will, by the end of this module, be able to:

  • Identify different approaches to politics in terms of the philosophical and theoretical perspectives that underlie them. 
  • Understand and compare the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to in politics and political philosophy. 
  • Identify the arguments of different thinkers in the history of political thought in terms of how they inform current theory and debates.
  • Present an account of the implications for politics of different philosophical approaches. 

Generic Learning Outcomes 

Cognitive skills

  • To demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a wide range of political concepts and principles in relation to the core themes studied.
  • To understand the central arguments pertaining to each theme. 
  • To demonstrate historical knowledge of the core debates in relation to the five themes studied.

Practical skills 

  • To use primary and secondary sources with reference to key political debates. 
  • To analyse key sources and reflect on their own learning. 
  • To engage in academic debate in a professional manner.
  • To learn skills of oral presentation through seminars.
    Transferable skills 
  • To communicate succinctly in written and oral forms.
  • To read complex primary materials. 
  • To demonstrate proficiency in the use of word processing. 
  • To develop proficiency in the art of political debate.
Module Content

Themes – This module will be structures around key themes in political philosophy and will explore how different thinker conceptualised these issues 

1. Sovereignty 

  • Historical development of the concept.
  • Essential aspects – legal; political; internal; external.
  • Thinkers: Machiavelli; Hobbes; Locke; Rousseau.

2. Political Obligation

  • Historical development of the concept: voluntaristic; teleological; other duty theories. 
  • Limits to political obligation. 
  • General justification for political obligation.
  • Thinkers: Hobbes; Locke; Rousseau.

3. Liberty 

  • Historical development of the concept: different traditions of interpreting liberty. 
  • Negative liberty in the history of political thought. 
  • Positive liberty in the history of political thought.
  • Thinkers:  Locke; Rousseau; John Stuart Mill; T.H.Green; I. Berlin.

4. Rights

  • Historical development of the concept of rights.
  • Natural rights: pros and cons.
  • 20th century developments in rights theory. 
  • Problems associated with human rights concept.
  • Thinkers: Locke; Burke; Bentham; Paine.

5. Equality 

  • Formal or foundational. 
  • Equality of opportunity. 
  • Equality of outcome.
  • Thinkers: Rousseau; Wollstonecraft; John Stuart Mill; Marx.
Methods of Teaching/Learning

Lectures, seminars, independent reading and essay preparation.

Selected Texts/Journals

Barker, J. (1987) Arguing for Equality. London: Verso.

Bartelson, J. A Genealogy of Sovereignty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Berlin, I. (1969) Two Concepts of Liberty. In: Four Essays on Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Campbell, T. (1998) Justice. London: Macmillan.

Carter, A. (1988) The Politics of Women’s Rights. London: Longman.

Dunn, J. (2002) Political Obligation in its Historical Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Horton, J. (1992) Political Obligation. London: Macmillan.

Jones, T. (2002) Modern Political Thinkers and Ideas: An Historical Introduction. London: Routledge.

Lyons, G. and Mastandumo, M. (eds.) (1995) Beyond Westphalia? Sovereignty and International Intervention. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Lessnof, M. (1986) Social Contract. London: Macmillan.

Letwin, W. (1983) Against Equality. London: Macmillan.

MacCallum, G. C. (1991) “Negative and Positive Freedom”. In: Miller, D. (ed.) Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp. 100-122.

MacIntyre, A. (1981) After Virtue. London: Duckworth.

Miller, D. (1981) Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Miller, D. (1976) Social Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Waldron, J, (ed.) (1985) Theories of Rights. Oxford: Blackwell.

Waldron, J. (1987) Nonsense Upon Stilts: Burke, Bentham and Marx on Rights of Man. London: Methuen.

Wolff, J. (1991) Robert Nozick: Property, Justice and the Minimal State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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