Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 18 x 1 hour
Seminars / Tutorials 8 x 1 hour


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour exam)  60%
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  40%
Supplementary Assessment 100%

Learning Outcomes

Outline some of the classical approaches to political philosophy.
2. Discuss the basic assumptions of liberal political thought such as the public/private distinction, the rational individual and the qualifications for citizenship
3. Assess and evaluate revolutionary changes in political thought
4. Demonstrate knowledge of a range key political thinkers at an introductory level
5. Relate changing political thought to its social and historical context
6. Demonstrate an awareness of how questions such as colonialism, ethnicity, anti-captialist movements, gender, and ecology reflect and produce changes in political thought
7. Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the module
8. Evaluate competing perspectives in political thought

Brief description

The module begins with an introduction to classical political philosophies. It then examines the basic assumptions on which liberal political thinking is based, such as the public/private distinction, the notion of the rational individual and who qualifies as a citizen, and then proceeds to consider the challenges to this thought that have arisen and are still arising in the course of various revolutionary moves in political thought. It focuses on a number of key political thinkers, considering their writings in the social and historical context in which they worked. As well as looking at the Western political theory canon, other issues, such as colonialism, ethnicity, anti-capitalism, gender, ecology and Islamist political theory are covered.



1. Introduction: the challenge of political philosophy

Classical Political Philosophy
2. Plato and Aristotle and the good life in the city state
3. The Christian vision and the rise of western modernity: Augustine to Machiavelli

Revolutions in Political Thought
4. English Revolution and the politics of sovereignty: Hobbes
5. John Locke and the Glorious Revolution; the American Revolution and the Federalist Papers.
6. The French Revolution: Popular sovereignty, democracy and Rousseau
7. Continuity and Counterrevolution: Edmund Burke and the ethos of tradition and evolutionary change
8. The Russian Revolution: Marxism, industrialization and class
9. Fascism and the state of exception: Carl Schmitt
10. Anti-colonial revolutions: Gramsci, Fanon and Ghandi, violence and liberation struggles

Liberal Establishment or Hegemony
11. Market capitalism and neoliberalism
12. Liberal democracy
13. Enlightenment and progress

Contemporary Challenges
14. Post-Modernism: Michel Foucault
15. Green, ecological and anarchist politics
16. Multiculturalism, ethnicity and race
17. Anti-capitalist movement: Social and global justice
18. Conclusion: examination advice


Seminar 1: What is political philosophy?

Seminar 2: Rights and contracts

Seminar 3: Revolution as emancipation, tradition and disintegration

Seminar 4: Marxism and communism

Seminar 5: What is liberal democracy?

Seminar 6: The meaning of progress

Seminar 7: What is social justice?

Seminar 8: Future revolutions?


The module provides an introduction to political philosophy at Part One that will give students a foundation for their further studies in politics/international politics

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to assert themselves to advantage. They will understand the importance of information and clear communication and how to exploit these. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to the best advantage. They will learn to be clear and direct in their and to be direct about aims and objectives. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Seminars will be run in groups where oral discussion and presentations will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and communication.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context of assistance from both the convenor and the fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources, compiling reading lists, and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their essay and presentation topics. The need to conduct a seminar presentation and to meet an essay deadline will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time and opportunity resources well.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources (such as BIDS and OCLC)
Personal Development and Career planning The discussions in particular will help to develop students' verbal and presentation skills. Learning about the process of planning an essay and a presentation, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing through to completion will contribute towards their portfolio of transferable skills.
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; the submission of an essay will require that the student develops independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The need to research and prepare seminar presentations will also enable the student to develop independent project skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems. A final examination will ensure that an assessment of the student's ability to work alone can be undertaken.
Research skills The submission of an essay will reflect the independent research skills of the student. The need to locate appropriate research resources and write up the results will also facilitate research skills. Research preparation for a seminar presentation will also enable the student to develop independent project skills. A final examination will ensure that an assessment of the student's ability to work alone can be undertaken.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: - Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the module - Ability to evaluate competing perspectives - Demonstrate subject specific research techniques - Apply a range of methodologies to complex political problems
Team work Seminars will consist in part of small-group discussion where students will be obliged to discuss as a group the core issues related to seminar topics. Such class room debates and discussions are a vital component of the module.


This module is at CQFW Level 4