module specification

GI5009 - Political Theory (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Political Theory
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 300
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
219 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 20%   Short essay
Coursework 20%   Short essay
Coursework 60%   Long essay
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Thursday Afternoon

Module summary

This module provides an introduction to western political theory. This is distinct from political philosophy in its emphasis on a connection between ideas and practice. It is, on the whole, more practical (or grounded) and less abstract than political philosophy. It has a particular emphasis on the relationship between the individual – or groups – and the state. From the earliest political theories there has been an effort to understand, justify, criticize, and transform the balance of power between subjects or citizens and the state. Getting an understanding of this is important to both politics and international relations students. In order to grasp the arguments around rights, obligations, law, electoral systems, state sovereignty, internationalism and much else we need some knowledge of how the role of the state and independence of citizens has evolved over centuries.

This is primarily a western tradition. The emphasis of this module is not intended to dismiss other traditions, but this is the most influential at present, and the most relevant to the other topics studied on the PIR degree programmes.

As an introductory module, this seeks to give an overview of the major writings and their context. As a result, each topic is addressed fairly superficially – the goal is to grasp the sweep of the history of theory rather than the detail. It is to be hoped that each student may find something here interesting enough to want to follow it up in more detail

Module aims

To understand the relevance of political theory to politics and international relations
To understand the different approaches to justifying and criticising political action
To explore the development of political ideas and theories
To develop an understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of current political issues
To encourage students to develop transferable skill in analysis of texts and ideas, articulation of arguments, and presentation of research findings, as well as academic reading and writing.


Renaissance and Modernity: including Machiavelli and Christine de Pisan; Rethinking the State: including Thomas Hobbes and John Locke; Enlightenment:  including Rousseau, Paine and Wollstonecraft; Liberal Democracy:  including the Mills; Revolution: including Marx; 20th century: including  Berlin and Rawls; political movement: including feminism and civil rights.

Learning and teaching

Each student has 3 contact hours per week over 30 weeks: a two-hour interactive lecture and one hour seminar. Discussion and debate is central to the module, hence, participation in lecture-time is encouraged as well as participative seminars. Student presentations may be included in seminars. Research and writing skills are encouraged through classes devoted to practising writing and feedback on writing, as well as the inclusion of writing tasks that are excluded form the final module classification. Blended learning is achieved through the use of weblearn to suggest on-line resources and activities as well as providing sources for research and writing support, lecture notes, and feedback on assessments. Employability is addressed through the development of analytical abilities, presentation skills, research and writing practice and encouragement of the ability to think and argue clearly.

Learning outcomes

Understanding of the development of political thought from early modernity to the present
Appreciation of the relevance of political theory to the study of politics and international relations
Ability to construct an argument using appropriate texts
Ability to present and defend an argument
Development of oral and written presentation skills

Assessment strategy

Two short essays, one per semester, and one extended essay at the end of the module. In order to achieve the aims of the module the assessed work must demonstrate a developing ability to analyse text and argument in depth.


(Please note: No particular year of publication is given here as political theory texts and textbooks do not change significantly from one year to the next; key text books are marked *)

Norman Barry, Modern Political Theory,
*David Bouchier and Paul Kelly eds Political Thinkers
Caroline Cahm, Kropotkin and the Rise of Revolutionary Anarchism
*David Bouchier and Paul Kelly eds Political Thinkers
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
John Clarke, The Philosophical Anarchism of William Godwin
Dryzek, Honig and Phillips, The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory,
*Barbara Goodwin, Using Political Ideas,
*Iain Hampshire-Monk, Modern Political Thought
*Alan Haworth, Understanding the Political Philosophers
Andrew Heywood, Political Theory,
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
Paul Kelly, British Political Theory in the Twentieth Century,
Ruth Kinna, Anarchism, a beginners guide
Dudley Knowles, Political Philosophy
Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid
John Locke, The Second Treatise
David McLellan, The Thought of Karl Marx: an introduction
Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince
Nicolo Machiavelli, The Discourses
Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
Karl Marx, The German Ideology
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
  The Subjection of Women
David Miller, Anarchism
Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man
Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract
   The Discourse on Inequality
Barbara Taylor, Mary Wollstonecraft and the feminist Imagination
Harriet Taylor, The Enfranchisement of Women
Andrew Vincent, Political Theory
*Nigel Warburton, Jon Pike and Derek Matravers, Reading Political Philosophy
Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
George Woodcock, Anarchism: a history of libertarian ideas and movements