module specification

GI6009A - The Politics of Modern States (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title The Politics of Modern States
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Course Essay (3000 words)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Thursday Morning

Module summary

This module will examine the concept and nature of the modern state, including: typologies of states; structures and institutions of the state; policy-making and actors; and debates around issues such as the transition from pre-modern forms of political organization to modern states. It will also use case studies to illustrate examples of different types of state, including liberal democracies, façade democracies, transitional democracies, dictatorships and failed states.

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • examine normative and descriptive theories of the modern state
  • evaluate the historical evolution of modern states, from industrial to post-industrial
  • analyse the major structures, institutions and policy-making capacities of modern states
  • compare and contrast the range of different types of state from across the globe
  • develop independent learning skills, from coursework and class activities
  • encourage confidence in the use of appropriate analytical, written and oral skills, to enhance students’ transferable skills and employability


  • Typologies of modern states – including liberal democracies, transitional democracies, dictatorships and failed states
  • Theories of the modern state – including pluralist/elitist/Marxist models
  • The political process – structures and institutions of the state; policy-making and actors
  • Case studies – e.g. liberal democracies (UK), façade democracies (Russia), theocracies (Iran) and welfare states (Denmark)
  • Employability enhancement – online research skills; writing and communication skills

Learning and teaching

  • There is a one-hour weekly lecture and a one-hour weekly seminar.
  • Lectures incorporate a mixture of speaking, video presentations and use of IT.
  • Seminars are centred on pre-prepared questions, student presentations, group activities and multimedia resources.
  • Blended learning is encouraged in the classroom through the use of multimedia and internet resources. This is complemented outside the classroom by the use of a module website containing a range of materials designed to enhance students’ learning, including lecture notes, guides to improving essay writing and seminar skills, and resources such as links to relevant websites, online articles, videos and podcasts.
  • Reflective learning is encouraged through the use of self-reflection tasks accompanying seminar presentations and the written assignment.
  • Employability enhancement – developing transferable skills through a focus on online research skills, and writing and presenting an essay based on the topics of the module

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will:

  • be able to demonstrate an understanding of competing theoretical and historical accounts of the modern state
  • appreciate the interplay of factors (structures, institutions and actors) engaged in the policy-making process
  • have developed a critical understanding of a range of specific case studies
  • show an awareness of, and more confidence in, using learning, academic and communication skills
  • have acquired independent learning skills, including time management, forward planning and problem-solving
  • have developed a range of transferable employability skills, in oral, writing and research competencies

Assessment strategy

Assessment is based on the following elements:
1. A one-page essay plan based on one of the essay questions for the module. This must be submitted by week 8.
2. An essay, worth 100% of the final grade. It will be 3000 words in length. This must be submitted by week 12.


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Creveld van, M. (1999) The Rise and Decline of the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
Dunleavy, P. and O’Leary, B. (1987) Theories of the State: The Politics of Liberal Democracy (Basingstoke: Macmillan Education)
Gill, G. (2003) The Nature and Development of the Modern State (London: Palgrave Macmillan)
Hague, R. and Harrop, M. (2016) Comparative Government and Politics: An Introduction, 10th edn. (London: Palgrave Macmillan)
Hall, J. A. and Ikenberry, G. (1989) The State (Milton Keynes: Open University Press)
Hay, C., Lister, M. and Marsh, D. (eds) (2005) The State: Theories and Issues (London: Palgrave Macmillan)
Held, D. (1989) Political Theory and the Modern State: Essays on State, Power and Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
Held, D. (2006) Models of Democracy, 3rd edn. (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press)
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O’Neil, P. H. (2007) Essentials of Comparative Politics, 2nd edn. (New York: W. W. Norton)
O’Neil, P. H. and Rogowski, R. (eds) (2010) Essential Readings in Comparative Politics, 3rd edn. (New York: W. W. Norton)
Pierson, C. (2011) The Modern State, 3rd edn. (London: Routledge)
Plant, R. (2010) The Neo-liberal State (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
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Schulze, H. (1996) States, Nations, and Nationalism: From the Middle Ages to the Present (Oxford: Blackwell)
Sodaro, M. J. (2004) Comparative Politics: A Global Introduction, 2nd edn. (London: McGraw-Hill Education)
Vincent, A. (1987) Theories of the State (Oxford: Basil Blackwell)