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Modern Political Thought

  • Module code: PO5001
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 5
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Level 4
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

The aim of this module is to provide a critical examination of the central themes and thinkers of modern political thought. The module will introduce you to the main traditions and methodologies of political theory and to the debates and ideas that dominate all forms of modern political analysis. We will discuss core political concepts such as justice, gender, race, equality, and democracy, and address the central questions of moral and political philosophy: How should we act? How can we live together? Why do we need a state? In doing so, we shall think about the key issues of political debate, including the nature of freedom, the role of government, and the aims of human life.

In Teaching Block 1 we will look at the established canon of modern political theorists, including the work of Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche. In Teaching Block 2 we move beyond the canon to think about who and what it has marginalised and misrepresented. In particular, we will examine questions of gender and race, looking at how women and non-white people have been represented within and excluded by modern political thought.

Aims

  • Introduce students to some of the most influential thinkers in political thought
  • Enable students to undertake a sustained critical and creative engagement with a range of primary texts by leading political theorists
  • Enhance students' understanding of the historical development of key political concepts and ideas
  • Develop students' ability to analyse concepts and evaluate, construct, and articulate arguments

Learning outcomes

  • Identify and describe some of the key concepts, theories, arguments, and debates within political thought over the past 500 years
  • Understand the contemporary significance and relevance of debates within the history of political thought
  • Demonstrate familiarity with both the original writings of leading political philosophers and the debates surrounding these writings
  • Critically assess the arguments of others and develop and present their own arguments in writing

Curriculum content

  • Machiavelli and the origins of modern political thought
  • Social contract theory: Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau
  • Kant: duty and enlightenment
  • Mill: utilitarianism and liberty
  • Marx and Nietzsche: critics of modernity
  • Postmodern political thought
  • Sexism and racism in modern political thought
  • Feminist political thought
  • Black political thought
  • Animals in modern political thought

Teaching and learning strategy

This module is delivered through lectures and seminars. Lectures will introduce students to the relevant thinkers, arguments, and concepts, while seminars will allow students to explore these in greater depth, develop their critical and evaluative skills, and focus on assessments. Students will be asked to read and comment on primary texts from classic political thinkers and to discuss both the historical development of ideas and their contemporary relevance.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching 22 two-hour lectures 7 one-hour seminars 44 7
Guided independent study Guided independent study (reading, research, essay preparation, etc.). 249
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Summative assessment:

  • 1,500-word essay (40%)
  • 2-hour unseen exam (60%): students to answer two questions

Each student will be asked to answer questions on different themes and thinkers, to ensure that they engage with a range of topics.

Formative assessments will be used to allow students to develop their critical, argumentative, and writing skills and allow module tutors to provide in-module feedback. Assessments to be determined by module leader but may include seminar worksheets, essay plans, and mock exams.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Identify and describe some of the key concepts, theories, arguments, and debates within political thought over the past 500 years Essay and exam
Understand the contemporary significance and relevance of debates within the history of political thought Essay and exam
Demonstrate familiarity with both the original writings of leading political philosophers and the debates surrounding these writings Essay and exam
Critically assess the arguments of others and develop and present their own arguments in writing Essay and exam

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK Essay 40
EXWR 2 Hours unseen Examination 60
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

There is no core text.

Bibliography recommended reading

Any versions of the texts below may be used:

 Niccolò Machiavelli The Prince

Thomas Hobbes Leviathan

John Locke Two Treatises of Government

Jean-Jacques Rousseau The Social Contract

Immanuel Kant Political Writings

John Stuart Mill On Liberty

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels The Communist Manifesto

Friedrich Nietzsche Daybreak

Carole Pateman The Sexual Contract

Angela Davis Women, Race, and Class

Charles Mills The Racial Contract

Patricia Hill Collins Black Feminist Thought

Peter Singer Animal Liberation

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