Introduction to Political Thought - PO314

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
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4 15 (7.5) DR B Turner







This module introduces students to the study of political concepts that are central to thinking about political life. Through the study of these concepts students will be introduced to the principal ideas of many of the major figures in the history of Western political thought (for example, Plato, Hobbes, Rousseau and Marx) and to the work of many contemporary political theorists as well (John Rawls, Michael Sandel, Richard Rorty, Susan Okin and others). In addition, lectures and tutorials will familiarise students with a variety of different debates about how best to understand any given concept (such as, debates about what constitutes 'human nature') as well as how to understand the relationship between different concepts (such as, whether a just society must be an equal one or not). Moreover, the module is designed to allow students to develop a set of ‘conceptual tools’ with which to interrogate and shape the political world in which they find themselves; a world which is saturated everyday with competing articulations of the political concepts that we will study in this module. As such, students should come to develop a subtle appreciation of how the concepts examined on this module are, to greater or lesser degrees, intrinsic to all of their studies in politics and international relations (and related subjects).


This module appears in:

Contact hours

11 lectures and 11 seminars

Method of assessment

50% coursework (1 essay of 1,500 words); 50% exam (2hr)

Indicative reading

Peri Roberts and Peter Sutch (eds), An Introduction to Political Thought. A Conceptual Toolkit. Second Edition, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012.
Iain MacKenzie (ed.), Political Concepts: A Reader and Guide, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005.
Catriona McKinnon (ed.), Issues in Political Theory, Second Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Students will gain:
- familiarity with the practice of normative political enquiry
- familiarity with the philosophical foundations of political issues
- familiarity with the historical evolution of Western political thought
- introductory knowledge of the works of key political thinkers
- introductory knowledge of the great political ideologies of the modern epoch

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