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An accessible survey of some of the most important concepts and ideas in political thinking, with particular attention to the major traditions of Western political thought from Machiavelli to 20th century political theory. Emphasis will be on such core concepts as sovereignty, power, liberty, democracy and equality, and how these concepts have framed political debates within the Western tradition. While some of the focus will be on the original form and contestation of these ideas in their historical context, there will be a strong emphasis on how these initial debates led into more recent, 20th century political thinking and problems. Attention will also be paid to how these concepts have been taken up in ideological formations, which include (but are not necessarily limited to) liberalism, Marxism, and conservatism. Tutorial discussion focuses on critically reading primary source texts of famous political essays, which may include: Machiavelli, 'The Prince', Rousseau, 'Origin of Inequality', Marx and Engels, 'The Communist Manifesto', Mill, 'On Liberty', Wollstonecraft, ‘Vindication of the Rights of Women’, and Fanon, 'The Wretched of the Earth'.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject students should:
- Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge and critical understanding of key political concepts, including concepts such as power, sovereignty, liberty, equality, and democracy;
- Critically apply key political concepts to the study of political texts, including some of the central texts in the history of Western Political Thought;
- Develop an understanding of how key political concepts and debates influence more recent debates in domestic and international politics;
- Demonstrate basic knowledge sufficient to evaluate key approaches to the study of politics, including historical, scientific, and material approaches to political science;
- Communicate effectively in written formats.
Last updated: 23 March 2020