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Introduction to Political Ideas (POLS10003)

Undergraduate level 1Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 1
Subject codePOLS10003
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

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.

Eligibility and requirements





Non-allowed subjects


Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

  • An assignment of 500 words (12.5%) due in Week 4.
  • A research essay of 2000 words (50%) due in Week 9.
  • A 1500 word take home exam (37.5%) due during the examination period.
  • Hurdle requirement: Students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject. Regular participation in tutorials is required.
  • Note: Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10 marks per working day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked.

Dates & times

  • Semester 2
    CoordinatorClayton Chin
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours
    Total time commitment170 hours
    Teaching period29 July 2019 to 27 October 2019
    Last self-enrol date 9 August 2019
    Census date31 August 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail27 September 2019
    Assessment period ends22 November 2019

    Semester 2 contact information

Time commitment details

Total 170 hours

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    Readings will be provided online through the subject's LMS site prior to the commencement of semester.

    Recommended texts and other resources

    • S. Wolin, Politics and Vision, (expanded edition), 2006.
    • A. Vincent, Modern Political Ideologies (3rd Edition), 2009.

  • Subject notes

    Available as a Breadth subject to non-Bachelor of Arts students

  • Breadth options
  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 11 October 2019