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Topics in Political Science

Module Code: PO4740

Module Name: Topics in Political Science 2016–17

  • ECTS Weighting: 15
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas + Hilary Term
  • Contact Hours: 1-2 hours per week. The module is taught primarily through class discussions, not through lectures
  • Prerequisites: the module is not open to visiting students
  • Subject matter: MT 2016 Political Parties (click HERE for online noticeboard); HT 2017 The Military and Politics
  • Module Personnel: Lecturers - Professor Michael Gallagher in MT, Dr Jesse Dillon Savage in HT.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

  • Analyse the debates over where power lies within parties and the discussion as to whether this affects the way in which parties perform their functions re the wider society;
  • discuss whether political parties are an essential feature of contemporary political systems;
  • discuss whether or not political parties require and benefit from members or whether the costs of members may exceed their benefits.
  • Critically evaluate the different theoretical approaches to understanding the role of the military in politics;
  • discuss the role of the military in state formation;
  • understand how the military influences domestic political developments such as regime change;
  • explain the role the military plays in both democracies and authoritarian regimes.

Module learning aims

MT 2016: To ensure that students who complete it successfully will have a deeper understanding of the roles played by political parties within contemporary political systems and the debates around these roles, of the ways in which parties function, and of the challenges that parties face in the twenty-first century.

HT 2017: To build students’ understanding of the relationship between the military and politics. The module will provide students with a detailed understanding of how the military influences politics in a variety of spheres both domestic and international. It will explain the challenge of civil-military relations and the effects that civil-military relations can have on political development


Module content

MT 2016: In this term the module studies political parties, focusing primarily though not exclusively on parties as organisations. It looks at where parties come from, what they do, where power lies within them, what sort of people join them and why, and at arguments that parties are inevitably undemocratic organisations, finishing by considering the future prospects of political parties. It looks primarily at parties in first world liberal democracies, particularly western Europe, the USA, Japan, Israel, and Australia. It builds on political science courses taught in earlier years.

HT 2017: In this term the module studies the role of militaries in politics. One of the key strategic dilemmas raised by the military is that an organization that has the power to protect a polity from external threats has the potential to threaten the polity itself. The goal of this module is to help understand how this dilemma has been resolved in a variety of contexts. It explores the role that the military played in state formation, how civilian control over the military is institutionalised or breaks down, how the military affects domestic competition and conflict, and how the military can affect foreign policy. These issues are examined cross-nationally, including developing and developed countries, democracies and non-democracies. It builds on political science courses taught in earlier years.


Recommended reading list

For MT 2016: Detailed readings will be given in the module handout. A general overview is: Richard S Katz and William J Crotty (eds), Handbook of Party Politics (London: Sage, 2006).

For HT 2017: Detailed readings will be given in the module handout. Key readings:
Huntington, Samuel P. The Soldier and the State; the Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957
Singh, Naunihal. Seizing power: the strategic logic of military coups. JHU Press, 2014.
Talmadge, Caitlin. The Dictator's Army: Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes. Cornell University Press, 2015.


Assessment details

60% end of year exam; 40% coursework, split equally between Michaelmas and Hilary terms.

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Last updated 29 September 2016 polsci@tcd.ie.