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History of Political Thought

Module Code: PO2610

Module Name: History of Political Thought 2017-18

  • ECTS Weighting: 10
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas + Hilary Term
  • Contact Hours: 2 lectures per week; 1 tutorial per fortnight
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Dr Gavin Morrison

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this module, it is expected that students should have:

1. Acquired an overview of the history of political thought, from ancient Greece until the present;
2. Become familiar with major political theorists from that history, such as Plato, Augustine, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Marx;
3. Become familiar with some of the major concepts that appear in political theory, such as liberalism and social contract;
4. Developed skills at analyzing and critiquing political arguments; and
5. Reflected upon the implications of ideas from the history of political thought for contemporary politics.

Module Content

This module will introduce students to the history of political thought from the time of classical Greece to the present era. It will accomplish this task by covering the following five major topics from that history:

1. The birth of politics in classical Greece;
2. The rise of Christianity and its implications for politics;
3. The ideas of liberalism and the social contract, introduced in the early modern era;
4. The relationship between freedom and reason, a relationship explored in eighteenth and nineteenth-century political thought; and
5. The question of whether there are “laws of history,” a central concern of G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx.

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Recommended Reading List

Useful introductory readings covering many of the thinkers and concepts included in the module can be found below:

Boucher, David and Kelly, Paul, eds. Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Rawls, John. Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2007.

S. S. Wolin, Politics and Vision, , Expanded Edition, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004  consists of a series of sophisticated interpretative essays. A serious work, well worth close study.

A useful source book for primary texts is:

Classics of Moral and Political Theory, Michael L. Morgan (ed.), Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis (Cambridge,1992).

(This is an excellent collection of, in many cases, the complete texts of the relevant political thinkers).

Assessment Details

Tutorial participation: 10%

Essay 1: 12.5% 
Essay 2: 12.5%

1 x 3 hour final exam 65%

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