Module Details

GV908-7-FY-CO: Political Theory

Year: 2016/17
Department: Government
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: Yes
Outside Option: No

Staff
Supervisor: James Christensen & Tom Parr
Teaching Staff: James Christensen & Tom Parr
Contact details: Module Supervisor: James Christensen (james.christensen@essex.ac.uk) & Tom Parr (tparr@essex.ac.uk) Module Administrator: Alex West, awestb@essex.ac.uk

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

GV908 Political Theory is the core module for those taking the MA in Political Theory. It is also available to other postgraduate students as an option. GV908 will introduce MA student to two main traditions within contemporary political theory: analytical political theory, taught by Paul Bou-Habib in the Autumn term, and ideology and discourse analysis, taught by David Howarth in the Spring term.

More specifically, it has three principal aims-
1. It introduces a range of ideas and concepts in analytical political theory and in ideology and discourse analysis.
2. It engages students in a series of close textual readings of selected essays, books and articles, with the aim of elucidating key concepts and ideas.
3. It examines a number of central debates in contemporary political theory.
Each of these aims is pursued in specifically designed seminars, and each seminar is organised around a number of objectives designed to achieve these aims. The objectives and questions are listed in the section detailing the overall programme and readings for the course. On completing this research seminar, a student ought to have a good understanding of a number of contemporary forms of political theorising and argumentation; and be fully aware of a number of central concerns and discussions in contemporary political theory. Finally, students should be in a position to develop and execute a Masters Research Dissertation in political theory.



Learning and Teaching Methods

The teaching is structured in weekly two-hour seminars. Members of the seminar are expected to attend on a weekly basis, and be prepared to discuss the essential texts in the seminars.

Assessment

100 per cent Coursework Mark

Coursework

Students are expected to write two essays of 5000 words in length, and to make at least two class presentations, which will also be assessed. For the essays, students must choose from the list of questions appended at the end of this outline. Students are allowed to devise their own essay questions but must ask for permission first from module providers. Essays and class presentation handouts should be typed. This is both good discipline and easier for the reader.

Other information

Aims:
1. It introduces a range of ideas and concepts in analytical political theory.
2. It engages students in a series of close textual readings of selected essays, books and articles, with the aim of elucidating key concepts and ideas in public policy disputes.
3. It examines a number of central debates in contemporary political theory.
4. Students should be in a position to develop and execute a Masters Research Dissertation in political theory.

Objectives:
1. To give students the ability to understand the political implications of academic research.
2. To enable students to place the theoretical study of justice in the wider context of the social sciences.
3. To enable students to understand, critically to analyse, and to evaluate the normative elements of a range of public policy disputes.

Learning Outcomes:
1. To understand the normative dimensions of key policy controversies.
2. To introduce students to the work of major contemporary political theorists, including John Rawls, Robert Nozick, and G. A. Cohen.
3. To write clear analyses of contemporary policy controversies.

Key Skills:
1. Students will learn how: to identify the premises and conclusions of arguments; to determine whether the conclusions follow from the premises; and to understand the practical implications of theory.
2. Students will learn: to identify the different values at stake in a given public policy controversy; and to determine how to weigh conflicts between competing claims.
3. Students will learn: to apply reason to controversial issues; to read texts critically; to prepare well-argued essays; to learn both self-confidence and the ability to learn from others.

Bibliography

  • While there is no single textbook that covers all the topics examined in the seminar, the following books provide general introductions and overviews of the problems and questions raised in the course:
  • Robert Goodin and Phillip Pettit (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993).
  • Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy, Second edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
  • John Simmons, Political Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  • Catriona McKinnon, Issues in Political Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
  • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford.edu/)
  • The following academic journals, which are available in the library, should be consulted regularly: Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy; Journal of Applied Philosophy; Journal of Political Philosophy; Philosophy and Public Affairs; Political Studies; Political Theory.

Further information

External Examiner Information

  • Name: Prof Moya Lloyd
    Institution: Loughborough University
    Academic Role: Professor of Political Theory