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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Centre for Open Learning : Social and Political Science

Undergraduate Course: An Introduction to Political Theory (LLLJ07004)

Course Outline
SchoolCentre for Open Learning CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 7 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course is not available to University of Edinburgh matriculated students. This is a for-credit course offered by the Centre for Open Learning (COL); only students registered with COL should be enrolled.

The course aims to explore some of the central concepts analysed by both classical and contemporary political thinkers (e.g. liberty, democracy, equality etc.) as well as more recent developments in political theory (e.g. international justice and the politics of difference).
Course description Content of course
1. Introduction: What is Political Theory? - This introductory class will aim to define political theory and explain its meaning and role within the broader domain of political science.
2. Liberty - What does it mean to be free? Is the absence of external coercion sufficient for considering an individual free? This class will examine the idea of liberty looking at both classical and contemporary texts.
3. Democracy - Democracy means 'rule of the people' but who are the 'people' and what does 'rule' mean? This class will explore these fascinating issues by looking at the main theories of democracy and their relevance for the contemporary world.
4. Distributive Justice This class will analyse the normative principles guiding the distribution of economic resources across societies. We will especially focus on the theories developed by John Rawls (1971) and Robert Nozick (1974) and on the critiques raised against them by other thinkers.
5. Equality In this class we will examine the concept of social and political equality and look at the distinction between formal equality, equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.
6. Political Obligation Why should people obey the laws of their political community? This class will explore the problem of political obligation by looking at the main answers given to this question by modern and contemporary political thinkers.
7. Community - Communitarians argue that individuals are deeply rooted in their communities (e.g. national, religious, linguistic etc.) and shaped by their values. This class will explore these issues and analyse the main arguments raised by communitarian thinkers against liberalism.
8. Difference. In this class we will assess whether equality requires that the state should provide identical treatment for all individuals and groups or whether it should treat each of them differently. We will especially focus on issues concerning women and minority cultures.
9. Environmental Ethics and Political Theory Environmental ethics is concerned with the study of the relationship between human beings and the environment. This class will examine how environmental ethics has affected contemporary debates in political theory.
10. International Justice and Global Politics Political theorists are becoming increasingly concerned with global issues. In this class we will especially focus on the tension between nationalism and cosmopolitanism and on the issue of global distributive justice.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  20
Course Start Lifelong Learning - Session 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 78 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Short course 10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the main concepts and debates in classical and contemporary political theory
  2. Critically read and analyse classical and contemporary texts on political theory
  3. Illustrate and evaluate the development of concepts and theories throughout the history of Western political thought
  4. Explain the relationship between political theory and other disciplines (e.g. political science);
  5. Apply philosophical concepts in order to understand and critically assess real-world political phenomena
Reading List
Essential Readings
Goodin, R. E., Pettit, P. and Pogge, T., 2007. A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy. Malden, Mass.; Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Rosen, M. and Wolff, J., eds., 1999. Political Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goodin, R. E. and Pettit, P., eds. 2006. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Anthology. Malden, Mass.; Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Kymlicka, W., 2002. Contemporary Political Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Web sources
Ethics (journal)
Philosophy and Public Affairs (journal)
These academic journals contain key articles on democratic theory and are available online through the University of Edinburgh library website.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserMr James Mooney
Tel: (0131 6)50 3077
Course secretaryMr Benjamin Mcnab
Tel: (0131 6)51 4832
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