Postgraduate Course: Contemporary Political Theory: Engaging with Current Research (PGSP11448)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This is an innovative course on contemporary political theory that engages directly with cutting edge research. The course is structured around a series of seminars in which five prominent political theorists will be invited to present recent research. Students will be offered the opportunity to debate with the theorist in the class and in a more informal event after the class. The course will address the ethical dimension of urgent political issues such as war, migration, democracy, poverty, education and climate change and key concepts such as justice, freedom and equality. Students taking this course should be prepared to engage in theoretical reasoning and scholarly debate. From it, they will gain not only an understanding of the topics taught but also an insight into how political theorists conduct their research.
The details of the course are as follows:
1. Seminar series.
Five prominent political theorists will be invited to present papers to the class. To ensure value for money, we expect that most of the theorists will be from nearby universities. This not a problem as the UK is one of the best places in the world for political theory. Students will read the paper ahead of class. At the start of each seminar, a number of students will present their critical reflections to the paper. This will set the basis for further debate. To maintain the format of a seminar, the class will be capped at 20 students.
2. Informal events.
An informal event will be held after each seminar, most likely a low-cost lunch or dinner. At the start of these events, the convenor will ask the visiting theorist to speak more broadly about their academic background, sources of inspiration and long-term research goals. These discussions of the theorist's intellectual biography will allow students to place the paper they have read in the context of some broader themes (traditions, methodologies, significant thinkers) that help shape the discipline. After this, students will have the chance to question the theorist and each other in free flowing discussion. The change of scene from a formal teaching environment to a more informal setting will allow for different kinds of conversations to take place and for different student voices to be heard. The informal events will also help to build a sense of community amongst the students.
3. Preparatory classes:
In the week before each seminar, the class will read relevant literature that offers an overview of the topic so that the students can gain the necessary knowledge with which to approach the visiting theorist's work. The preparatory classes will follow a more traditional teaching format. The students will enjoy the guidance of the course convenor, who will help them achieve a better understanding of the topic and allow them to explore their own views and arguments. Students will also begin the process of drawing up relevant questions to consider ahead of the seminar with the theorist. The aim is that, after this preparatory class, students will have a grounding in the topic so that they are able to engage in constructive and well reasoned debate with the visiting theorist in the following week.
4. Publication and Online Debate
For assessment, students will be asked to write a short article summarising one of the papers and a longer response article. Work of a particularly high quality will be considered for publication on the Just World Institute┐s website. High quality response articles will be sent to the political theorist in question with the invitation for the theorist to respond either in correspondence with the student or in a comments section on the website.
The nature of this course is such that the syllabus cannot be finalised until the list of speakers has been settled. However, the following offers an example of the structure the course would take.
Week 1. Introduction and first preparatory class
Reading: Gillian Brock, Global Justice: A Cosmopolitan Account (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), Chapter 8.
Joseph H. Carens, 'Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders,' Review of Politics 49 (1987): 250-73.
Week 2. Speaker: Prof Chandran Kukathas, London School of Economics
Reading: Forthcoming book, Immigration and Freedom, Chapter 1.
Freedom of Association
Week 3. Preparatory Class
Reading: Stuart White, 'Freedom of Association and the Right to Exclude,' Journal of Political Philosophy 5 (1997): 373-391.
Week 4. Speaker: Professor Kimberley Brownlee, Warwick University
Reading: Working paper, "Freedom of Association: It's Not What You Think".
Week 5. Preparatory Class
Reading: Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift, Family Values (Princetom: Princeton University Press, 2014), Chapters 3 and 4.
Week 6. Speaker: Dr Anca Gheaus, Sheffield University
Reading: Working paper, "Is There a Right to Parent?"
Week 7: Preparatory Class
Readings: Martha C. Nussbaum, "A Right to Marry?," California Law Review 98 (2010): 667-696.
Cass R. Sunstein, ┐The Right to Marry,┐ Cardozo Law Rev. 26 (2005): 2081-2655.
Week 8. Speaker: Dr Clare Chambers, Cambridge University
Reading: Working paper, "The Marriage Free State"
Global Distributive Justice
Week 9. Preparatory Class:
Reading: Michael Blake, Justice and Foreign Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), Chapter 5.
Week 10. Speaker: Prof Simon Caney, Oxford University
Reading: Working paper, "Coercion, Justification and Inequality: Defending Global Egalitarianism"
Week 11: Reflection on course and guidance for final assessment.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||10 % Student presentations
20 % 1000 word article, in the style of a blog post, summarising, for a non-specialist audience, one of the papers presented and the class discussion that followed
70 % 2500 word response article
||The student presentations and 1000 word article are formative assessments. They will aid students in developing the requisite skills for the response articles, which is the summative assessment. These skills are:
a) Critical analysis.
b) Clarity of expression.
c) Accuracy in representation of argument and context.
The presentations are primarily aimed at allowing students to develop skills in critical analysis. Students will be asked to distinguish (a) the points they found most compelling in a paper from (b) those they regarded as most problematic and (c) those points which they thought were unclear and required further elaboration.
The 1000 word article are primarily aimed at allowing students to develop skills in clarity of expression and accuracy in representation. Since the task requires students to write for a non-specialist audience, students will be unable to simply regurgitate what they have read. Rather they will have to read, comprehend and translate using non-technical language. They will also have to draw on the background reading they have done during the preparatory class to set the paper in context.
To write the 2500 response article, students will utilize all of these skills. They will have to accurately summarise the arguments in the paper in order to mount their response. They will also need to present their work with maximum clarity and draw upon the relevant background reading to place the relevant the text in context. Finally, they will have to engage in critical analysis to probe the strengths and coherence of the arguments they are responding to.
In regards to timings, students will pick one seminar to present and one seminar to write about in their 1000 word article at the start of the semester. Students cannot present and write about the same seminar. The presentations will occur at the start of each seminar, addressed to the visiting speaker. The 1000 word articles will be written in the week following a seminar. The deadline for the response article will fall at the end of the semester. The articles can be in response to any paper. Students are free to draw upon ideas they developed in a presentation or the 1000 word article.
The participation grade of 5% will be awarded to students who regularly make meaningful contributions to the discussion.
Students will receive written feedback on the three main components of the course. Feedback on presentations and the 1000 word articles will be given within two weeks following the presentation/submission of the work. Feedback on the response articles will come at the end of the semester. Besides this written feedback, students will be actively encouraged to visit the convenor for further discussion of their work.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Understand, from direct experience, the process of debate, discussion and critique through which political theorists develop their research.
- Identify key concepts, arguments, debates, traditions and thinkers in political theory.
- Communicate complex theoretical ideas clearly and accurately to a range of audiences including established scholars, peers and a non-specialist audience.
- Critically analyse a text in political theory for its internal consistency and strength of argumentation.
- Develop original lines of argument, objection and response in relation to a text.
|General texts for the course will likely include:|
Simon Caney, Justice beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
CÚcile Fabre, Justice in a Changing World (Cambridge: Polity, 2007).
Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
Adam Swift, Political Philosophy: A Begginners Guide for Students and Politicians (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2006).
Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).
Readings for particular weeks will be chosen on the basis of the topics covered (see example above).
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Dr Kieran Oberman
|Course secretary||Mrs Gillian MacDonald
Tel: (0131 6)51 3244