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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Undergraduate Course: Strategic Studies and its Critics (PLIT10120)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course offers honours students deep engagement with Strategic Studies, meaning the study of the use of force as a means to achieve political ends. It traces major developments in this interdisciplinary field, presents and discusses key strands in the scholarly literature about strategy, and problematises strategy as an activity and profession. This provides an intellectual framework for students to engage with and reflect on some of the enduring questions in Contemporary Strategic Studies.
Course description The course engages with a range of key controversies in Strategic Studies including strategy as a science and a profession, the role of rationality in strategic thought and planning, the role of gender in the practice and theory of strategy, the linkages between strategy and ethics, geostrategy, and the political economy of strategy. Apart from the study of scholarly sources, the course invites students to draw on contemporary examples of strategy and public policy related to the use of force (e.g. defence, policing, crisis management, peacebuilding, counter-terrorism).
Some of the key questions discussed in the course include: Will armed conflict persist? Is the strategic profession inherently militant, masculine and immoral? Does one need to be a realist, materialist and consequentialist to study strategy? Are 'security analysts' better strategists? How has technological and societal progress changed the pace, place and face of warfare? Is strategic thinking and planning part of a solution or part of the problem? Does Strategic Studies have a Western bias?
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  45
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Online Activities 6, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 170 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 80 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 30% strategic briefing (1500 words)
50% essay (2500 words)
20% participation (attendance, class engagement, group work, online discussion) - students will be assessed based on their performance during guided group work which is arranged weekly following tasks set by the course convenor. Group exercises include drawings and illustrations, reflective discussions, scenario analysis and content analysis of key documents. Participation also assesses student performance in wider classroom discussions and during the lecture-style components of each session. Finally, students have the opportunity to improve their participation marks by contributing to the online discussion boards on LEARN as they are set up and guided by the course convenor. These activities taken together build a key component of the course overall and require considerable commitment from students, which justifies a weighting of 20%. This is also the weighting similar courses in PIR give for participation.
Feedback Feedback on all written assignments (strategic briefing and essay) will be returned within 15 working days; participation feedback will be provided after the end of teaching (and on request, mid-semester)
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Critically discuss the key controversies in Strategic Studies
  2. Engage with the work of a diverse range of scholars, evaluate their arguments and critically develop interpretations of key debates
  3. Assess competing claims and make informed judgments about empirical expressions of strategy and their relationship with foreign policy
  4. Present - in written and verbal form -- coherent, balanced arguments that build on key sources in Strategic Studies
  5. Plan, prepare and contribute to weekly seminar activities
Reading List
Angstrom, J., & Widén, J. J. (2014). Contemporary Military Theory: the dynamics of war. London: Routledge.
Baylis, J., Wirtz, J. J. & Gray (2016). Strategy in the Contemporary World (6th edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Freedman, L. (2015). Strategy: A history. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course, students should have developed and strengthened their skills in:
grasping complex arguments and conceptualisations, and using them to develop an independent line of argument;
processing and interpreting information, and presenting it orally, visually and in writing;
working effectively with others in collaborative activities and making an individual contribution to the course;
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Carmen Gebhard
Tel: (0131 6)50 4622
Course secretaryMr Ethan Alexander
Tel: (0131 6)50 4001
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