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

Undergraduate Course: Freedom and Slavery in Political Thought (PLIT10162)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryFreedom is among the most powerful political ideas. This course investigates the notion of freedom in political thought from a historical and philosophical perspective. We will ask how freedom should be understood, what its implications are for social, political, and economic life, and whether the historical experience of slavery can help us think about emancipation today.
Course description What does it mean to be free? This course examines freedom through the lens of political theory and the history of political thought, with a particular focus on the contrasting condition of slavery.

We consider the ideal of liberty in relation to a variety of ideological perspectives each year - which may include civic republican accounts of domination, socialist conceptions of wage-slavery, feminist thinking about women's subordination, or the classical liberal defence of economic liberty. So too, we shall investigate the intellectual history of slavery, and ask how contemporary societies ought to confront the enduring impact of enslavement today.

Students will not only acquire knowledge of the history of freedom and slavery in political thought, but will develop skills in philosophical argumentation and conceptual analysis that will enable them to defend a specific understanding of the nature of political, economic, or social freedom. To this end, the course will be taught through a weekly seminar in which students will use the tools of political theory to discuss a range of historical and contemporary readings on freedom and slavery. Building on these discussions and feedback from a shorter initial assessment, students will undertake a longer coursework essay defending an ambitious historical and/or philosophical thesis about freedom or slavery.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Introduction to Politics and International Relations (PLIT08004) OR Politics in a Changing World: An Introduction for non-specialists (PLIT08012) OR Politics and International Relations 1A: Concepts and Debates (PLIT08017)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students who lack these pre-requisites but have completed comparable courses should contact the course organiser.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least four college- or university-level courses at grade B or above in Politics/IR or Philosophy (or be predicted to obtain this). One of these courses must have been a political philosophy, political theory, or history of political thought course.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Midterm essay (35%): 1600 words
Students will answer one question on the history of freedom and slavery in political thought from a list addressing themes in the first half of the course.

Final essay (65%): 3000 words
Students can answer one question on the political theory of freedom and slavery from a list addressing themes drawn from the course as a whole. Alternatively, with guidance and discretionary approval of the course convenor, students can devise their own essay question.
Feedback Feedback on all assessed work shall normally be returned within three weeks of submission. Where this is not possible, students shall be given clear expectations regarding the timing and methods of feedback.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate an understanding of important theories about freedom and slavery emerging from the history of political thought
  2. evaluate arguments about the nature and implications of political liberty
  3. assess normative claims about how societies should respond to the lasting impacts of slavery
  4. defend interpretations of challenging historical and theoretical texts which discuss freedom and slavery
  5. write clearly and confidently about core concepts in political theory and the history of political thought
Reading List
Aristotle, Politics, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016).

Quentin Skinner, Liberty Before Liberalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (London: Continuum, 2005).

Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Boston: Harvard University Press, 1985).

Amy Dru Stanley, From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course aims to equip students to:

- analyse, synthesise, critically and methodically appraise thoughts to break down complex problems into manageable components.
- develop the capability to evaluate information thoroughly; identifying assumptions, detecting false logic or reasoning and defining terms accurately in order to make an informed judgement.
- create, identify and evaluate options in order to solve complex problems.
- have the ability to produce clear, structured written work
- articulate and effectively explain information
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Tom O'Shea
Course secretaryMr Ethan Alexander
Tel: (0131 6)50 4001
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