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An Introduction To Politics


Key information

  • Module code:


  • Level:


  • Semester:

      Full Year

  • Credit value:


Module description

The aim of this module is to provide first-year students with a grasp of the main conceptual approaches, schools, methods, and sub-disciplines in Politics. All the course contents are framed and taught with reference to contemporary European politics and political systems. The module gives students the toolkit and ability to problematise and reflect critically on common-sense assumptions and understandings of political institutions and processes, and provides a foundation for the analytical skills they will require in subsequent years of the European Studies/Politics degrees or the Liberal Arts programme.

The first semester will cover the nature of politics and power; some of the key concepts, categories and debates in political science, the key approaches to the study of politics and the key perspectives in international relations/international political economy. The second part of this module will introduce students to the key issues in comparative politics.

The module focuses on institutions, processes and political actors in modern Europe. While most of the course will be devoted to discussing political developments in Western Europe, both Eastern Europe and the EU political system will also be considered. 

*Please note that module information is indicative and may change from year to year.

Assessment details

One 3,000 word essay (50%) and one 3-hour examination (50%).  A practice essay could be submitted to the tutors by the reading week in semester 1

Teaching pattern

1-hour lecture and 1-hour seminar, weekly

Indicative Teaching Schedule

Semester 1 - Politics: Concepts, Approaches and Methods

  1. Introduction – Politics: A Contested Terrain                               
  2. Power: a Key Concept       
  3. The State as a Political and Constitutional Form   
  4. Democracy and its Critics
  5. Political Ideologies
    Reading Week (no classes)
  6. Freedom and Justice
  7. The International System of States
  8. Critical Approaches to Global Politics
  9. Globalization and International Political Economy
  10. An Introduction to Research Methods

Semester 2 - Comparative Politics: Institutions, Actors and Processes

  1. Introduction – Comparing political systems
  2. Varieties of Democracy                                                            
  3. Executives & Legislatures                                
  4. Voting behaviour (I): electoral systems                                   
  5. Voting behaviour (II): referendums                                        
    Reading Week (no classes)     
  6. Party systems                                                                           
  7. Political parties                                                            
  8. Interest groups                                                            
  9. Youth and Politics
  10. Representation of women and minorities in Western Europe     

Suggested reading list

Garner, R.; Ferdinand, P. and S. Lawson (2016) Introduction to Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press) 3rd ed.

For the first part of the module, this is also an excellent textbook – although not always easy to read:

  • Marsh, D. and Stoker, G. (2010) Theories and Methods in Political Science (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan) 3rd ed.

For the second part of the module, you may want to look at:

  • Caramani, D. (ed.) (2017) Comparative Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press) 4th edition