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Level 5

5AAH1002 The History of Western Political Ideas II: From c.1700 to the Present

Credit value: 15

Module convenor/tutor: Dr Jessica Patterson
Teaching pattern: 10 x 1-hour lectures (weekly), 10 x 1-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 1,500-word formative essay; 1 x 3,000-word essay (100%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Assessment pre 2019/20: 2 x 2,500 word essays (100%)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years

This module will introduce students to the key texts, arguments and controversies in European political thought from the end of the seventeenth century to the present. This will be based on the close reading of classic and complex texts, situated in their broader intellectual and historical context. A single key thinker – such as Rousseau, Marx or Nietzsche – will typically be central to each week’s teaching, but these thinkers will be read in relation to the political environments that shaped them and the debates in which they participated. Module participants will explore the development of the central assumptions, arguments, institutions and concepts that have played and continue to play a crucial role in political organization and debate across the Western world and beyond. Major themes include: the politics of the Enlightenment; the political thought of the American and French Revolutions; the emergence and development of Marxism and of Liberalism; and the impact of issues of gender and of national difference on modern political thought. The module provides an excellent framework for the development of skills of analysis and argument, and for a intellectually deepened understanding of modern history and politics.

Provisional teaching plan

  1. Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality Among Mankind  
  2. Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments
  3. Edmund Burke Reflections on the Revolution in France
  4. Mary Wollstonescraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  5. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right
  6. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto
  7. J S Mill, On Liberty 
  8. Nietzsche On the Genealogy of Morality
  9. Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks
  10. Max Weber The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

The best way to get a taste of what we do on the course is to read one of the primary texts: Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality Among Mankind and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto are recommended. 
Preliminary secondary reading:
Alan Ryan, On Politics: A History of Political Thought from Herodotus to the Present (London, 2012)
Q. Skinner, Visions of Politics, Volume I: Regarding Method (Cambridge, 2002).
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