This module examines the development of liberalism in the Western world from the French Revolution to the twenty-first century by analysing the works of a number of European and American thinkers. One of our tasks will be to establish what are the distinctive characteristics of liberal thought? What do different liberals have to say about key concepts like the state, the individual, freedom, equality, and property? Is there one liberalism or many? Liberalism is an extremely diverse ideology, and the module will examine tensions within this body of thought: between liberal thinkers of different eras and different countries, between classical and modern liberalisms, left and right liberalisms, and so on. Are liberal values universally desirable or only limited to particular times and places? Different writers have sought to justify liberal beliefs in different ways: by appealing to concepts of natural right or ideas of human welfare, by using social contract theories, or by acknowledging the contingency of liberal values. The module will also examine the relation of liberalism to other ideologies – such as republicanism, conservatism, and socialism – that liberalism developed in opposition to or sometimes in alliance with.
This is a historically oriented political theory module where students are required to read and engage with primary texts throughout the module.
*Please note that module information is indicative and may change from year to year.
Professor Jeremy Jennings
1 three-hour lecture/seminar per week
Module assessment - more information
2-hour examination (50%), 2,500-word essay (50%)