GV4F5      Half Unit
Advanced Study of Key Political Thinkers

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Signy Gutnick Allen CON.7.03


This course is available on the MSc in Political Theory. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at 1 group.

The deadline for applications is 12:00 noon on Friday 5 October 2018. You will be informed of the outcome by 12:00 noon on Monday 8 October.


An advanced undergraduate course in the History of Political Thought or Political Philosophy, or following consultation with the course teacher.

Course content

This course provides an opportunity to study the work of Thomas Hobbes in-depth. It will focus on his major works, with an emphasis on themes in his political theory: authorisation and the state, free will, the nature of the law, political resistance, the international sphere, and the relationship between civil and religious authority. We will situate Hobbes’s arguments in their political and theoretical context, as well as exploring both how subsequent theorists understood and employed his ideas, and the major contemporary critical debates in Hobbes scholarship. The seminar will therefore blend intellectual history and political theory. In our final seminar, we will consider how a trio of controversial twentieth-century thinkers (Carl Schmitt, Hannah Arendt and Giorgio Agamben) responded to Hobbes’s theory of political sovereignty.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the LT for private study and assessment preparation.

Formative coursework

Students will be encouraged to submit one formative essay of no more than 1500 words.

Indicative reading

Schmitt, C., The concept of the political, 2007, Schmitt, C., The Leviathan in the state theory of Thomas Hobbes: Meaning and failure of a political symbol, 2008, Schmitt, C., The crisis of parliamentary democracy, 1985, Schmitt, C., Political theology, 2005, Schmitt, C., On dictatorship, 2013, Schmitt, C., Constitutional Theory, 2008, Schmitt, C., The nomos of the earth, 2003

Thinkers who critically engaged with Schmitt’s ideas will also be studied. An indicative list includes Agamben, G., State of Exception (2005), Mouffe, C., The Challenge of Carl Schmitt, 1999, Holmes, S., The Anatomy of Antiliberalism, 1993, Dyzenhaus, D., Law as Politics. Carl Schmitt's Critique of Liberalism, 1998, Sartori, G., 1989, “The Essence of the Political in Carl Schmitt,” Journal of Theoretical Politics, 1 (1): 63–75, Strauss, L., ‘Notes on Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political’, in Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, 2007


Essay (100%, 4000 words).

Teachers' comment

NB. Please note that the content, teacher, and syllabus of the course have changed since 2017-2018. The course survey results and the student performance results are based on a three-year average.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2017/18: 14

Average class size 2017/18: 14

Controlled access 2017/18: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2014/15, 2016/17 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 91%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


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