Introduction to Political Theory

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Katrin Flikschuh


This course is compulsory on the BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations, BSc in Politics and Philosophy and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available on the BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in Environment and Development, BSc in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Policy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

An introduction to political theory through the thought and texts of some of the most important western political theorists. A study of the ideas of some of the major political theorists from the ancient Greeks to the 20th Century. Topics will include theories of human nature, the origin of government and law, man's relation to society and the state, the basis of political obligation, the idea of social contract, the idea of social progress, the critique of capitalism, and quesitons abotu race and gender. The thinkers discussed this year will include Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, J S Mill, Marx, Nkrumah, Arendt, Fanon.


20 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 2 hours of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

There will be a reading week in Week 6 of both terms.

The lecture in ST1 will be a revision lecture and the class in ST1 will be a revision class.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

Indicative reading

D. Boucher and P. Kelly, Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present (Oxford 2009); Plato, Republic; Aristotle, Politics; Cicero, The Republic and On Duties; Machiavelli, The Prince; Hobbes, Leviathan; Locke, 2nd Treatise of Government; Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality and The Social Contract; J S Mill, Utilitarianism, The Subjection of Women, and On Liberty; Marx, Selected Writings (Ed D McLellan); Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals; Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism; Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks.


Exam (60%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (40%, 2000 words) in the LT.



The Class Summary Grade for General Course students will be calculated as follows: 15% class participation, 5% attendance and 80% formative coursework (50% for the MT essay and 30% for the LT textual analysis).

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2018/19: 245

Average class size 2018/19: 12

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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