GV262GC      Half Unit
Contemporary Political Theory (Spring Semester)

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Paul Apostolidis


This course is available to General Course ‘Spring Semester’ students.


Introduction to Political Theory or equivalent.

Course content

This course provides an advanced introduction to contemporary political theory. The course engages normative- and critical-theoretical texts by considering present-day political and social problems. Our ‘Spring Semester’ confronts pressing questions that stem from climate change, global migration, and racial and colonial violence. What shifts in modern notions of nature-human relations might climate change spur and under what political conditions would people respond to these ethical imperatives? What obligations does a political society have to migrants and what new conceptions of political agency might migrants’ work and political ventures suggest? What are the sources of colonial and racial violence, and what ethical and political commitments should anti-racist and decolonizing responses entail? We conclude by reflecting on what it means to practise political theory, from contrasting intellectual perspectives.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 25 hours across Lent Term and Summer Term. Some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and classes. There will be a reading week in LT Week 6.

Formative coursework

There are no formative coursework assignments in the LT or ST.

The course requires students to organize their workloads, to complete readings in advance of lectures, and to prepare to participate actively in seminars. The course thus emphasizes the development of verbal and written communication abilities. Students also should expect to tackle basic questions about what it means to write political theory by exploring tensions and affinities between normative/ethical and critical-theoretical approaches.

Indicative reading

John Rawls, “Justice as Fairness”; Michel Foucault, “Two Lectures”; Jacques Rancière, “Disagreement”; Joseph Carens, “The Ethics of Immigration”; Thomas Nagel, “The Problem of Global Justice”; Mohandas K. Gandhi, “Hind Swaraj”; Edward Said, “Orientalism”; Aimé Césaire, “Discourse on Colonialism”; James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time”; Simon Caney, “Climate Change and the Duties of the Advantaged”; Kyle White “Indigenous Environmental Movements and the Function of Governance Institutions”; Ingolfur Blühdorn, “Sustainability - Post-Sustainability – Unsustainability.”


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (50%, 1500 words) in the LT.


The Class Summary Grade for General Course 'Spring Semester' students will be calculated as follows:15% class participation, 80% assessed coursework, and 5% attendance.


The Class Summary Grade for General Course students will be calculated as follows:15% class participation, 50% assessed coursework, 30% formative coursework (15% per assignment), and 5% attendance.

The Exam Grade would be on the summative assessment outlined above.


Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication