Not available in 2020/21
Conflict, War and Revolution - Approaches to Political Theory

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Paul Kelly CRB 4.18


This course is available on the 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 and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Students must have completed Introduction to Political Theory (GV100).

Course content

The course explores some different approaches to the problem and challenge of politics through the careful reading of a number of important texts and thinkers from the Ancient Greeks to the present. It will build on and assume the overview of Political Theory in GV 100 but go beyond a broad superficial reading to an in depth and critical engagement with complex texts from history, philosophy, theology to explore the methodologies of political thinking and critical reading in order to understand to challenge and problem of political action. The thinkers discussed comprise Thucydides, Augustine of Hippo, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Clausewitz, Lenin and Mao, Carl Schmitt, and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. These paradigmatic thinkers challenge the presuppositions of contemporary liberal egalitarianism and state focused models of politics and distinguish the domain of the political from other ways of ways thinking about human practical modes of experience such as morality, society and the economy. Alongside ways of reading these texts the couse will also explore a number of issues about the nature of politics including how the domain of politics is conceived, the sites of political engagement such as the polis, city, republic, empire, state, system of states, and multitude. We will focus on the nature justification and legitimacy of violence, force and conflict. Finally the course will also examine the 'meta-narratives' or overarching contexts within which they argue the political takes place such as the structure and meaning of history and whether history justifies political action or redeems human suffering and oppression.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

  • Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, trans. R. Warner, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1972.
  • Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans, trans. R.W. Dyson, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
  • Machiavelli, The Prince, eds. Q. Skinner and Russell Price, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. R. Tuck, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Rousseau, Of the Social Contract and Other Political Writings, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 2012.
  • Clausewitz, Carl von., On War, eds. M. Howard and P. Paret, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1984.
  • Lenin, V.I., The State and Revolution, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 2009.
  • Mao, Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, (the Little Red Book), Beijing, Progress Publishers, 1976.
  • Schmitt, Carl, The Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2007.
  • Hardt, M., & Negri, A., Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, New York, Penguin, 2004.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the ST.

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: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication