GV4H4      Half Unit
Foundations of Political Theory

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Kai Spiekermann and Dr Bruno Leipold


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Political Theory. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This course provides an introduction to the philosophical and methodological foundations of political theory. It aims to give participants a conceptual toolbox that can be brought to bear on many different substantive problems and research questions in political theory and neighbouring fields. The course introduces some central methodological debates in contemporary political theory, explores the links between political theory and related disciplines, and familiarises students with different approaches to political theorising.


This course provides a combination of lectures, seminars, and other activities totalling 25 hours in Michaelmas Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and seminars.

There will be a reading week in MT Week 6.

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

David Leopold and Marc Stears (eds.) (2008) Political Theory: Methods and Approaches (Oxford: Oxford University Press); John S. Dryzek, Bonnie Honig and Anne Phillips (eds.) (2008) The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press); Robert E. Goodin and Philip Pettit (eds.) (1993) A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell); Michael Smith (1994) The Moral Problem (Oxford: Blackwell); Keith Dowding (2015) The Philosophy and Methods of Political Science (Palgrave).


Essay (85%, 2500 words) in the LT.
Blog post (15%) in the MT.

The blog post component involves students submitting an online wiki/blog team assignment of up to 1000 words.

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 28.5
Merit 62.6
Pass 8.9
Fail 0

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: 41

Average class size 2019/20: 13

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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