Not available in 2021/22
GV4F5      Half Unit
Advanced Study of Key Political Thinkers

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Signy Gutnick Allen


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 17:00 on Tuesday 29 September 2020. You will be informed of the outcome by 17:00 on Wednesday 30 September 2020.


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 seminars, 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.


This course is delivered through seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours in the Lent Term. Some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus seminars. 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 extended essay plan of no more than 1500 words. This will form the basis of the final summative assessment. The course leader will provide written feedback on this plan, and provide the opportunity for a one-to-one meeting to discuss the plan, but will not provide a numerical grade or classification for it. 

Indicative reading

Hobbes, T., The Elements of Law; Hobbes, T.,  Leviathan; Hobbes, T.,  De Cive; Hobbes, T., A Dialogue Between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England; Hobbes, T. Writings on Liberty and Necessity; Schmitt, C. The Concept of the Political; Arendt, H., The Origins of Totalitarianism; Agamben, G. Homer Sacer

Students will also be asked to prepare short written summaries of relevant secondary literature of their choice. Examples could include: Hoekstra, K. (2012). Hobbesian Equality. In S. Lloyd (Ed.), Hobbes Today: Insights for the 21st Century (pp. 76-112). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; ABIZADEH, ARASH. “Hobbes on the Causes of War: A Disagreement Theory.” The American Political Science Review, vol. 105, no. 2, 2011, pp. 298–315; Baumgold, D. (2009). Hobbesian Absolutism and the Paradox of Modern Contractarianism. European Journal of Political Theory, 8(2), 207–228; Pettit, P. (2005). Liberty and Leviathan. Politics, Philosophy & Economics, 4(1), 131–151; Ristroph, Alice. “Respect and Resistance in Punishment Theory.” California Law Review, vol. 97, no. 2, 2009, pp. 601–632.


Essay (80%, 4000 words).
Continuous assessment (10%) and group presentation (10%) in the LT.

The continuous assessment element would be based on the student's online portfolio of secondary literature summaries.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 43.8
Merit 47.9
Pass 8.3
Fail 0

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 15

Average class size 2020/21: 8

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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