Conflict, War and Revolution - Approaches to Political Theory

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Paul Kelly CRB 4.18


This course is available on the BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in History and Politics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Data Science, 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 Anthropology. 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 GV100 but go beyond a broad superficial reading to an in depth and critical engagement with complex texts from history, philosophy and 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. 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 thinking about human practical modes of experience such as morality, society and the economy. Alongside ways of reading these texts the course 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.


This course is delivered through seminars totalling a minimum of 40 hours across the Michaelmas and Lent Terms. This course includes reading weeks in Week 6 of both the MT and LT.

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

  • Kelly, Paul, Conflict, War and Revolution, LSE Press, 2022.
  • 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.


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

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2021/22: 16

Average class size 2021/22: 16

Capped 2021/22: Yes (15)

Value: One Unit

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Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication