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Living political ideas

Should religious beliefs shape how politics are conducted in the contemporary world? Does violence have a role in politics? Should animals as well as humans be represented in politics? What do bodies and sexuality have to do with politics? Living political ideas is an exciting OU level 3 politics and international studies module that debates these and similar questions. It demonstrates the relevance of political ideas for understanding contemporary issues in national and world politics. The award winning study materials include software, video and audio on the website (British Universities Film & Video Council, Learning on Screen Awards 2009).

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.

3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

Student Reviews

Very broad subject. Gives a very clear understanding of the politics in our world. Especially western new world politics....
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Completely enjoyed DD306, which resulted in me obtaining my top-up BSc (Hons) Open Degree. It was, however, extremely hard work...
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What you will study

This module is for any one interested in the importance of political ideas in politics and international relations or wanting to make sense of current events. The module is organised around an introduction and five parts. In each part, as described below, you’ll be thinking about the different ways that political ideas ‘live’.

Part 1: Representing the people
This first part investigates the idea of political representation. It traces some of the history and development of the idea in Europe and beyond, and considers whether there is now a crisis of representation.

Part 2: Political animals
The next part looks at how distinctions between humans and animals constitute and challenge modern notions of politics. Do we have good reasons for excluding animals from the political domain? Should nature be given a strong political voice in our era of global environmental degradation?

Part 3: Politics and religion
The third part explores the contentious area of the relationship between religion and politics. Should religious beliefs play an explicit part in politics? Or is it important that church and state be kept separate? Should politics be a secular matter with room for a plurality of religious convictions expressed by citizens in their private lives? How do religious ideas impact on riots in France, the abortion debate in the US and state formation in Iran?

Part 4: The body in politics
Part four discusses how explanations of the body are both incorporated into politics and challenge them. Politics is often thought of as being the concern of the mind – making rational policies. How do the treatment of disabled people, the question of care for the elderly, matters of sexuality, and developments in genetic screening and modification challenge this notion?

Part 5: Violence and politics
The final part examines how the problem of violence underpins modern understandings of politics. Is politics always, at root, about violence? And what are we to make of the notion of state violence? How did various ideas about the relationship between violence and politics play out in the civil war in Sierra Leone, the struggle for national independence in Algeria, and the break-up of Yugoslavia?

Supporting study materials
The module is delivered primarily online, however, print versions of political texts are provided, so you won’t always be studying at your computer. We also want you to learn to become independent learners through this module, and plenty of help is given for you to build these skills.

You will learn

You will learn how to interpret contemporary political events by using political theory texts. This will help you bring out the underlying ‘living’ ideas at stake, as well as the historical resonances often to be found in the political debates of the present. You’ll also build on your ability to reflect on the meaning of a piece of text and analyse it, whether it is a political theory extract, a newspaper article, or a work memo.

Vocational relevance

Modules in government and politics are relevant to a wide range of employment. Politics graduates can be found in financial and commercial occupations – such as business management, banking and insurance – and in a variety of other professions, including the law and accountancy. They are particularly attractive to the public sector: the civil service, local government and health administration.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day-schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. You will also be able to take part in online discussion forums with other students to support your studies.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system.

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) is a project that takes the place of an examination. 

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2018. This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2018.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2 with the OU. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU.

    Our OU level 1 module Introducing the social sciences (DD102) and the OU level 2 module Understanding politics: ideas and institutions in the modern world (DD211) provides an excellent grounding for this module.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    No specific preparatory work is required. 

    If you have studied the discontinued module DD203, you might like to revisit Part 4 of the module, called Living Political Ideas (including its book and the three audiovisual components), to gain an initial sense of what is meant by ‘living political ideas’. 

    If you’ve not studied this level 2 module, you might like to consider getting hold of Living Political Ideas, Andrews, G. and Saward, M. (eds) (2005) Edinburgh University Press.


    Start End England fee Register
    06 Oct 2018 Jun 2019 -

    Registration now closed

    October 2018 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time convenient to you.

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2019. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 24/09/2018.

    What's included

    Module website and print versions of the political texts studied online.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • Arendt, H. On Violence Harcourt Publishers £6.99 - ISBN 9780156695008

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD306 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.