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.
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.