SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Concepts in Political Theory

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Term 1

This module will introduce students to contemporary political theory through a focus on key concepts. These include liberty, rights, justice, democracy, representation, power, hegemony and secularism. Students will read the works of theorists such as Isaiah Berlin, John Rawls, Iris Marion Young, Charles Mills, Michel Foucault, Antonio Gramsci, Carl Schmitt, Chantal Mouffe, and Saba Mahmood (thinkers may change from year to year). The course provides an opportunity to students to acquire systematic theoretical grounding in the concepts commonly deployed in political and intellectual debate.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Gain familiarity with key concepts and debates in contemporary political theory
  • Acquire knowledge of the important writings of recent political thinkers
  • Develop analytical skills of close reading and deep engagement with theories
  • Develop critical skills in written and oral communication. 


2 hours lecture per week

1 hour tutorial per week

Scope and syllabus

  1. Liberty
  2. Rights
  3. Justice
  4. Injustice
  5. Identity/Difference
  6. Democracy
  7. Representation
  8. Power
  9. Hegemony
  10. Secularism

Method of assessment

Assessment is 100% coursework (one 850 word essay and one 2500 word essay).


Suggested reading

  • Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty, pp.118-72
  • Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings
  • John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Part One
  • Joseph Raz,The Morality of Freedom
  • Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship
  • Carl Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy
  • Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference
  • Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks
  • Chantal Mouffe, The Democratic Paradox
  • Abdullahi An Na’im, Islam and the Secular State



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules