SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Key Concepts in Political Theory

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

This module introduces Masters students in the Department of Politics to debates around key concepts in political theory. Through a focus on influential texts and thinkers in contemporary political theory, it aims to provide a grounding in a range of concepts that are commonly used in political analysis and critique across different regions and periods. Students will engage with debates over the different meanings of liberty, the requirements of rights and justice, the forms of democracy and civil society, the nature of power and sovereignty, the critiques of post-colonialism, gender and identity theorists. The course provides an opportunity to engage systematically with key normative concepts that play a central role in political arguments, in political theory as well as political life.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On completion of the course students will have the following:

  • Gain familiarity with key concepts in contemporary political theory
  • Acquire knowledge of debates over the meanings of these concepts through the writings of key thinkers
  • Develop stronger analytical and critical skills
  • Develop stronger written and oral communication skills


  • 1 hour lecture per week
    1 hour Seminar per week

Method of assessment

This module is assessed by two assignments; 1 x 1000 word Reaction Paper (30%) and 1 x 3000 word essay (70%).

Suggested reading

  • Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Ethics of Identity, chapter 1
  • Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty
  • Seyla Benhabib, ed. Democracy and Difference:  Contesting the Boundaries of the Political.
  • Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
  • Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules