Concepts in Political Theory

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

This module will introduce students to contemporary political theory through a focus on key concepts and the way these play out in political practice. Concepts covered include liberty, rights, justice, oppression, democracy, power, environmentalism, multiculturalism and secularism. Students will learn about the different meanings and uses of these concepts through engagement with debates among political thinkers and in political life.

The thinkers covered will vary from year to year, but students can expect to explore these concepts through engaging with both liberal political theorists (such as Isaiah Berlin and John Rawls) and critical theorists (such as Michel Foucault, Chantal Mouffe, and Saba Mahmood). The course provides an opportunity for students to acquire systematic theoretical grounding in the concepts commonly deployed in political and intellectual debate today.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Understand key concepts and debates in contemporary political theory
  • Analyse the important writings of recent political thinkers
  • Demonstrate skills of close reading and deep engagement with theoretical texts
  • Utilize critical skills in written and oral communication
  • Demonstrate analytical skills of engagement with different viewpoints in constructing arguments


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with:
• 1 hour lecture per week
• 1 hour tutorial per week

Method of assessment

Assignment 1: Essay 30%
Assignment 2: Essay 70%

Suggested reading

  • John Rawls, A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1971.
  • Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship: a liberal theory of minority rights. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.
  • Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990. Charles W. Mills, Black rights/white wrongs: The critique of racial liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
  • Jacques Rancière, Disagreement. Minneapolis, Mn.: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules