PO1IPI-Introduction to Political Ideas

Module Provider: School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring / Summer module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Brian Feltham

Email: b.m.feltham@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:
An introduction to key issues in political theory: democracy, citizenship, freedom, equality, obligation, justice.

To introduce key issues and concepts in political theory.

Assessable learning outcomes:
At the end of this course students should be able

- to give an account of the functions played by the modern liberal state
- to describe the strengths and weaknesses of representative democracy and the rationales of various electoral systems
- to describe the strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism
- to give an account of the tension between majority (or plurality) rule and individual and group rights
- in this connection, to describe the special problems raised by such problems as pornography, hate speech, abortion, and unpopular or inhumane religious practices
- to relate the themes of the course to the problems posed by agitation on behalf of animals and the environment

Additional outcomes:
Effective oral presentation.
Awareness of theoretical concepts ('democracy', 'sovereignty', 'the state') that can be deployed in all areas of the programme.
Awareness of the principal traditions of modern political theory, especially liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and anarchism.
Informed and critical use of primary and secondary resources, including intelligent use of internet sources.
Enhanced confidence in, and effectiveness of, oral and written communication through seminar discussions, presentations and essays.
Rigorous and consistent referencing.

Outline content:
Content is indicative only and may be subject to change:
This module will introduce students to Political Theory through an examination of problems raised by daily political practice in representative democracies. It will start by asking what a state is for (would anarchism be morally or practically superior?). Then it will examine the arguments for (and against) democracy, especially in its 'representative' version. Special consideration will be given to the legitimacy or otherwise of various electoral systems. Students will be alerted to the merits and the drawbacks of a strict utilitarian approach. Attention will then turn to limitations on democracy imposed by individual or group rights, including such hard cases as pornography, hate speech, abortion, and inhumane religious practice. The course will conclude by considering the challenge to conventional political theory posed by a suggested broadening of moral and political concern to include non-human species and the environment.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
16 lectures and 10 classes requiring some preparatory reading, oral presentations and written essays. 1 revision class.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 8 8
Seminars 5 5 1
Guided independent study 86 87
Total hours by term 99.00 100.00 1.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 60
Written assignment including essay 40

Summative assessment- Examinations:
One three-hour examination.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
Students will write one c1500 word essay in each of the Autumn and Spring terms. The coursework mark will be the average of the two essay marks. The coursework mark will constitute 40% of the overall assessment.

Visiting students: will follow the same assessments and if enrolled for the full year will also sit the examination. Those visiting students who are here for Autumn and Spring terms only but wish to gain full credits will also write a 3000 word essay in place of the examination, to be submitted by the first day of term following their leaving date. Visiting students who are only studying for half credits in Autumn and Spring terms will submit one 1500 word essay per term and if here for only one term should submit one 3000 word essay in total.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:
    40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    If a student fails to pass the year at the first attempt there is an opportunity to be re-assessed on one further occasion at the next opportunity in those modules achieving a mark of less than 40%. Students who are eligible for re-assessment have the right to re-assessment in all elements even if they have previously passed one of those elements. It is expected, however, that the majority of students would probably elect not to repeat an element in which they had already passed, in which case the confirmed marks would be carried forward.

    Coursework: Failed or missing coursework should be re-submitted by 1st August, emailed directly to politics@reading.ac.uk, AND submitted on Blackboard.

    Examination: Re-examination takes place in August/September of the same year.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books: No necessary purchases. Two possibilities:
    Catriona McKinnon, Issues in Political Theory, Oxford University Press, 2014 (Third Edition). ISBN-10: 0199680434, RRP: £27.99
    Andrew Heywood, Political Theory, Palgrave, 2014 (Fourth Edition). ISBN-10: 1137437278, RRP: £17.95
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding: There may be optional costs associated with photocopying or printing sources listed on the reading list relating to this module. Please note that the Library charges approximately 5p per photocopy.
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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