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The Study of Politics


Module description

What is politics? How can we best study it? Such questions define this module. The answer to the first might seem obvious, but politics can be constructed differently in different times, cultures and disciplines, and those constructions can be contested and changed. To that extent, this module is historical and interdisciplinary.

We will examine the possibility that the study of politics is a branch of the social sciences. But philosophers and historians also study politics, while feminists both study politics and seek to transform it. The resulting models of politics are not hermetically sealed from one another, but they are different (quite apart from the differences within each discipline). This introduction is framed in terms of political concepts and the skills necessary to work fruitfully with them. That means being able to negotiate between different arguments, different theories, and different bodies of evidence in making one’s own judgements. In short, it means thinking for oneself.

This module aims to:

  • introduce the study of politics and government
  • outline some of the main concepts and theories used in the study of politics
  • explore and practise different forms of argumentation in the study of politics
  • examine the different kinds of evidence appealed to in studying politics
  • foster understanding of the relations between theory and evidence in the study of politics.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of different approaches to the study of politics and government and of some of the main concepts involved in them
  • make a critical assessment of the kinds of arguments advanced in the study of politics
  • appraise the evidence advanced in such arguments
  • understand the relationship between theory and evidence in the study of politics
  • display all the above in practising the skills of research, critical thinking and essay-writing.