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Political Theory and Contemporary Politics


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Jason Edwards
  • Assessment: to be confirmed

Module description

This module examines some central problems of contemporary political theory. It begins by questioning the very idea of a ‘Western’ tradition of political thought, engaging with arguments about how such a tradition has excluded or marginalised contributions by authors outside the Western canon, but also how knowledge within political theory has been constituted in a way that conceals or promotes the power of the West through its colonisation of the rest of the world over the last five centuries. It places key debates over sovereignty, the social contract tradition, and the status of culture and identity in this context. The module then turns to problems of the constitution of ‘the people’, the politics of populism, the contribution of political theory to debates on work and play, and finally the status of the human in contemporary political thought.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Reviewing the State
  • The Impossibility of Sovereignty
  • The Sexual and Racial Contract
  • Decolonialism, Postcolonialism and Political Theory
  • Culture and Identity
  • Who Are the People?
  • Problems of Democracy
  • Work and Play
  • Political Theory and Things
  • Humanism and Posthumanism

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • have a critical understanding of the idea of a tradition of ‘Western’ political theory and the way in which this has tended to exclude non-Western authors as well as assume the power and superiority of the West over the rest of the world
  • be able to relate contemporary debates about sovereignty, the social contract tradition, and culture and identity to broader questions of the status of political theory in relation to the Western tradition
  • be able to engage with and contribute critically to debates on contemporary issues such as the politics of populism, the relationship between work, play and politics, and the status of the human in politics today
  • be able to synthesise a variety of materials across primary and secondary texts to explain and support your own arguments concerning key problems in the study of contemporary political theory
  • have developed skills of critical thinking, enquiry, synthesis, analysis and evaluation that can be employed on other modules studied at this level.