Module Catalogue 2023/24

POL3133 : Politics as a Way of Life

POL3133 : Politics as a Way of Life

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Michael Barr
  • Deputy Module Leader: Dr David Walker
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System

Modules you must have done previously to study this module

Pre Requisite Comment



Modules you need to take at the same time

Co Requisite Comment



Politics as a Way of Life aims to:

1. Demonstrate the manifold ways in which the personal is political with particular focus on the ‘wicked problem’ of how to sustain human flourishing in an age of rapid change and uncertainty

2. Demonstrate the inescapability of politics in our daily lives and decision making (i.e. in our relationships to people and products, our jobs, studies) with an emphasis on how our desires and the means by which we achieve them are shaped by wider socio-political contexts

3. Critically examine the ‘big questions’ such as ‘what should I value?’ and ‘what is a good life?’ through a range of texts from Western and Eastern political, philosophical and literary traditions

4. Employ a weekly series of ‘experiments in living’, practical and intellectual exercises designed to help students better understand the relationship between theory and practice, promote their own wellbeing, and make decisions in light of their own reasoned vision of the good, rather than relying only on externally imposed standards

5. Introduce a range of life skills, including the value and practice of self-reflection and the ability to translate purpose into action, which will help prepare students for their personal and professional lives beyond their degree

6. Critique the limits of the commodification of higher education by defining and demonstrating the intrinsic value of learning

7. Provide a supportive environment for students and staff to share their views, drawing on resources presented in the module and their own experience of seeing and being in the world

Outline Of Syllabus

How do we live in a world filled with uncertainty? What are the connections between our own sense of wellbeing and the political events of our age? What intellectual and practical resources can we develop to better manage our response to rapid socio-political change, particularly in relationship to social media and new technologies?

This module acknowledges that we live in a world fraught with anxiety. Our response to climate change, the lasting impact of COVID-19, the growth of illiberal politics, divisions fostered by social media, inequalities in income, gender and ethnicity all contribute to a sense of crisis in our politics and our ways of being in the world.

We examine how our ideals of a good life are increasingly under threat from environmental, political, and socio-economic change and how, paradoxically, many of the things that we desire turn out to be obstacles to our own flourishing. The module is guided by the ethos that there is too little opportunity at university for students to explore within themselves their vision of a life well lived and the means by which they can put their vision into practice.

With variation from year to year, the module will cover themes including but not limited to:

- mimetic desire, our tendency to allow others to generate, shape, and manipulate want we want or like, which can lead to not only disappointment but conflict

- the impact of Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, and other forms of digital culture which explicitly aim to exploit a ‘vulnerability in human psychology’ for commercial gain

- the politics of everyday life, including how a wider context (e.g. global conflict, capitalist economies, family and relationships, built environments, gender, ethnic and income inequalities) can impact mental health and wellbeing

- the concept of Bildung (self-cultivation) and how personal change is linked to political and cultural trends

- how we integrate moral ideals into our character and why we sometimes fail to act as we would wish to

- the growth of the wellness industry and therapeutic culture, including issues of enhancement and performance drugs

- living with uncertainty and suffering, including the phenomenology of illness and users’ experiences of antidepressant medication

- eudaimonia and melancholia

- existentialism, nihilism and the absurd

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

At the end of the module students will know how to:

1. Analyse the interdependent relationship between politics, from the international to the everyday, and their desires, values, and sense of wellness

2. Provide a reasoned defence of their conception of a good life, the core beliefs, values and goals which underpin it, and how it is impacted by the wider socio-political context

3. Analyse how conceptions of wellbeing are connected to assumptions about the world and their place in it

4. Discuss the value and limits of self-knowledge and self-awareness

Intended Skill Outcomes

At the end of the module students will be able to:

1. Clarify the difference between means and ends in both intellectual arguments and life goals

2. Practice making decisions in light of their own reasoned vision of the good, rather than relying only on externally imposed standards

3. Create a piece of work in their chosen medium (text, video, poster, etc) which combines personal narrative with critical reasoning

4. Maintain a reflective journal discussing both the intellectual content of the module and the ‘experiments in living’

5. Recognise challenges to their own mental health and sense of wellness

6. Translate purpose into action through a set of strategies and habits to promote critical self-reflection and personal flourishing beyond the duration of the module

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture82:0016:00In-person, timetabled
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials32:006:00Recorded lectures, asynchronous, released the week before the topic is discussed in person
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1150:00150:00Apart from reading also includes reflective learning, assessment completion
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities111:0011:00Formative quizzes, supplementary videos and supporting materials for lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops111:0011:00In-person, timetabled for experiments in living exercises
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time32:006:00Discussion and feedback with module leader for weeks when lectures are online
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce students to key concepts and literature and help prepare them for the assigned readings and assessment completion. Workshops introduce our experiments in living as well as provide a structured forum for dialogue and the practice of self-reflection. Scheduled online contact time provides a structured forum for feedback and to discuss issues with the ML during weeks when lectures are not in-person. Structured guided learning encourages students to engage with the supplementary videos and explainers posted on Canvas.

The module is committed to digital education and will make full use of resources to improve the student experience (e.g. NU Reflect, OMBEA, H5P, Canvas supported activities).

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Reflective log2M40To be completed weekly, submitted at the end of the module. 1500 words total
Essay2M60Students will be assigned a question and choose a medium/format they choose to submit (essay or creative project). 2500 words total
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Computer assessment2MStudents will be asked to complete quizzes via Canvas and H5P for additional feedback
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A key learning outcome of Politics as a Way of Life is the value and practice of self-reflection, especially in relation to student wellbeing and mental health. Thus a reflective log forms an essential part of the assessment. The essay/creative project provides an opportunity for students to express and defend their own ‘philosophy as a way of life’ and how that is impacted by politics. Crucially, both the log and the essay/creative project are designed to assess students understanding of the key concepts and literature presented. That is, both assessments will integrate intellectual content with personal narrative and reflection.

Clear assessment criteria will be provided, drawn from best practice across Politics/HaSS.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Welcome to Newcastle University Module Catalogue

This is where you will be able to find all key information about modules on your programme of study. It will help you make an informed decision on the options available to you within your programme.

You may have some queries about the modules available to you. Your school office will be able to signpost you to someone who will support you with any queries.


The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2023 academic year.

In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described.

Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2024/25 entry will be published here in early-April 2024. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.