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POL1048 : Foundations of Modern Political Thought

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr David Walker
  • Lecturer: Dr Graham Long
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The aims in this module are to enable students to gain a grasp of the political ideas of five key thinkers whose thought has informed modern political thought, to identify some of the chief continuities and contrasts between them, to think critically about their ideas, to gain an awareness of the significance and impact of their thought, and to introduce a range of key concepts in modern political thought.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module focuses on the ideas of five of the most influential political thinkers of the modern era: Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill and Marx. Each of these thinkers attempts to provide answers to the most fundamental questions of politics, for example why do human beings need government? How can some human beings gain the right to rule others? Should we place limits on the scope of political authority and when can we justifiably defy it? What is human nature and how should it shape our political arrangements? What is freedom, how important is it compared with other political goals, and how should we endeavor to achieve it? What is justice and what makes for a just society? How should equality be understood and how does it relate to other concepts such as freedom? When is revolution justified? Ideas of the ‘social contract’, consent, human nature, liberty, equality, democracy, property, justice, class and revolution will all be considered in this module.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading51:005:00Reading Groups
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1158:00158:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures introduce students to the key ideas of the five thinkers and provide focus for module. The seminars allow for participation by students in clarifying and exploring key ideas and issues. These help to develop critical-analytical and oral communication skills. The reading groups help to develop teamwork skills. Essays help to develop critical-analytical skills and written communication skills. Planning and organisational skills are developed throughout module, along with knowledge outcomes, which are tested in the assessments.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M501,800 words
Essay2M501,800 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essays will provide an opportunity for students to explore the thinkers in greater depth. It will assess the student’s ability to place and synthesise the material gained from lectures and seminars in appropriate contexts and their ability to critically and succinctly evaluate the ideas, concepts and theories introduced in lectures and explored in seminars. In addition the essay will also assess the capacity and initiative of students to undertake independent study of published and electronic materials.

Reading Lists