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Module

POL1049 : Power and Inequality

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Derek Bell
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0

Aims

In this module, we aim:
• to challenge our assumptions about power and inequality;
• to encourage critical thinking about inequalities at the local, national and global scales;
• to introduce different approaches to the study of power and inequality in Politics and International Relations;
• to think about how to choose appropriate approaches for studying specific political issues and how to explain the reasons for our choices;
• to develop key research skills, including: reading analytically; synthesising ideas and evidence; participating effectively in respectful critical discussion; giving and receiving constructive feedback; teamworking; and managing, recording and evaluating your own learning;
• to facilitate successful learning in stage 2 and 3 modules in Politics and International Relations by developing foundational knowledge and skills;
• to foster a “growth mindset” approach to learning.

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics to be covered could include:

Introduction
We outline the module and explain the novel elements of the teaching format and assessment. We present case studies that will be used throughout the module. These are likely to include cases of inequalities related to gender, race, disability, social class, nationality and sexuality (among others).

Describing and measuring inequalities
We introduce different ways of thinking about inequalities, including the distinction between inequality of opportunity and inequality of outcome, as well as different types of inequalities (e.g., economic, social, political, education, health, etc.). We introduce the legal concept of ‘protected characteristics’ and the discussion of inequalities between groups. We look at qualitative descriptions of inequality and the use of quantitative data to measure inequalities.

Explaining inequalities 1: Agents and power
We examine how the existence of inequalities has been explained in politics and international relations. We begin with explanations that emphasise the role of agents exercising power over their own or others’ lives. We introduce the one- and two-dimensional views of power and consider examples of how they feature in explanations of inequalities at local, national and global scales. We examine how people, including members of elites or other advantaged groups, use power to maintain inequalities that are to their advantage. We take note of the research methods used by scholars adopting this type of approach.

Explaining inequalities 2: Structures, institutions and power
We move on to approaches that emphasise the role of structures or institutions, such as democratic political institutions or capitalist economic institutions, in creating and maintaining inequalities. We introduce Lukes’ three-dimensional view of power. We use a variety of institutionalist and structuralist theories to illustrate the diversity of approaches and different terminologies used to explain inequalities across the discipline of politics and international relations. We compare the research methods used by scholars adopting these approaches with the methods used by those focusing on the role of agents. We also consider how explanations of inequalities can refer both to structures and agents.

Explaining inequalities 3: Ideas, language and power
Finally, we consider approaches that emphasise the role of ideas and language in creating and maintaining inequalities. We introduce Foucault’s work on power. We provide examples of discourse-, narrative- and language-based explanations of inequalities. We compare the research methods used by scholars adopting these approaches with the methods that we have previously discussed. We consider how explanations of inequalities might refer to agents, structures and ideas.

Evaluating inequalities
So far, we have considered what inequalities exist and how they might be explained. We end the module by considering which inequalities are unjust. We introduce a normative political philosophy approach to thinking about inequalities. We consider how theories of justice can be used to justify or critique inequalities and the actions, institutions and ideas that create or maintain them.

Teaching Methods

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials91:009:00non-synchronous
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion92:0018:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities91:009:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading92:0018:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities92:0018:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops91:009:00Timetabled to be online
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity91:009:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1101:00101:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time91:009:00Present-in-person if circumstances permit – if not, timetabled to be online
Total200:00
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lecture materials will introduce students to key approaches to the study of power and inequality as well as demonstrating key skills (e.g., analysing texts and arguments, providing feedback to peers). The structured research and reading activities will help students to develop their understanding of key approaches to the study of power and inequality. The academic skills activities will enable students to practice key skills, including reading analytically and synthesising ideas and evidence from multiple sources. The scheduled on-line workshop will re-cap key points from the current week’s learning, outline the current week’s student-led group activities and address student queries. The directed research and reading will prepare students for student-led group activities and develop their understanding of key approaches to the study of power and inequality. The student-led group activities will enable students to discuss case studies and to think about how to use different approaches to study them, while also practicing respectful critical discussion, providing constructive peer feedback and working as part of a team to complete various tasks.

Independent study will enable students to further develop their knowledge and skills and to demonstrate that they have achieved the intended knowledge and skills outcomes. Students will use the time for assessment preparation and completion to write up their reflective log. The weekly present-in-person (and/or scheduled on-line) drop-in surgeries will be used to address queries that students may have, especially about the weekly preparation of the reflective log.

Assessment Methods

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Reflective log2M1003500 words.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Students are required to submit a reflective log, which should be 3500 words in length. The log should be completed weekly throughout the module. Each log entry will reflect on some aspect of the student’s learning during the week and will require students to think carefully about how their work is related to the module’s learning outcomes. Completing a reflective log requires students to think critically about their own learning so that they are better able to self-manage and self-assess their own learning as they progress into the later stages of the programme.

Reading Lists

Timetable