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POL3133 : Politics as a Way of Life

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • 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


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

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials32:006:00Recorded lectures, asynchronous, released the week before the topic is discussed in person
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00In-person, timetabled
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1144:00144:00Apart 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).

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M85Students will be assigned a question and choose a medium/format they choose to submit (essay or creative project). 3500 words total
Prof skill assessmnt2M15Workshop participation - undertaking the Experiment in Living exercise and contributing to group discussion
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 for formative feedback on their final assessment. Additional formative opportunities will be offered in class and online.
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.

Workshop participation assesses students’ ability to reflect on the weekly readings and ‘experiments in living’, relating module themes to personal experience.

The final 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 workshop participation 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.

Reading Lists