Theorising Politics module (PO32005)

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Module code


Module Aims

The module will encourage you to reflect on the nature of political argument and advocacy, particularly as it is conducted within contemporary political theory. We aim to relate these theoretical debates to other Level 3 and Level 4 modules and to the wider world of contemporary politics.

Module Details

The module focuses on normative debates within contemporary political theory, which means that we explore arguments about the way the world ought to be structured.

The module is divided into two parts:

  • Part I. Within borders: justice, community and the nation-state

    In this part of the module, we explore the application of political theory to issues that arise within the context of the nation-state. Two themes in particular are explored. The first is the issue of justice, in the Liberal tradition as exemplified by both the welfare and libertarian Liberal traditions and secondly communitarian and nationalist notions of self-government and justice.

  • Part II. Beyond borders: justice, community and the world

    In this part of the module, we reflect on the application of political theory to issues that arise in the context of international politics. We explore whether our traditional ways of understanding justice and community should be revised, especially in the light of globalisation and the various criticisms levelled against nationalism. In the final few weeks our discussion takes a more practical orientation, as we assess the implications of international political theory for such contentious topics as the European Union and the use of military force in international affairs.


There is one one-hour lecture per week, and one one-hour tutorial per week.


This module is assessed as follows:

  • Two 3,000 word essays (50% each)

Intended Learning Outcomes 

After completing this module:

  • you will understand and appraise important debates in contemporary political theory
  • you will be able to present and analyse, in both verbal and written form, the main features of these debates, showing knowledge of the critical literature
  • you will be able to assess the relevance of political theory to questions of political practice and to the discipline of political science.

Indicative Reading

  • Swift, A.,  Political Philosophy: A Beginners' Guide for Students and Politicians. (Cambridge: Polity, 2001)
  • Kymlicka, W,.  Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction, Second Edition. (Oxford: OUP, 2002)
  • Brown, C.,  Sovereignty, Rights and Justice: International Political Theory Today. (Cambridge: Polity, 2002)
  • Rawls, J.,  A Theory of Justice, revised edition. (Oxford: OUP, 2000)

An extensive reading List is available on My Dundee.


30 credits


This module is available on following courses: