programme

Introduction to Political Theory

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSLG1LP1014

Semester and Year Offered: 1st semester (Monsoon semester 2019)

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Ngoru Nixon

Email of course coordinator: ngoru@aud.ac.in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim:

This course is envisaged to be offered in the first semester, BA in Law and Politics. The course seeks to introduce themes and concepts which are indispensable to the study of politics. The themes and concepts in this course are structured so as to inculcate a thrust towards conceiving inclusive vision of politics through critical reflection of the various entrenched/stabilized assumptions

Course Outcomes:

After the completion of the course, the students would be able to:

  • Determine the idea of the political and the conflicting ways of conceiving/thinking about it.
  • Define what political theory is- including its nature and subject-matter.
  • Describe the central tenets of the political ideologies discussed in the course (namely, liberalism, communitarian conservatism, marxism, and feminism) and further illustrate the contention and intersection between them on the related question of individual, society, and state.
  • Delineate and explain the political concepts, viz, liberty, equality, justice, and rights.
  • Draw how the conflictual nature of the political has a bearing on the idea and nature of democracy.

 

Brief Description of modules/Main modules:

The orientation of the course is such that it aims to escape a certain conundrum where a strict adherence to either variant of political theory -normative and critical kinds- invariably leads to a disabling engagement with the other. The course, therefore, plans to undertake a study of politics through a creative blending of both the normative and the critical aspects. It begins by describing the connection between politics and political theory followed by the engagement with wide ranging themes broadly schematized under the rubrics of political ideologies, normative values, and democracy. An ample reading list is provided for each module to cater to the diverse needs and interests of the students and also to facilitate them for further exploration.

The course consists of 5 modules.

Module 1: Politics and Political Theory/Philosophy (2 weeks)

The opening module discusses the question of politics and how it informs the subject-matter of political theory. The dominant orientation of political theory has been the liberal paradigm where the emphasis is on conceiving the notion of good life, right and wrong, morality, etc. The module engages in the exploration of this particular mode of understanding politics while it also brings in the ideological understanding which questions the very foundations on which the normative assumptions are based. This cannot be meaningfully dealt with without underlining the historical and epistemological backdrops which accordingly give rise to the conflicting views of political theory. The coalescing of the normative and the critical aspects in the understanding of politics will set the tone for the subsequent modules starting with the political ideologies.

Module 2: Political Ideologies (5 weeks)

This module deals with the following political ideologies: Liberalism, Conservatism, Communitarianism, Marxism, Postmodernism and Feminism. An engagement with this set of ideologies cannot but engenders a discussion on the trinity- individual, society and state. How is individual conceived? Is individual prior to society or is it the case of society determining the individual? How important are the societal and community values so as to justify the infringement of the domain of the individual? To what extent can these values be said to be important or significant for the political life of the individual? A crucial component in this larger scheme of things is the entity called ‘state’. What is state? How is state envisaged? How is the relevance of the state conceived? What are the roles and functions expected of or attributed to the state? This set of questions invariably gives rise to the issue of power. What is power? How do we understand power? Where is it located? The module will introduce to the students these various interrelated facets with respect to the specific ideology in question and will also underscore the points of contention and intersection (if any) between these varied ideologies.

Module 3: Political Values I: Liberty and Equality (2 weeks)

The engagement with political values namely, liberty and equality will be the concern of this module. Emphasis will be on the conceptual elucidation of the two values. Some of the important debates on the two values will be touched upon. The exercise will also involve looking at the issue concerning the relation between liberty and equality. What does it meant to talk about liberty without equality or vice versa?

Module 4: Political Values II: Justice and Rights (2 weeks)

The engagement with political values namely, justice and rights will be the concern of this module. Emphasis will be on the conceptual elucidation of the two values. Further, some of the important debates on the two values will be touched upon. The exercise will also involve looking at the relation between justice and rights. Does the question of justice invariably involve the issue of rights and vice versa? If so, how is the relation to be envisaged or understood?

Module 5: : Democracy (1 week)

of what have been discussed in module 4 and 5 will serve as a kind of background understanding as this module engages with the demystification of democracy. Democracy as system of government and democracy as embodiment of normative values will be outlined and discussed. The normative values act as moral foundation in the claim of liberal democracy as epitomizing inclusion. This claim of liberal democracy has been contested. The contention is that liberal democracy invariably involves exclusion and violence. Given this, the issue is how to conceive inclusion that would go beyond the paradigm of liberal democracy.

Assessment Details with Weight:

  • Class participation and attendance: 10%
  • Assignment: 10%
  • MCQ Test: 10%
  • Mid-Semester Exam: 30%
  • End Semester: 40%

 

Reading List:

Module 1:

Essential Readings:

  • Bhargava, Rajeev, and Ashok Acharya, eds. Political Theory: An Introduction. Pearson, 2008.(Chapter 1).
  • McKinnon, Catriona. “Introduction,” In Issues in Political Theory, edited by Catriona McKinnon.Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp.1-8.

 

Supplementary Readings:

  • Freeden, Michael. “Ideology, Political Theory and Political Philosophy,” In Handbook of Political Theory, edited by Gerald F. Gaus and Chandran Kukathas. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2004.
  • Klosko, George. History of Political Theory: An Introduction- volume II: Modern. 2nd edition. Oxford University Press, 2013. (Introduction).
  • Rengger, N.J. Political Theory, Modernity, Postmodernity: Beyond Enlightenment and Critique. Blackwell, 1995.

 

Module 2:

Essential Readings:

  • Amy, Allen. “Rethinking Power” Hypatia, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Winter, 1998).
  • Burns, Emile. What is Marxism? Createspace Independent Pub., 1939.
  • Butler, Christopher. Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2002. (Chapter 2)
  • Freedman, Jane. Feminism. Open University Press, 2001.
  • Heywood, Andrew. Political Ideologies: An Introduction. Palgrave macmillan, 2013. (Chapter 2, 3, 8)
  • Sandel, Micheal. Justice: What’s the Right Thing to do? Penguin, 2010. (Chapter 2, 3)

 

Supplementary Readings:

  • Bryson, Valerie. Feminist Political Theory: An Introduction. Palgrave macmillan, 2003.
  • Goodin, Robert E., Philip Pettit, and Thomas Pogge, eds. A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, volume I. Blackwell Publishing, 2007.
  • Held, David. Political Theory and the Modern State: Essays on State, Power, and Democracy. Polity Press, 1989.
  • Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the French Revolution. London: J.M. Dent & Sons LTD., 1910.
  • Kymlicka, Will. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Lukes, Steven. Power: A Radical View. Palgrave macmillan, 2005.
  • Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
  • Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Pluto Press, 2008

 

Module 3:

Essential Readings:

  • Bellamy, Richard and Andrew Mason. eds. Political Concepts. Manchester University Press, 2003.(Chapter 1).
  • Bhargava, Rajeev, and Ashok Acharya, eds. Political Theory: An Introduction. Pearson, 2008.(Selected chapters).
  • Sandel, Micheal. Justice: What’s the Right Thing to do?Penguin, 2010. (Chapter 6, 7).

 

Supplementary Readings:

  • Berlin, Isaiah. “Two Concepts of Liberty” In Four Essays on Liberty. Oxford University Press, 1969.
  • Constant, Benjamin. “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns”.https://www.nationallibertyalliance.org/files/docs/Books/Constant%20-%20The%20Liberty%20of%20the%20Ancients%20Compared%20with%20that%20of%20the%20Moderns.pdf
  • Kymlicka, Will. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Sen, Amartya. “Equality of What?” In Inequality Reexamined. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.

 

Module 4:

Essential Readings:

  • Bhargava, Rajeev, and Ashok Acharya, eds. Political Theory: An Introduction. Pearson, 2008.(Selected chapters).
  • McKinnon, Catriona, ed. Issues in Political Theory.Oxford University Press, 2012. (chapter 8).

 

Supplementary Readings:

  • Kymlicka, Will. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Rainbolt, George W. “Rights Theory” Philosophical Compass, Vol. 1, No. 1 (2006): 11-21.
  • Rawls, John. “Justice as Fairness” The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 54, No. 22 (Oct. 24, 1957): 653-662.
  • Dworkin, Ronald. “Rights as Trump” In Theories of Right, edited by Jeremy Waldron (Oxford University Press, 1984).

 

Module 5:

Essential Readings:

  • Gutmann, Amy. “Democracy” In A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy: Volume I, edited by Robert E. Goodin, Philip Pettit and Thomas Pogge. Blackwell Publishing, 2007.
  • Taylor, Charles. “The Dynamics of Democratic Exclusion,” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 9, No. 4 (October, 1998). Pp. 143-156.
  • Supplementary Readings:
  • Arblaster, Anthony. Democracy. Open University Press, 2002.
  • Cunningham, Frank. Theories of Democracy: A Critical Introduction. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • Mouffe, Chantal. “Deliberative Democracy and Agnostic Pluralism” Social Research, Vol. 66, No.3 (Fall, 1999): 745-758.