This Course is Expired

Politics: an introduction

This course brings together key dimensions of the theory and practice of politics and evolution of the contemporary state.
University of Oxford University Offices Wellington Square Oxford ,OX1 2JD United Kingdom
(4418) 65270000

Course at a Glance

Mode of learning : Online - Instructor Lead(LVC)

Domain / Subject : General/Others

Function : General

Trainer name : Dr Ian Taylor

Starts on : 29th Sep 2014

Duration : 10 Weeks

Difficulty : Advanced

About the course

There is much more to the study of politics than observing elections and who voted for whom. Certainly, what motivates us to choose one candidate or political party than another is a key element of practical politics and for many of us, the only time that we actively participate in politics. The study of politics is undoubtedly about power and, in particular, the power exercised by the state over the citizen.

It is also concerned with the power exercised over states, increasingly by large multi-national companies, international organisations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and by the activities of the financial markets. Political parties, political movements and governmental systems are the product of ideas about social organisation and centuries of social, economic and political change and often upheaval. This course brings together these key dimensions of the theory and practice of politics and evolution of the contemporary state.

Course aims

This course aims to to introduce participants to the study of politics. This course will enable participants to:

  • Gain an understanding of the principal theories, concepts and ideologies that have influenced the development of the contemporary state
  • Develop an understanding of political behaviour
  • Understand how legislative and governmental systems work
  • Appreciate the connection between the global and local through studying policy-making and implementation processes

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Teaching outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to analyse and discuss ideas critically
  • The ability to identify and compare the key characteristics of political and governmental institutions and how they function
  • The ability to compare and contrast politics in different countries
  • The ability to research current political issues and relate them to the course material

Course eligibility

Course Requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.

Recommended reading

To participate in this course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following books:

  • Tansey, S. and Jackson, N., Politics: the Basics [2008], Routledge, London
  • Leftwich, A. (ed)What is Politics? [2004] Polity, Cambridge
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Course Content

Introducing Politics.

  • Politics as a social science subject
  • Key elements of politics: ideas, behaviour, institutions and policy processes
  • Identifying state forms and functions
  • State-citizen relationships

Key Concepts in Politics.

  • The relationship between power and authority
  • Identifying and classifying rights and freedoms
  • Equality as a key element of justice

Political Ideas and the Modern State.

  • Idea of the ‘social contract’ and rise of the liberal state
  • Collectivism, social provision and the liberal-democratic state
  • Marx and the capitalist state

Political Ideologies and Movements of the Left.

  • Marxism and communism
  • Social democracy and reformism
  • Nationalsim and national liberation
  • Collectivism and state intervention
  • Feminism

Political Ideologies and Movements of the Right.

  • Conservatism
  • Fascism and National Socialism
  • Neo-fascism
  • Neo-liberalism

Political Behaviour.

  • Political identity and voting behaviour
  • Political parties and interest groups as political vehicles
  • Impact of the mass media on politics and government
  • Comparison of electoral systems

Government and Governmental Systems.

  • Centralised and devolved systems of government
  • Legislative systems and representation
  • Constitutions
  • Leadership in government

Policy-making and Implementation.

  • The notion of ‘governance’ in public administration
  • Models for decision-making
  • Management processes and policy implementation

Trends and Issues in International Politics.

  • Theories of international politics
  • The Cold War and its aftermath
  • Conflict in the Middle East

Globalisation and the Nation-State.

  • Theories of Globalization
  • Globalization and its critics
  • Institutes of economic governance
  • The idea of global governance


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