Faculty of Arts


Foundations of Western Politics and Law


Course Description and Rationale

When we think about political issues, either in the classroom or the wider public world, we are using and referring to a range of ideas about politics which have been developed in the western political tradition since the ancient Greeks. 

The fundamental questions we ask about politics – How should society be governed? What is justice and how should it be implemented between individuals, groups and states? Where should the distinction between public and private life fall? – are all questions which have been defined for us by thinkers in a historical tradition in which we are the latest participants. 

The ways in which we ask and answer these questions, and what counts as relevant and important to us in doing so depend upon our own social and historical position as readers and thinkers, as well as on the ways in which these concepts have been discussed in the past. 

In this course, we will focus on the relationship between individuals and the state, the meanings of justice, liberty and equality, the basis of democracy, the rights of women and the limits to political authority and rights of resistance.

Course Objectives

 This course has five principal objectives. By the end of the course, you should:

  1. Be familiar with the main patterns in the development of western political thinking up until the twentieth century
  2. Have the skills required to read and understand texts in political philosophy written in different historical periods, and in different styles
  3. Understand the major political ideas of the thinkers we have studied
  4. Understand the relationship between these ideas and the contexts in which they were produced
  5. Be able to reflect critically upon your own social and political views, by recognising the historical paradigms from which these are derived


Coursework + exam

Availability 2020

Semester 1


Lecturer(s) Associate Professor Katherine Smits


Coursework + exam


POLITICS 109: 15.0 points

Contact details | Search | Accessibility | Copyright | Privacy | Disclaimer | 1