Political Systems and Ideologies

Module Leader:
Richard Major
2015-2016 Summer
Social Sciences

For the last two and a half centuries this planet has been racked with ideological dissension, disorder and violence, Europe most of all. Before the French Revolution of 1789 ideological questions were not so urgent: the basic shape of society seemed settled. Again after 1989 it again seemed, for a while, that the question had been settled once more, in a different way. But over the last decade it has become clear that ideological controversy is not over, and may indeed be approaching a fresh crisis. Every educated person is under pressure to map out a position. What is human society, and (the question which follows from this) what is humanity? How, then, should society be arranged? What human goals should society encourage, allow or persecute? How should power and wealth be distributed? What is the state? What is liberty, really, and is it always a good thing? What are the proper political roles of the family, religion, culture, the economy? Each week in this module, we will discuss one of the ideological systems that seek to answer these questions. The required weekly reading-­‐load is about 90 pages, almost all of extracts from the work of great political thinkers. Students on this course will, naturally, develop their ideological thought and be able to express it with sophistication. Their skills in argument, analysis of texts, understanding of history, appreciation of current affairs and evaluation of evidence will also be sharpened.

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