Introduction to Politics

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1PO7314

Semester and Year Offered: Winter

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr, Priyanka Jha, Dr. Ishita Mehrotra

Email of course coordinator: priyankajha[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in ; ishita.mehrotra[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives/Description:

By way of introducing the students to the various important themes and concept of politics, the objective is to expose them to the various contestations marking the field of politics. The point is not to merely engage the students at the abstract level of concepts and theories. Rather it is to draw them to an understanding how the concepts and values of political theory have significant bearing on the everyday life and our existence as political beings in a world deeply marked by exclusionary practices and unequal power relation.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Identify key concepts and theories in politics
  2. Develop critical sills to understand how concepts of political theory influence everyday existence

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

1. Politics and Political Theory/Philosophy

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.

2. Normative Ideologies

This module deals with the normative ideologies, namely, liberalism, Liberal-Feminism, Conservatism, and Communitarian. 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 significance 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 examine these various interrelated facets with respect to the specific ideology in question and will also look at the points of contention and intersection (if any) between these varied normative ideologies.

3.Critical Ideologies

This module will serve as a continuation of the preceding module; it looks at how the entrenched assumptions and understandings of individual, society, and state and the accompanying issue of power receive a major scrutiny and reorientation under the lens of critical ideologies, namely, Marxism, Postmodernism, and various contra-liberal brands of feminism. Each of these critical ideologies will be discussed accompanied by delineation of the trajectory how these ideologies intertwine.

4.Political Values I: Liberty and Equality

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?

5. Political Values II: Justice and Rights

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?

6. Democracy

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 weights:

  • Assignment 1- 20%
  • Mid term: 40%
  • End term: 40%

Reading List:

  • Bhargava, Rajeev, and Ashok Acharya, eds. Political Theory: An Introduction. Pearson, 2008. (Chapter 1 and 2).
  • 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, 201 (Introduction)
  • McKinnon, Catriona. “Introduction,” In Issues in Political Theory, edited by Catriona McKinnon. Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Goodin, Robert E., Philip Pettit, and Thomas Pogge, eds. A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, volume I. Blackwell Publishing, 2007. (Chapters 11, 13, 14).
  • Held, David. Political Theory and the Modern State: Essays on State, Power, and Democracy. Polity Press, 1989. (Selected chapters).
  • Heywood, Andrew. Politics. Palgrave macmillan, 2002. (Selected chapters)
  • Bellamy, Richard and Andrew Mason. eds. Political Concepts. Manchester University Press, 2003. (Selected Chapters).


  • Rengger, N.J. Political Theory, Modernity, Postmodernity: Beyond Enlightenment and Critique. Blackwell, 1995.
  • Woods, Ellen Meiksins. “Capitalism or Enlightenment?” History of Political Thought, Vol. 21, No.3 (2000): 405-426.
  • Kymlicka, Will. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Knowles, Dudley. Political Philosophy. London: Routledge, 2001. (Selected chapters).