Foundations of Western Politics and Law

Topics: Political philosophy, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes Pages: 25 (5615 words) Published: March 14, 2013
Political Studies 109


Semester One, 2013
Wed. 10-11am and Fri. 10-11am, 260-115, OGGB

Dr. Kathy Smits (Course convenor)
1-11 Short St., Floor 8, Room 843
Phone: 373 7599, ext. 87576
Office hours: Wednesday and Friday, 2-3pm and by appointment

Professor John Morrow

Rees Skiff (coordinating tutor)
Pasan Jayasinghe
Hossein Aghapouri
Kareana Kee
Sam Anderson
Contact details for tutors TBA

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 5 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 20th 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 recognizing the historical paradigms from which these are derived.


If you have any questions or problems regarding requirements for the course or your work, you should first see your tutor. You may e-mail Dr. Smits or Professor Morrow if you have questions about the material covered in lectures. The University offers a variety of mentoring programmes to help students with their studies, and to help undergraduates settle into academic life.

Students may also wish to participate in the Tuakana Arts Undergraduate Mentoring Programme. This programme aims to assist Maori and Pacific Islander students in settling into the culture of academic life. Tuakana Arts has two full-time mentors available to help you, and peer mentors in most departments, including Political Studies. The mentors work in partnership with the students to help them achieve to their fullest potential. The mentors provide advice, run workshops, and assist students to form study groups. The programme also provides space for students to study.

If you are interested in participating in this programme, please contact the Political Studies Tuakana mentor: You might also like to visit the programme web-site:


All the material in this course guide (not the actual readings) will be posted on Cecil. All announcements made by tutors and lecturers concerning this class will also be made via Cecil – they will be e-mailed to you, and posted on the course site. Please ensure that you regularly check your University email account for Cecil...
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