MSc/MRes Social and Political Theory
Programme Director: Dr Simon Susen
This handbook has been prepared as an introduction to the Department and as a source of reference for use throughout your period of study. It includes information about the Department of Politics, its procedures and organisation, your programme of study, and services and facilities available to you as a student at Birkbeck. Further important information can be found in your coursebook for each module you take and on the Department’s website: www.bbk.ac.uk/polsoc
Members of the Department 1
The Department of Politics 3
Aims and objectives 3
Student pigeonholes and noticeboards 4
Department website 4
Problems affecting Study 5
Studying at Birkbeck 5
Exams and your availability 5
Student feedback 5
Term time 6
MSc/MRes in Social and Political Theory 7
Programme Structure 7
Teaching Arrangements 8
Availability of tutors 8
Organisation of classes 8
Expectations of students 8
Keeping in touch 8
Learning Resources 8
Library and electronic sources 9
IT Services (ITS) 9
Core Courses 10
Option Courses 10
Essay Submission 11
Late Submission 11
Mitigating Circumstances 11
Essay Marking Procedures 12
Core Modules 14
Political Theory 14
Module Aims and Objectives 14
Preliminary Reading 14
Module Aims and Objectives 17
Preliminary Reading 17
Current List of Options 19
Appendix I: Disability Statement for the Department of Politics 20
Appendix II: Assessment Regulations 22
Appendix III: Contact Information 4
Faith Armitage, BA (UBC, Vancouver), MA (UBC, Vancouver), PhD (LSE)
*Samantha Ashenden, BA (Kingston), MPhil (Cantab), PhD (Lond.)
Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Edwin Bacon, BA (Sheffield), MSocSc (Birmingham), PhD (Birmingham)
Reader in Comparative Politics
Colleen Bell, BA Honours (Calgary), MA (York), PhD (York)
Lecturer in International Politics/Relations
Antoine Bousquet, BSc (UCL), MSc (LSE), PhD (LSE)
Lecturer in Politics & International Relations
Rosie Campbell, BA, MSc (Southampton) PhD (Lond)
Senior Lecturer in Research Methods
Alejandro Colás, BSc (Bristol), MSc/MRes (LSE), PhD (LSE)
Senior Lecturer in International Relations
*Diana Coole, BA (Wales), MSc (LSE), PhD (Toronto)
Professor of Political and Social Theory. [Leverhulme Fellowship research leave 2010-13].
Dionyssis Dimitrakopoulos BA (Athens), Lic Spec (Brussels), PhD (Hull)
Senior Lecturer in Politics
*Jason Edwards, BA (Oxon), MSc (Lond.), PhD (Lond.)
Lecturer in Politics
Dermot Hodson BA (Trinity College, Dublin), MA (College of Europe, Bruges) and PhD (LSE)
Lecturer in Political Economy
Eric Kaufmann, BA (U. Western Ontario), MSc/MRes (LSE), PhD (LSE)
Reader in Politics
Joni Lovenduski BSc, MA (Manchester), PhD (Loughborough)
Anniversary Professor of Politics
Deborah Mabbett, BA (Victoria University of Wellington), D.Phil (Oxon)
Reader in Politics
Robert Singh, BA (Oxon), DPhil (Oxon)
Professor of Politics
David Styan, BA (SOAS), DEA (University of Bordeaux), PhD (LSE)
Lecturer in Politics
*Dr Simon Susen, MA (Edinburgh), MPhil (Cambridge), PhD (Cambridge)
Lecturer in Social and Political Theory
Matthijs van den Bos, MA (University of Amsterdam), MA (Utrecht University), PhD (University of Amsterdam)
Lecturer in International Studies
Barbara Zollner, MA (Bonn), PhD (SOAS)
Lecturer in Islamic Studies
Kristi Winters BA (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosk), MA (Essex), PhD (Essex)
British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow
*: Members of the SPT team.
Sami Zubaida, BA (Hull), MA (Leic.)
Emeritus Professor in Sociology
Dr James Brown
Professor Peter John
Professor Hussein Kassim
Jane Halstead, Assistant School Manager
Irene Breckon, Team Leader
Nina Dartford, Administrator
James Harding, Administrator
Naomi Taylor, Administrator
Birkbeck College was founded in 1823 as the London Mechanics Institute, and was admitted as a constituent School of the University of London in 1920. Its mission is to provide programmes of study to meet the needs of adults who are engaged in earning their livelihood. There are currently about 3500 undergraduates and 2500 postgraduates, the overwhelming majority (roughly 90%) of whom study part-time.
The Department of Politics and Sociology, as it was originally known, was founded in 1972. It initially offered inter-disciplinary degrees at the post-graduate level, but now also offers certificate, undergraduate and single subject programmes in Politics. Located at 10 Gower Street, the Department of Politics is one of seven departments in the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy. The Department currently has approximately 20 full-time members, several part-time lecturers, and a number of distinguished visiting Professors and Fellows. It teaches both part-time and full-time students. Classes are taught in the evening in fulfilment of the College’s mission.
Over the years, the Department has acquired a reputation for teaching and research of which it is justly proud. It is unusual among UK politics departments in two respects. First, it is genuinely interdisciplinary, recognising no intellectual boundaries between politics, political history, political theory and sociology, and its degrees transcend these distinctions. Secondly, its primary teaching commitment remains the provision of top-quality undergraduate and postgraduate education to part-time students in full-time employment. Teaching and learning arrangements have been designed accordingly to meet their needs. The Department attracts a body of students whose diverse professional experience, personal backgrounds, and maturity, mean that they bring to the classroom tremendous breadth and depth of knowledge, often in fields relevant to the subjects under study. This enriches the intellectual life of the Department for students and staff alike.
The Department’s principal aims are:
to enable mature students in full-time employment to undertake undergraduate and postgraduate study in Politics in fulfilment of the mission of the College;
to enable students to develop and deepen their understanding of the conceptual and theoretical bases of the disciplines, their methods of inquiry, and their domains of knowledge;
to offer students the opportunity to develop and deepen their skills of critical evaluation and analysis;
to enable students to develop and extend their key skills as a foundation for personal development, employment or further academic study; and
to contribute to the needs of local, national and international communities.
The Department’s aims are realised in the fulfilment of the objectives defined for its programmes. All graduating students will:
be able to demonstrate the ability to apply critically the main theories, models and concepts used in the study of politics to the analysis of political ideas, institutions, processes, practices, developments and events;
have developed an understanding and substantive knowledge of political processes and/or social and political theory;
have extended and developed their analytical, evaluative and critical capacities;
have developed transferable skills, including the ability to take responsibility for their own learning, learning how to learn, making oral and written presentations, planning and producing written assignments, working independently, and using information technology; and
have developed, where they complete a dissertation, the ability to undertake independent research.
The Department is located at 10 Gower Street, and the Department Office on the ground floor is open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. every weekday. The Office is open for enquiries and messages can be passed on to tutors. Members of staff have offices in 10 Gower Street or in the adjacent buildings. Much of the teaching is held in Birkbeck’s main Malet Street Building
There are pigeonholes for students in the hallway of 10 Gower Street. Mail is rarely sent out to students, so it is wise to check your pigeonhole regularly. For the same reason, students are asked to keep an eye on the notice boards -- in the hall at 10 Gower Street and on the landing of the staircase in the main building leading from the main entrance to the library -- where important information and announcements are posted.
The Department website (www.bbk.ac.uk/polsoc) carries information about the Department, the staff (including e-mail addresses), students and courses, and a noticeboard. Also available are learning resources, such as guidelines on essay and dissertation writing, course materials (access to which may require a password and username), and links to sites of particular interest to students in Politics. Students are advised to familiarise themselves with the website and to visit it regularly.
If difficulties arise at work or with family, money, health or anything else that may affect your study, please let someone in the Department know, and we will do our best to help out. You are welcome to approach the director of your core or option courses, the director of your degree programme (see staff listing) or the Head of the Department.
Self-discipline is an important part of being a Birkbeck student. You will have many claims on your time, and you will need to be very disciplined to fit in private study. It is, however, essential that you do so. In the end, the benefit you gain from your degree programme will depend above all else on reading and attendance. Both are essential and you should not see either as an adequate substitute for the other, although it is, of course, true that you will probably need to do some extra reading on subjects covered in sessions you are not able to attend.
It is better to set aside regular and frequent periods rather than expect to have a whole weekend free once a month. Try to be realistic about the amount of time needed or you may become discouraged and fall behind with your work. Students benefit greatly from mutual support. Discuss the course with other students. If you are unable to avoid missing a class, you should make arrangements to borrow someone’s notes. Be prepared to put at least five hours a week into reading for preparation of essays or class papers. Assistance with the skills required for study is offered by the Students’ Union (see contact details below). Tutors will also be able to offer advice should you encounter difficulties.
The exam period starts in late April and ends in early June. You will need to make sure that you are available during the full exam period, since no alternative arrangements for sitting the exams can be made. In order to accommodate the number of exams set across the College, exams are taken during the working day. It will, therefore, be necessary for you to arrange time-off with your employer once the exam timetable is known. The exam timetable is published in March.
The Department believes that student feedback is important to the quality of its provision. It invites you to make your views known or to raise issues through the following formal channels:
Class Representatives are elected in the third week of the winter term. They represent the class in the Student’s Union and at the Student-Staff Exchange Meetings (see below), and can also approach the programme director or the Head of Department to raise issues on behalf of the class or individuals in the class.
Student-Staff exchange meetings are scheduled each term. All students are invited, and class representatives are expected to attend. SSEMs are scheduled to precede Department meetings so that Department staff can consider their responses to the concerns raised and report back to students on action taken.
A Course Evaluation Questionnaire is completed and submitted in the spring term. Students are asked to comment on the course and the quality of teaching. Responses are collated and summarised in a course review, presented by the course director to the Department Teaching Committee, where they are discussed. The course director examines the issues raised and identifies the follow-up action to be taken. A summary is posted on the Department noticeboard following the meeting, and a report is presented by the Student Liaison Officer at the next Student-Staff Exchange Meeting.
Personal Tutors (undergraduate) and the Student Liaison Officer (postgraduate) will communicate any concerns you have to the relevant tutor, teacher or administrator. This is a good way of giving feedback to us privately.
Students are also encouraged to convey any concerns or complaints they have informally to course and programme directors or, if necessary, the Head of Department.
The academic year is organised into three terms:
Autumn Monday 4 October 2010 to Friday 17 December 2010
Spring Monday 10 January 2011 to Tuesday 29 March 2011
Summer Wednesday 27 April 2011 to Friday 8 July 2011
Programme Director, 2010-2011: Dr Simon Susen.
The Masters programmes in social and political theory are designed to provide students with a sound background in the history of modern political thought, the development of political concepts and discourses, and the sociological approaches to political life that give substance to more abstract theories. The MSc and MRes programmes require students to complete two core courses: in Political Theory and in Political Sociology. The emphasis of the Theory Masters programmes at Birkbeck is on the way ideas emerged out of social struggles within the modern world and the ways they express, contribute to and change the ways political actors think about and respond to the challenges of their age. While an emphasis is placed on equipping students with the robust analytical skills needed critically to interpret classic texts in the tradition of political thought, then, there is equally a focus on the role ideas play within changing political contexts as vehicles of power. Political and social theory is treated, accordingly, as part of the political process, rather than as a collection of abstract texts or concepts, and the role of the theorist is understood, in part at least, to be that of the engaged, critical intellectual. While a comprehensive understanding of the principal traditions, arguments and approaches is deemed essential, the programmes also therefore emphasise the application of these concepts and approaches to understanding and critically evaluating the contemporary world.
The degree can be taken in either of two forms – as an MSc or MRes – the requirements for which are outlined below.
Students must successfully complete 180 credits to obtain the MSc degree:
Two core courses, to the value of 30 credits each, comprising Political Theory and Political Sociology (60 credits);
Two option courses, to the value of 30 credits each (60 credits), selected from among the other courses offered by the Department of Politics at post-graduate level;
A self-directed dissertation or research portfolio (60 credits) under the guidance of a member of the Department on an approved topic in the area of the degree.
Students must successfully complete 180 credits to obtain the MRes degree:
Two core courses, to the value of 30 credits each, as above (60 credits).
Two postgraduate courses in research methods (Qualitative Political Analysis and Quantitative Political Analysis) to the value of 30 credits each (60 credits);
A self-directed dissertation (60 credits) under the guidance of a member of the Department on an approved topic in the area of the degree.
Formal teaching takes place between 18.00 and 20.00 or 21.00, with each course meeting one evening per week. Part-time students attend classes on two nights a week in both years, taking a core course and an option course each year. Full-time students attend four nights a week throughout the year (the core courses, plus two options) and full-time MRes students may be expected to attend sessions during the day due to timetabling constraints. In addition, study skills sessions, dissertation workshops and practice examinations are scheduled for the week before reading week in the Autumn and Spring terms.
All tutors are available to answer student queries about their work or to assist where students are experiencing difficulties relating to the subject matter covered during the course. Tutors will let you know the best way of contacting them and when they are available to see you. Most include this information as well as contact details in their reading list or coursebook. Please also see the list of useful telephone numbers at the back of this handbook.
The course is taught by a combination of lectures and student-led discussion. Classes will typically begin with a lecture of about 50 minutes that will identify the main themes and debates for each given topic. The second hour usually takes the form of organised student-led discussion.
In order to make the sessions a useful and productive learning experience, students must read the recommended items indicated on the reading list and be ready to participate in discussion. The seminar section of the class is intended to be student-centred, so preparation on your part is absolutely essential.
Attendance at classes is compulsory. Students attending fewer than three quarters of their classes on all courses will not normally be permitted to register for the written examination(s) and thus will not be able to complete the degree. Tutors keep a register for their classes. You should inform your tutor or one of the Department administrators (020 7631 6780/89) if you are unable to come to a particular session.
You should check the Department website regularly for notices and check the pigeonholes (in the corridor at 10 Gower Street) for returned coursework. You are responsible for making any changes to your postal address or email address via the student intranet (further details will be provided when you by the Registry). Please do not hesitate to contact one of your tutors if you are having any problems affecting your studies that we may be able to assist you with.
Although lectures and seminars are an essential element of the course, success in postgraduate learning depends largely on the reading and research that is undertaken individually by students. Most items on the course reading lists are available in the Birkbeck College Library, in the Malet Street building, which is open seven days a week for most of the year. Many can also be found in other libraries, particularly the library at the School of East European Studies (SEES), the University of London Library at Senate House, and the British Library of Politics, Economics and Sociology (BLPES) at the LSE. It will be important to familiarise yourself with these libraries as early as possible, finding out what they hold in their collections, when they are open, how access can be obtained, what your borrowing rights are, whether remote access is possible, and what specialist features, such as short loan facilities, are available.
E-journals can be accessed via the Birkbeck College Library website at www.bbk.ac.uk/lib/elib, from outside College. You will usually need your Birkbeck computer centre (CCS) user ID and password for external as well as on-site access.
Every module has its own site on an application called Blackboard. This can be accessed from inside or outside. The way in which tutors use Blackboard varies, but you can typically expect to find lecture handouts, some reading for the module, and increasingly tutors are using Blackboard to receive and return essays. You can access Blackboard by going www.ble.ac.uk and entering your Birkbeck user name and password (you will receive these once you’ve enrolled).
ITS is an academic service department responsible for the central communications and IT infrastructure of the College. ITS provides a wide range of network services to support the teaching & learning, research and administrative activities of College staff and students.
ITS facilities and services include:
Extensive campus data network providing high speed connectivity to the Internet;
Purpose-built computer classrooms equipped with up-to-date networked PCs and high-quality printers (at least one open 24 hours a day);
Wide range of general software applications (e.g. word-processing, email, web) and specialist packages;
Wireless connectivity to the College network from your laptop or other personal computer equipment;
Facilities for students with special needs, including technical support and advice on the use of assistive technologies to help with specific disabilities;
Helpdesk with extended opening hours for general computing queries;
Practical, hands-on training workshops on general applications and self-training materials to enable you to work at your own pace;
Remote access to College electronic resources and services from home or work;
An online electronic course management system to support learning - the Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment (BLE).
You can find out more about these services and others by visiting the 'My Birkbeck' website
Access to all IT services is controlled by using a username and password. These are provided to all registered students of the College along with personal storage space on a networked file server.
An email address nominated and maintained by each student will be used for all College correspondence. Students requiring a Birkbeck email account can apply for one. You are expected to access the 'My Studies at Birkbeck' website to update your email address and other personal details and to access information about your programme of study.
There is also a text message news flash service enabling students to receive free urgent messages from the College via their mobile phones. Full details are available on the 'My Birkbeck' website.
Contact the ITS Helpdesk and Reception:
Tel: 020 7631 6543
In person: Ground Floor, Malet Street Main Building.
Open Monday to Friday
09:00am to 8:00pm during term time
09:00am to 6:00pm during vacations
Assessment of core courses is by a three-hour unseen written examination. Written examinations at Birkbeck normally take place on weekdays between 10.00am and 5.30pm. An opportunity to take a practice examination is offered in March. In addition, for each of their two core courses, students are required to submit an essay of 3,000 words in length, chosen from a list of approved questions or on a question agreed with the lecturer teaching the course. The marks for these essays do not contribute towards final assessment, but submitting and passing these essays is required to pass the course.
Assessment for most option courses is by essay (50%) and exam (50%). The essay, of 3,000-4,000 words in length, is due in February. For some courses, such as the Research Methods courses, other types of assignment, such as data analyses, are employed.
No student may pass an MSc option course if s/he fails one of the two required components of assessment at 39% or below.
MRes students should note that the Research Methods courses, although core courses for the MRes, are assessed on the same basis as option courses. Students are required to submit one essay or assignment in February and must sit an unseen examination in May or June.
Students are required to submit their essays electronically via Blackboard by the due date set in the relevant coursebook. The e-version provides the record that submission has been made. Please keep an electronic and hard backup of the essay for safekeeping.
The Department endeavours to maintain anonymity for essay marking. Students are asked to complete a coursework cover sheet using their student number but not their name. This form should be cut and paste onto the first page of their essay document. This file should also be saved using the student number rather than the student name (e.g. 12106999.doc).
A coursework cover sheet is available at: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/polsoc/download/students/coversheet
Essay word limits vary by course but are in the range of 3000-4000 words, including references and bibliography. Essays that exceed or fall substantially short of the word limit will be penalised. All essays should be typed or word-processed and printed in a font of a readable size. All essays should give an explicit acknowledgement of sources. Although a bibliography should be included in all essays, including a list of references does not exhaust the requirement of explicit acknowledgement: quotations must be attributed and ideas used in the text should be referenced. Students are advised to use the Harvard system of referencing but other established systems are acceptable provided they are correctly and consistently employed. There are severe penalties for plagiarism—the copying or close paraphrasing of published or unpublished work—which is treated as a serious office by the College.
College policy dictates how the Department treats work that is due for assessment but is submitted after the published deadline.
Any piece of assessment that is submitted late and for which no application for consideration of mitigating circumstances (see below) has been accepted will be awarded a mark of no more than 50%.
Where an assessment has not been submitted or attended and no application for consideration of mitigating circumstances has been accepted (e.g. an examination) a mark of zero will be awarded.
As a courtesy, you should tell your course seminar leader if you are going to submit an essay late. However, staff cannot give extensions.
The College Policy on Mitigating Circumstances determines how boards of examiners will treat assessment that has been affected by adverse circumstances. Mitigating circumstances are defined as unforeseen, unpreventable circumstances that significantly disrupt your academic performance, such as an illness or bereavement.
If you wish mitigating circumstances to be taken into consideration, you should complete the mitigating circumstances form and submit it, with documentary evidence as appropriate, to your course administrator, normally within seven days of the published final assessment deadline or examination. The case will then be considered by the Mitigation Sub-committee of the relevant Board of Examiners. This is in confidence, and you may request that only the Chair of the panel has sight of your form.
The mitigating circumstances form is available at: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck/services/forms/mitigating_circumstances.doc
The full mitigating circumstances procedure is available at: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck/services/rules/mitcircspol.pdf
All essays are marked by the seminar leader on the course. Option essays, which count towards the final assessment for the course, are double-marked internally and may later be submitted to an external examiner. It is important to note that the mark given by the internal markers is provisional and may be revised upwards or downwards at a later stage by the external examiner. All marks are provisional until confirmed by a full meeting of the Examinations Board at the end of the academic year.
The dissertation or research portfolio for the SPT MSc/MRes counts for one-third of the entire degree. The dissertation requires the student to treat a chosen subject in depth (12-15,000 words), involving sustained and independent research. It must address a well-defined question; it should have precise aims and objectives and it must present a sustained, coherent argument. More than merely a long essay, the dissertation should have separate sections for the Introduction and Conclusion, with a number of sections (or chapters) in between that cover different aspects of the topic and develop its overall argument. A bibliography is also required and the overall style and presentation of the work are held to be extremely important. At this level, rigour, originality and scholarship are all important aspects of assessment, too.
A dissertation will typically involve the use of a far wider range of sources and materials than would normally be consulted for a course essay. It might focus on a question addressed to a particular thinker or group of thinkers, requiring detailed textual analysis, or on the investigation of the way a particular concept or issue has developed in, and been treated within, the tradition of political thought. On the other hand – and for MRes students especially – the dissertation may take a more empirical approach and draw, for example, on reports in the public domain, databases, interviews and other primary sources, using the critical analytical skills developed in the programme and perhaps applying them to a particular issue.. Some students might wish to explore a particular case study using an approach covered in the courses. The topic must be discussed with a potential supervisor or class tutor in advance and should be both manageable in scope and related in some way to the programme of study. The research portfolio option for MSc students allows students to complete several connected pieces of work relating to an overall topic.
Guidelines on planning, researching and writing dissertations are available on the Department’s website. Dissertation workshops will be run by programme directors and course tutors during the academic year.
Marking arrangements for dissertations or portfolios are similar to those for all other assessed work: they are double-marked internally and a sample is also referred to an external examiner for consideration.
See Annex II for more detail on the College’s assessment regulations.
Dr. Jason Edwards
Political Theory is best thought of as an activity or practice rather than a set of axioms and theses about the world of politics. When we study political theory we need to see how we are engaged in the same kind of activity as the authors of the texts that we read. But it is a great error to think that political theory is limited to or satisfied by a kind of literary criticism. In recent times a certain sensitivity about context has informed an important sub-field of political theory – or the history of political thought – and as an approach this has done much to shed light upon the intentions of individual authors as well as the character of their intellectual milieu. But this approach can also be restrictive, denying us the opportunity to see the text we’re reading as an important tool for understanding politics in the here and now. In our reading of some of the key texts in the history of political thought, then, we will try to achieve a balance between the requirement of interpretation in light of the author’s context and the importance of not forgetting that we study political theory in order to know more about – and to challenge, change or defend – the political institutions and practices of the contemporary world.
In order to support the latter activity, in the second-half of the course we turn to the central terms of the language of politics in the present. Studying the concepts that are employed in the language of politics as they are used in political discourse is a different approach to political theory than what characterises much of what passes for ‘political philosophy’ today. ‘Normative political theory’, as it is sometimes termed, has in recent decades mainly focused on establishing what terms such as ‘justice’, ‘equality’ and ‘community’ mean. But that tends to presuppose that there is a meaning to such terms that we can obtain if only we can eliminate from their usage all that is derived from the contingent play of power, interest and ideology. This is a fallacy. The language of politics is complex and contestable – that is what makes it political language. The terms and concepts of politics are inextricably tied up with relations of power, the political conflicts and agreements that go on constantly in the kind of societies in which we live and that have given form to the modern world. So when we turn to the study of these concepts, we are keen to see where they come from, how they have been used and how that use has shaped our language of politics in the present. As such, we are concerned with the language of politics in the sense that it forms the central part of ideologies of politics (rather than political ideologies like liberalism, conservatism, socialism, etc.). Ideologies, in this regard, both orient individuals towards the political world and at the same time can offer a profound challenge to the nature of that world.
For questions about approaches to the study of political theory that we’ll focus on in the first two sessions, useful books include Andrew Vincent, The Nature of Political Theory (Oxford University Press, 2004), David Leopold and Marc Stears (eds), Political Theory: Methods and Approaches (Oxford University Press, 2008), Michael Freeden, Ideologies and Political Theory (Oxford University Press, 1996) and his briefer and more accessible Ideology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2003). For problems involved in the study of texts in the history of political thought that have emerged out of the work of authors such as Quentin Skinner and J. G. A. Pocock, the best books to turn to are James Tully (ed.), Meaning and Context: Quentin Skinner and his Critics (Princeton University Press, 1988) and Terence Ball, James Farr and Russell Hanson (eds), Political Innovation and Conceptual Change (Cambridge University Press, 1995). This book is also useful for the second part of the course as it provides a chapter-by-chapter historical analysis of some of the key concepts in political theory that we’ll be studying.
For the first part of the course, the main reading is the texts of the authors themselves: for Machiavelli, The Prince and The Discourses; for Hobbes, Leviathan; for Locke, Two Treatises of Government; for Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins and Foundations of Inequality Among Men and The Social Contract; for Marx, a number of shorter texts that are outlined in the reading list for that week and the best single volume collection of which is David McLellan (ed.) Karl Marx: Selected Writings (Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, 2000); and for Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy and The Concept of the Political. With the exception of Schmitt, the texts of all of these authors are readily available in a variety of editions including some very cheap ones published by Wordsworth classics. Penguin have slightly more expensive texts, and the most scholarly – and expensive – are published by Cambridge University Press in their series, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. You should also be able to access most or all of these texts for free on the internet, though you need to be wary of quality here, particularly for translated texts.
For more general books on political theory, start with Sheldon Wolin’s Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought (2nd edition, 2004), published by Princeton University Press. This classic text, which was recently revised and expanded by the author, explores the ideas of political thinkers including Aristotle, Luther, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Marx, Mill and Nietzsche. It is more than an introduction, and you’ll probably need some prior knowledge of debates in political theory to fully grasp the argument that Wolin is pursuing. If you have little or no background in political theory, you may want to purchase an introductory text. There are many available, but the most straightforward and readable (yet also basic) is probably Andrew Heywood’s Political Theory: An Introduction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). A more challenging introduction is John Dunn’s The Cunning of Unreason (Harper Collins, 2000), though his style is not to everyone’s taste. His Western Political Theory in the Face of the Future (Cambridge University Press, 1992) presupposes a little more background knowledge, but is a valuable text. Other useful books include: Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (Cambridge University Press, 1978, two volumes); J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton University Press, 1975); J. G. A. Pocock, Virtue, Commerce and History (Cambridge University Press, 1985); R. Koselleck, Critique and Crisis (The MIT Press, 1988); I. Honahan, Civic Republicanism (Routledge, 2002); D. Boucher and P. Kelly, The Social Contract: From Hobbes to Rousseau (Routledge, 1994); J. S. McClelland, AHistory of Western Political Thought (Routledge, 1996); J. Morrow, History of Western Political Thought (Palgrave, 2005); B. Crick, In Defence of Politics (Continuum, 2000); A. Leftwich, What is Politics? (Polity, 2004); F. H. Hinsley, Sovereignty (Basic Books, 1966); M. J. C. Vile, Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers (Liberty Fund, 1988); C. Pateman, Participation and Democratic Theory (Cambridge University Press, 1975); I. Hampsher-Monk, From Hobbes to Marx (Blackwell,1993); John Dryzek and Patrick Dunleavy. Theories of the Democratic State (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); David Held, Models of Democracy (Polity Press, 3rd edition, 2006); D. Coole, Women in Political Theory (1993), and J. Edwards, The Radical Attitude and Modern Political Theory (Palgrave, 2007).
Dr Samantha Ashenden
The course aims to provide students with an understanding of key concepts and arguments in political sociology. To this end, it introduces some of the main perspectives within modern social theory and considers examples of their application to social and political phenomena. The course adopts a historical and theoretical approach; it aims to complement the Political Theory core course and to contrast approaches in social theory with normative approaches in the history of political thought. In order to develop a critical and analytical approach to contemporary and social issues and to key readings, it combines attention to classical texts with case studies.
The course begins by explaining what is distinctive about political sociology as a discipline. It introduces some of the classical theorists whose work laid the foundations for political sociology: Marx, Durkheim and Weber. Their enduring influence will be apparent throughout the course. The course then proceeds to combine an examination of selected contemporary social theories and substantive analyses of the nature of politics, social movements, and the legitimation of the modern state. It draws upon Habermas’s Critical Theory and Luhmann’s systems theory, but also on Bauman, Foucault, Derrida, and Agamben, to explore the possibility of providing a critical analysis of modernity, and to assess the relative contributions of different accounts to the understanding of the modern state, changing forms of law and power, forms of social protest, the analysis of pluralism, and the possibilities of democracy.
The first part of the course focuses primarily on traditional approaches within the discipline and considers its emergence within, and understanding of, modernity. The second part continues to explore significant modern phenomena – such as the rise of ideologies, social movements and criticisms of modern life – and to consider how social theorists have tried to explain and evaluate these. It shows how new approaches have developed out of critiques of modernity to yield, for example, novel theories of politics, power and gender, as well as shifts in focus – for example in concerns with the body, and with processes of trans-nationalisation and constitutionalisation.
The preliminary reading listed below is designed to introduce you to the history and main concepts of the discipline and it will therefore form useful background material and preparation for the course. For detailed readings for each week please refer to the course handbook.
G. Ritzer & B. Smart eds, Handbook of Social Theory (Sage 2001) [this is an excellent reference book for the course, with a wealth of short summarises]
G. Hawthorn, Enlightenment and Despair (CUP [a critical history of social theory from c18 to the present, including prehistory of social theory in Rousseau, Kant and Hegel]
Pip Jones, Introducing Social Theory (Polity 2003) [rather basic, but useful if you want a clear introduction to topics such as Sociological Theory, Durkheim, Marxism, Weber, Foucault, Postmodernity; summaries of Habermas’s. Beck’s and Giddens’ responses to postmodernism and a useful glossary of key terms]
J. Scott, Sociological Theory. Contemporary Debates (Edward Elgar 1995) [a sound introduction to the main perspectives in social theory]
A. Harrington (ed.) Modern Social Theory (Oxford 2005) [includes chapters on classical social theory, functionalism, historical sociology, Western Marxism, structure and agency, globalisation, modernity and postmodernity]
B. Hindess, Discourses of Power from Hobbes to Foucault (Blackwell 1995) [clear analysis of different conceptions of power in classical and contemporary social and political thought]
K. Nash, Contemporary Political Sociology. Globalization, Politics and Power (Blackwell 2000) [very useful on Marxist and Weberian perspectives; globalisation; social movements, citizenship and democratisation]
A.Giddens & J. Turner eds, Social Theory Today (Polity 1987) [includes some useful articles on functionalism, structuration theory, class analysis and critical theory]
A.Giddens, Central Problems in Social Theory (Macmillan 1979) [rather dated now but still a clear and valuable guide to controversies in social science, many of which are ongoing]
B. Turner, The Structure of Sociological Theory (Dorsey Press 4th edition 1986) [comprehensive and readable account and assessment of leading approaches. Especially useful for term 1]
D. Layder, Modern Social Theory (UCL Press 1997)
A. Giddens, Capitalism and Modern Social Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1971)
S. Gordon, The History and Philosophy of Social Science (London: Routledge, 1991)
A. Callinicos, Social Theory: A Historical Introduction (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999).
R. Wiggerhaus The Frankfurt School (Polity 1995) [good introduction to the critical theory of the Frankfurt School]
American Foreign Policy
Comparative Government & Policy in Europe
Contemporary Approaches: Islam in Politics & Society
European Management & Political Economy
The European Union: Integration, Politics and Policy
Foreign Policy: Analysis and Comparison
Government & Politics of the United States
International Political Economy
International Security & Global Governance
Islamist Movements: Organisational Structures, Ideologies & Political Conflict
Middle East Politics
Modern British Politics
Nationalism & Ethno-Religious Conflict
Nationalism in International Context
The Politics of Globalisation & Global Governance
Public Management: Theories & Innovations
Public Policy: Equality & Redistribution
Public Policy: Ideas, Institutions, Interests
Qualitative Political Analysis
Quantitative Political Analysis
War, Politics & Society
Not all modules run every year. See website or options booklet for further details
At Birkbeck there are students with a wide range of disabilities including dyslexia, visual or hearing impairments, mobility difficulties, mental health needs, HIV, M.E., respiratory conditions etc. Many of them have benefited from the advice and support provided by the College’s disability service.
The Disability Office
The College has a Disability Office located on the main corridor of the Malet Street building. We have a Disability Service Manager, Mark Pimm, and a Disability Advisor, Steve Short.
Mark is your first point of referral for disability enquiries at the College whilst Steve is for dyslexia. They can provide advice and support on travel and parking, physical access, the Disabled Students Allowance, special equipment, personal support, examination arrangements etc. If you have a disability or dyslexia, we recommend you come to our drop in session where we can discuss support and make follow up appointments as necessary. The drop-in sessions are between 4pm and 6pm Monday to Friday.
At your first appointment at the Disability Office they will ask you to complete a Confidentiality Consent Form. This allows you to state who in the College can be informed of your disability. Remember, if you wish, we do not need to inform people of the exact nature of your disability, just your disability related needs.
They will also complete an Individual Student Support Agreement form, confirming your support requirements and send this to your School and relevant Departments at the College so they are informed of your needs.
Access at Birkbeck
Birkbeck's main buildings have wheelchair access, accessible lifts and toilets, our reception desks have induction loops for people with hearing impairments and we have large print and tactile signage. Disabled parking, lockers, specialist seating in lectures and seminars and portable induction loops etc can all be arranged by the Disability Office.
The Disabled Students Allowance
UK and most EU students with disabilities on undergraduate and postgraduate courses are eligible to apply for the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA). The DSA usually provides thousands of pounds worth of support and all the evidence shows that students who receive it are more likely to complete their courses successfully. The Disability Office can provide further information on the DSA and can assist you in applying to Student Finance England for this support.
The Personal Assistance Scheme
Some students need a personal assistant to provide support on their course, for example a note-taker, sign language interpreter, reader, personal assistant, disability mentor or dyslexia support tutor. Birkbeck uses a specialist agency to recruit Personal Assistants and they can assist you with recruiting, training and paying your personal assistant. Please contact Steve for information on this scheme.
Support in your School
The provision which can be made for students with disabilities by Schools is set out in the Procedures for Students with Disabilities. This is available from the Disability Office and the Disability website (see below).
As mentioned above your School will receive a copy of your Individual Student Support Agreement from the Disability Office. This will make specific recommendations about the support you should receive from the School.
Whilst we anticipate that this support will be provided by the Programme Director, tutors and School Administrator the School of Politics also has a Student Disability Liaison Officer. If you experience any difficulties or require additional support from the School then they may also be able to assist you. They may be contacted through the School Office or the Disability Office.
Support in IT Services and Library Services
There is a comprehensive range of specialist equipment for students with disabilities in IT Services. This includes software packages for dyslexic students (TextHELP Read and Write and Inspiration), screen reading and character enhancing software for students with visual impairments, specialist scanning software, large monitors, ergonomic mice and keyboards, specialist orthopaedic chairs etc. For advice and assistance please contact Disability IT Support. There is also a range of specialist equipment in the Library including a CCTV reading machine for visually impaired students as well as specialist orthopaedic chairs and writing slopes. The Disability Office refers all students with disabilities to the Library Access Support service who provides a comprehensive range of services for students with disabilities.
Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia)
Mature students who experienced problems at school are often unaware that these problems may result from their being dyslexic. Whilst dyslexia cannot be cured, you can learn strategies, which make studying significantly easier. If you think you may be dyslexic you should contact Steve, he can screen you and where appropriate refer you to an Educational Psychologist for a dyslexia assessment. These assessments cost £215. Some students can receive assistance in meeting this cost from their employer. In exceptional cases students may receive assistance from the Access to Learning Fund.
Students with disabilities and dyslexia may be eligible for special arrangements for examinations e.g. extra time, use of a word processor, amanuensis, enlarged examination papers etc. In order to receive special arrangements a student must provide Medical Evidence of their disability (or an Educational Psychologists Report if you are dyslexic) to the Disability Office. For School examinations you should contact your Programme Director to request special arrangements at least 2 weeks before the examination. For main College summer examinations you are given the opportunity to declare that you require special provision on your assessment entry form. Students who require provision should then attend an appointment with the Disability Office to discuss and formalise the appropriate arrangements. The closing date for making special examination arrangements in College examinations is the 15th March and beyond this date consideration will only be given to emergency cases.
The Disability Handbook
The Disability Handbook provides detailed information on the support available from the College. Copies are available from all main reception areas, the Disability Office and from the College disability web site at: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck/services/facilities/disability
For further information or to make an appointment to see Mark or Steve, please call Steve Short (Disability Advisor) on 020 7631 6336 or email email@example.com.
Birkbeck, University of London
Common Awards Scheme
1. The majority of Birkbeck’s postgraduate programmes are offered as part of the College’s Common Awards Scheme. Programmes within the Scheme have common regulations, and a common structure, and this makes it possible for you to take modules from other programmes across the College (subject to programme regulations and timetable constraints).
2. This paper gives a brief introduction to the Common Awards Scheme. Further details on regulations and policies that form the Common Awards Scheme can be accessed via:
Structure of Programmes
3. All programmes offered as part of the Common Awards Scheme will consist of modules, each of which will be “credit-rated”. In order to achieve your award you will need to gain at least the following, and meet the requirements outlined in your programme specification:
Max at lower level
Birkbeck common awards schemes
150 level 7
30 level 6 (not included in calculation of classification)
4 modules plus dissertation
90 level 7
30 level 6 (not included in calculation of classification)
60 level 7
4. The Common Awards Scheme offers, for postgraduate programmes, half modules (15 credits), modules (30 credits), double modules (60 credits), or exceptionally triple modules (90 credits) and quadruple modules (120 credits – normally for MRes dissertations)
5. The detailed requirements for each programme are published in the relevant programme specification. Each module on a programme is designated as one of the following:
core the module must be taken and passed to allow the student to complete the degree
compulsory the module must be taken, and Programme Regulations must stipulate the minimum assessment that must be attempted
option students may choose a stipulated number of modules from a range made available to them. Option modules are clearly identified in Programme Regulations.
elective students may replace an option module with modules from another programme, subject to approval of Programme Directors, availability of places and timetable requirements.
Modules may also be designated as pre-requisite modules, meaning they must be taken and passed to allow for progression to a specified follow-up module.
6. Postgraduate awards may be made with Merit or Distinction. Distinctions are normally awarded to students who achieve an average result of 70% or more, including a mark of 70 or over in their dissertation, for all level 7 modules on their programme. A Merit is normally awarded to students who achieve an average result of 60% or more, but less than 70% for all level 7 modules. Level 6 modules included as part of the programme are not included in the calculation for degree classification for postgraduate programmes.
Failure and Re-assessment of a Module
7. The Regulations for Taught Programmes of Study outline how an examination board should treat a failed module when considering progression and awards. However, each examination board is responsible for judging, within these regulations, whether a fail can be “compensated” (ie whether you can be awarded credit for that module even if you have not actually passed), whether you will need to re-take the module (see paragraph 8) or whether you will be able to attempt a re-assessment (see paragraph 9)
8. For any module on a postgraduate programme, if you fail to pass at the first attempt then any subsequent attempt will either be a “re-take” or a “re-assessment”. A re-take requires attendance at the module’s lectures and seminars as well as another attempt at the assessment, whereas “re-assessment” is where a student attempts only the failed element(s) of a failed module. The decision on whether you will be offered a re-take or re-assessment will be made by your sub-board of examiners.
9. A Board of Examiners may offer an alternative form of assessment for failed elements as part of a re-assessment regime.
10. The timing of any re-assessment will be at the discretion of the Board of Examiners; this will normally be either at the next normal assessment opportunity or in some instances before the beginning of the next academic year.
11. You will normally be offered two attempts at passing a module (the original attempt plus one further attempt which will either be a re-assessment or a re-take). After this, if the module has not been passed it will be classed either as a “compensated fail” (see 12) or a fail. In some cases this will mean that it will not be possible for you to gain the award that you have registered for; in such cases, your registration will normally be terminated.
12. If your module result is between 40 and 49% your Board of Examiners may award a “compensated fail”. This will mean that you retain the module result, but are awarded credit for that module. An MA or MSc may be awarded to a student carrying no more than 30 credits as compensated fail. A core module may not be treated as a compensated fail; core modules must be passed in order to gain the award. The awards of MRes, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate do not normally permit the inclusion of compensated fail results in the calculation of classification
Common Award Scheme Policies
1. As part of the introduction of the Common Awards Scheme, the College has implemented a number of College-wide policies. The full policies can be seen at http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck/services/rules
Some brief details on key policies are included here:
Late Submission of work for assessment
2. College policy dictates how Schools will treat work that is due for assessment but is submitted after the published deadline. Any work that is submitted for formal assessment after the published deadline is given two marks: a penalty mark of 50% for postgraduate students, assuming it is of a pass standard, and the ‘real’ mark that would have been awarded if the work had not been late. Both marks are given to the student on a cover sheet. If the work is not of a pass standard a single mark is given.
3. If you submit late work that is to be considered for assessment then you should provide written documentation, medical or otherwise, to explain why the work was submitted late. You will need to complete a standard pro-forma and submit it, with documentary evidence as appropriate, to your Tutor or Programme Director. The case will then be considered by the appropriate sub-board or delegated panel.
4. If no case is made then the penalty mark will stand. If the case is made and accepted then the examination board may allow the ‘real” mark to stand.
The College Policy on Assessment Offences incorporates the College policy on plagiarism.
6. The policy describes three stages in the process for dealing with assessment offences (which include plagiarism, collusion, examination offences and other offences). The first stage allows for a very rapid and local determination for first or minor and uncontested offences. Stage 2 allows for a formal school investigation, where a student wishes to contest the allegation or penalty, where there is an allegation of a repeat offence or for more serious cases. Stage 3 involves a centrally convened panel for third and serious offences, dealt with under the Code of Student Discipline.
7. The College treats all assessment offences seriously. It makes strenuous efforts to detect plagiarism, including using web-based software that can provide clear evidence. If you are in any doubt as to what constitutes acceptable conduct you should consult your personal tutor or another member of academic staff. The College has a wide range of sanctions that it may apply in cases of plagiarism, including the termination of a student’s registration in the most serious cases.
8. The College Policy on Mitigating Circumstances determines how boards of examiners will treat assessment that has been affected by adverse circumstances. Mitigating Circumstances are defined as unforeseen, unpreventable circumstances that significantly disrupt your performance in assessment. This should not be confused with long term issues such as medical conditions, for which the College can make adjustments before assessment (for guidance on how arrangements can be made in these cases please see the College’s Procedures for Dealing with Special Examination Arrangements).
9. A Mitigating Circumstances claim should be submitted if valid detrimental circumstances result in:
a) the late or non-submission of assessment;
b) non-attendance at examination(s);
c) poor performance in assessment.
10. For a claim to be accepted you must produce independent documentary evidence to show that the circumstances:
a) have detrimentally affected your performance or will do so, with respect to 9a, 9b and 9c above;
b) were unforeseen;
c) were out of your control and could not have been prevented;
d) relate directly to the timing of the assessment affected.
11 Documentation should be presented, wherever possible, on the official headed paper of the issuing body, and should normally include the dates of the period in which the circumstances applied. Copies of documentary evidence will not normally be accepted. If you need an original document for another purpose, you should bring the original into the School Office so that a copy can be made by a member of College staff. (Where a photocopy is made by a member of staff they should indicate on the copy that they have seen the original).
12. Discussing your claim with a member of staff does not constitute a submission of a claim of mitigating circumstances.
13. You are encouraged to submit your claim for mitigating circumstancesin advance and at the earliest opportunity. The final deadline for submission of a claim is normally 1 week after the final examination unless otherwise stated by your School. Where possible, claims should be submitted using the standard College Mitigating Circumstances claim form (available from your School office) which should be submitted in accordance with the procedure for submission published by your School. Claims should always be supported by appropriate documentary evidence.
14. You should be aware that individual marks will almost never be changed in the light of mitigating circumstances. Assessment is designed to test your achievement rather than your potential; it is not normally possible to gauge what you would have achieved had mitigating circumstances not arisen. Where mitigating circumstances are accepted, and it is judged by an examination board that these circumstances were sufficiently severe to have affected your performance in assessment the usual response will be to offer you another opportunity for assessment without penalty, at the next available opportunity.
15. Guidance on what may constitute acceptable mitigating circumstances is available as an appendix to the policy, available from http://www.bbk.ac.uk/reg/regs or your School office; you should note that this is not an exhaustive list, and that each case will be treated on its merits by the relevant sub-board or delegated body.
16. You should note that decisions on mitigating circumstances are the responsibility of the sub-board for your programme. Where you are taking an elective or other module offered by another department or school, any application for mitigating circumstances should be to your “home” department.
For more details on Birkbeck’s plagiarism guidelines see: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck/services/facilities/support/plagiarism/plagiarism-guide
17. The Common Awards Scheme regulations allow you to suspend studies for a maximum of two years in total during your programme of study. This may be for one period of two years, or for non-consecutive shorter periods (see 17) that add up to a total of two years or less.
18. Any break-in-studies on a postgraduate programme would normally be for a minimum of one year; breaks may also be permitted for a period of one or two terms, dependent on the structure of the programme.
19. Any application for a break-in-studies should be made in writing to your programme director or personal tutor. If you are applying for an approved break-in-studies, you should give details of the length of the proposed break and the reasons for the application.
20. You will not be liable for fees while on an approved break-in-studies. If you have attended for part of a term you will normally be liable for the fees due in that term, unless there are mitigating circumstances.
21. If you are on a break-in-studies you will not have access to the Library or ITS unless you make an application and pay the appropriate fee to use these facilities. Applications must be made directly to the Library and/or ITS.
22. If you do not re-enrol after having completed two years of break-in-studies you will be deemed to have withdrawn from your programme. If you wish to resume your programme after having been withdrawn, you will normally be required to re-apply for admission.
22. In addition to the policies above, other College academic-related policies include:
Accredited Prior Learning
Termination of Registration
Procedures for Dealing with Special Examination Arrangements
Suspension of Regulations
The Operation of Boards and Sub-Boards of Examiners
The Role of External & Intercollegiate Examiners
Marking and Moderation
To see these policies, please see the Common Awards Scheme website:
23. The College also operates a Procedure for Appeals Against Decisions of Boards of Examiners; this is also available from this website.
Full-time academic staff
Faith Armitage 020 7631 6784 firstname.lastname@example.org
Samantha Ashenden 020 7631 6781 email@example.com
Colleen Bell 020 7631 6664 firstname.lastname@example.org
Edwin Bacon 020 7631 6388 email@example.com
Antoine Bousquet 020 7580 5426 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosie Campbell 020 76316785 email@example.com
Alejandro Colás 020 7631 6382 a.colás@bbk.ac.uk
Diana Coole 020 7631 6782 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dionyssis Dimitrakopoulos 020 7631 6786 email@example.com
Jason Edwards 020 7631 6783 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dermot Hodson 020 7631 6641 email@example.com
Eric Kaufmann 020 7631 6791 firstname.lastname@example.org
Joni Lovenduski 020 7323 4673 email@example.com
Deborah Mabbett 020 7631 6789 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Singh 020 7631 6790 email@example.com
Simon Susen n/a firstname.lastname@example.org
David Styan 020 7631 6616 email@example.com
Matthijs van den Bos 020 3073 8356 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sami Zubaida n/a email@example.com
Barbara Zollner 020 3073 8226 firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristi Winters 020 7631 6648 email@example.com
Irene Breckon 020 7079 0755 firstname.lastname@example.org
Nina Dartford 020 7631 6780 email@example.com
Jane Halstead 020 3073 8092 firstname.lastname@example.org
James Harding 020 7631 6789 email@example.com
Naomi Taylor 020 7631 6780 firstname.lastname@example.org
Other useful numbers
Department Fax 020 7631 6787
College Switchboard 020 7631 6000
Registry 020 7631 6390/6309
College Library 020 7631 6239
Students Union 020 7631 6335
Student Financial Support 020 7631 6362
Disability Office 020 7631 6336
ITS Reception 020 7631 6543