Introduction to Political Theory

Humanities & Social Sciences
Political Science
Course Code
POLI 2201
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered


Course Description
This course introduces students to selected great thinkers of Western political theory who inspired others to critically assess their political thinking and understanding of citizenship. Their ideas will serve as the starting point for appraising the relationship between politics and philosophy and the search for justice and the good life. What makes authority legitimate? What freedoms can citizens claim? What are rights? What does justice require? This course is intended for students without any formal background in political theory or philosophy.
Course Content

1. Philosophy and Politics


2. The Ancient Greeks: Plato and Aristotle


3. The Medieval Era: Aquinas and Machiavelli


4. The Early Moderns: Hobbes and Locke


5. The Moderns: Rousseau, Marx, and J. S. Mill


6.  Contemporaries: Rawls, Nozick, Taylor, Berlin, Nussbaum, Sandel, and Dworkin

Learning Activities

Instructor presentation of the course will involve the use of formal lectures, structured group work, and in-class discussion of assigned materials. Additional readings may be assigned for each course unit and placed on library reserve or via selected websites. Audio-visual and interactive materials may be used.

Means of Assessment

The course evaluation will be based on course objectives and in accordance with the policies of Douglas College and the Department of Political Science. A minimum of 40% of the student’s course grade will be assigned to mid-term and final examinations, a minimum of 30% will be assigned to a formal research essay, and a maximum of 30% will be based upon components such as quizzes, short essays, attendance, participation, and class presentations. Specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor in course outlines.


One example of an evaluation system:

Article Critique                                15%

Participation                                   10%

Mid-term exam                               20%

Term essay                                    30%

Final exam                                     25%

                                Total:           100%

Learning Outcomes

Upon conclusion of the course, successful students will be able to:


1. demonstrate how political thinking developed and evolved within the Western political tradition;


2. understand and analyze basic concepts and principles such as justice, equality, rights, obligation, power, authority, law, and freedom;


3. assess how these basic concepts and principles influenced the development of Western political thought, and consequently the evolution of political and social institutions, law, constitutions, and communities;


4. pursue advanced studies in political theory, political philosophy, and/or the history of political thought.

Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students:


Textbooks and readers will be selected based on instructor expertise and preference, and in consultation with the Department of Political Science. There are a range of textbooks and readers that can fulfill course objectives. Some examples include:


Dunn, John. The History of Political Theory and Other Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University

     Press, 1996).


Porter, J. M. ed., Classics in Political Philosophy. Third edition (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 2000).


Rosen, Michael and Jonathan Wolff, eds., Political Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).


Simmons, A. John. Political Philosophy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).


Stewart, Robert M. Readings in Social and Political Philosophy. Second edition (New York: Oxford

     University Press, 1996).


Tannenbaum, Donald and David Schultz. Inventors of Ideas: An Introduction to Western Political

     Philosophy. Second edition (Boston: Schirmer Cengage Learning, 2004).


Wolff, Jonathan. An Introduction to Political Philosophy. Revised edition (Oxford: Oxford University

     Press, 2006).



POLI 1101 or permission of instructor


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for POLI 2201
Athabasca University (AU) AU POLI 3XX (3)
Camosun College (CAMO) CAMO PSC 210 (3)
College of the Rockies (COTR) COTR POLI 2XX (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU POLI 2XXX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG POLI 2270 (3)
LaSalle College Vancouver (LCV) LCV GE 240 (3)
Okanagan College (OC) OC POLI 240 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU POL 210 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU POLI 2220 (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU POLS 101 (3)
University Canada West (UCW) UCW POLI 2XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO POLI 240 (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV POLI 240 (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC POLS 270 (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV POSC 120 (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC POLI 202 (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU POLI 2nd (3)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023