Introduction to Political Theory

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
POLI 2201
Introduction to Political Theory
Political Science
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 2 hrs. per week/semester Seminar: 2 hrs. per week/semester
Method(s) Of Instruction
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.

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 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.

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%

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