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2019/20 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

PIED5702M Advanced Political Analysis

30 creditsClass Size: 15

Module manager: Dr Stuart McAnulla/ Dr Nick Robinson

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

Module Summary- What is political about political science? - What are the 'classics' in political science and how do I interrogate them?- How important is power? - How free are agents to realise their aspirations or are they constrained by social structures? These questions and more are the subject of Advanced Political Analysis. The module introduces you to the dominant paradigms in political science and is designed to equip you with the tools to study the key ways in which analysts construct understandings and explanations of political phenomena. Yet this is not undertaken in the abstract - the course combines vital conceptual analysis with direct application to classic political science texts so probing the extent to which they deliver coherence between question, method, approach and theory.General ReadingC. Hay, Political Analysis: A Critical Introduction, (London: Palgrave, 2002)S. Lukes, Power: A Radical View, (London: Macmillan, 1974)


i) Introduce students to the dominant frameworks and concepts through which political processes are analysed;
ii) Develop skills in critically examining the assumptions and concepts that inform understandings and explanations of political processes;
iii) Develop skills in critically reviewing the theories, concepts, methodologies and evidence claims made in key political texts.

Learning outcomes
i) Awareness and in depth understanding of the dominant philosophical precepts which inform political analysis.
ii) Knowledge of, and ability to interrogate, key approaches to understanding and explaining political phenomena.
iii) Knowledge of and ability to critically review key political texts.

Skills outcomes
1. Ability to appraise and criticise dominant paradigms for approaching the study of politics;
2. Ability to criticise the assumptions, theories, methodologies and evidence claims of leading political writer;
3. Use of reading lists, the library and the internet, to locate relevant material, including finding additional material beyond that specified in the module outline;
4. Contribute to group discussions in seminars;
5. Plan, write, and reference essays and bibliographies.


Section one
Understanding and Explanation in Political Analysis

Students will be introduced to the dominant epistemological and ontological paradigms in political studies. Students will study the most influential ways in which political analysts construct understandings and explanations of political phenomena. The strengths and weaknesses of alternative approaches to political analysis will be examined.

The core textbook for the module C. Hay (2002) Political Analysis, Palgrave

1) Introduction: What's political about political analysis?
- What do we mean by 'the political'?
- Does the subject of politics have clear boundaries?
- Should political analysis be 'inter-disciplinary'?

2) Knowledge and Knowing
- Can there be a 'scientific' approach to studying subjects like politics?
- Should the study of politics emulate the methods of the natural sciences?
- Or is this impossible? (Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos etc)

3) Intentionalist explanation in political analysis:
- Should explanations of political behaviour be constructed with primary with reference to the intentions and actions of individuals or groups?
- How convincing are the kinds of explanations offered approaches such as rational choice theory? (Downs, Olson, Giddens)

4) Structural explanation in political analysis
- Should explanations of political behaviour be constructed primarily with reference to social or institutional 'structures'?
- How convincing are the explanations offered by approaches such as historical institutionalism? (Hay, Rhodes, Pierson, Archer)

5) Interpretivist explanation in political analysis
- Should explanations of political behaviour be constructed with primary reference to the beliefs of actors?
- How convincing are the explanations offered by approaches such as constructivism and interpretivism ? (Howarth, Laclau and Mouffe, Bevir)

Section two
Critical Review: Analysing 'Classic' Political Texts

Students will critically review a range of 'classic' political texts ie books that are considered to have been highly influential in the way politics is understood, and which have each provoked intense academic debate. Students will unpack and analyse the assumptions, theories, methodologies, arguments and empirical evidence utilised in such texts.

An indicative list of classic texts is provided below:
6) Steven Lukes (1974/2005) Power: A Radical View
7) Francis Fukuyama (1992) The End of History and the Last Man
8) Samuel Huntingdon (1993) The Clash of Civilisations
9) Kate Millet (1968) Sexual Politics
10) Friedrich Von Hayek (1944) The Road to Serfdom

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours278.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

- Students are required to read the core and additional publications listed in the module bibliography in preparation for seminar discussions and essays. This requires careful and reflective reading, note taking, summarising, preparation for class discussion, and developing a sense of a field of literature in addition to engagement with individual readings.

- Also, students are encouraged to use their initiative and skills of discernment in finding additional relevant material.

In terms of the detail, the reading includes literature on the philosophy of the social and political sciences, key approaches to political analysis and a number of 'classic' political texts. Students will complete an essay and a critical review project which will be original and entirely the student's own work.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student's progress will be monitored on a weekly basis by means of:
- Student contributions to class discussion, which will be monitored throughout the course, though not assessed
- Assessment performance will be monitored through the submission of essay drafts/plans which will be read by the tutor prior to the submission of their final term paper. Meetings will then be offered to students to discuss their work prior to final submission. In specific terms, Students will prepare a non-assessed 2,000 word essay to be completed by the end of week six. The non-assessed essay will both serve to monitor progress as well as to provide feedback and advice for students in preparation for submitting assessed work.
- Opportunities for individual discussions outside seminar times.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 word final essay essay50.00
Literature Review2,000 word final critical review50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 12/12/2018 10:48:54


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