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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PIED3609 Radical Political Ideas: Marx, Nietzsche, Schmitt, Foucault, Kristeva

20 creditsClass Size: 67

Module manager: Dr Stefan Pedersen

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

What would it mean to think about politics in a different way? This module explores some of the radical ideas about politics offered by five seminal thinkers. In exploring their ideas, this module offers a challenge to some of the received ways of thinking and talking about the meaning of politics.Each of the thinkers offers us a challenge to the way that we conventionally understand and conceptualise politics. Marx wished to see a radically transformed society with no state at all where humans could work cooperatively free of exploitation. For Nietzsche the greatest problem for politics is nihilism (the emptying of certainty and values). He focused on the creative potential of humans who strive to find value in their own existence, and to impose it on others. Schmitt argued that a political community is recognised by its sovereign ability to define its friends and fight its enemies, and he criticised liberalism and pluralism. Foucault explored the complex role of power in shaping politics and its subjects, creating a kaleidoscopic vision of the possibilities of the interplay between power and freedom. Finally, Kristeva asks us to consider the role of the unconsciousness and affect in politics, challenging our views about self, other, and identity.This module will engage anyone who has ever tried to think about the alternatives to the established ways of thinking about politics - and offer an invitation to those who have not.


To introduce students to the thought and writings five seminal figures and their radical political ideas.
To introduce students to the complexities and challenges of thinking about radical alternatives to the political status quo (and especially our understandings of the state, power, identity, foundations, legitimacy, order, violence and 'the political').
To enable students to development an ability to critically engage with complex ideas through reading and analysing both primary texts and secondary sources.
To develop students` understanding (i.e. a knowledge of structure and connections and an ability to ask new and relevant questions about this structure) of the links between the radical under review.
To challenge students to develop a more critical view of both conventional political arrangements, our understandings of those arrangements, and their alternatives.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to demonstrate:
1. A knowledge of key ideas and texts of the thinkers under review, and the traditions of thought that they represent.
2. An understanding of how the primary political ideas of those thinkers link together, and how they also link with wider problems/aspects of the radical alternatives under review.
3. An understanding of the problems that the texts are seeking to identify and address, and their relevance for contemporary and conventional views of politics.
On completion of this module students should also have developed :
4. The ability to produce a reasoned argument and synthesise relevant information and use communication and information technologies to retrieve and present information.
5. Exercise critical judgement, and manage and self-critically reflect on, their own learning and make use of constructive feedback.
6. Be able to communicate effectively and fluently in spoken and written English.


Weeks 1 and 2: Marx: Critique and Communism
Weeks 3 and 4: Nietzsche: Nihilism and Radical Aristocracy
Weeks 5 and 6: Schmitt: Friends, Enemies, and Sovereignty
Weeks 7 and 8: Foucault: Subjectivity and Power
Weeks 9 and 10: Kristeva: Identity and Affect
Week 11: Conclusions

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students are asked to read excerpts from the core texts listed in the module bibliography in preparation for seminar discussions, their formative work, and their essay.
Students will be provided with lecture and reading notes.
Students will be provided with voluntary 'worksheets' to help guide them through the texts.
Students will be given the opportunity to submit an essay plan and a sample of writing and to receive and discuss written/verbal feedback on this writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

This module uses both formative and summative assessment.

Formative assessment (which is voluntary and does not count towards the final grade):
Student contributions to class discussion.
Weekly worksheets guiding students through the readings and enabling them to identify the key points.
Tutor-led peer discussion in seminars.
Opportunities for individual discussions outside seminar times.
Opportunity to submit a short essay plan and to receive written/verbal feedback and guidance.
Opportunity to submit a short sample of an essay and to receive written/verbal feedback and guidance.

Summative assessment (which is compulsory and does count towards the final grade):
A single 2750 word essay after the module has been completed. The essay will take the form of a comparative question around either the juxtaposition of two thinkers, or the engagement with a theme (e.g. power, the state, identity) which students will be asked to address in a critical fashion using the thinkers on discussed on the module.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 2750 End of Term essay100.00
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: 10/01/2020


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