Politics and International Relations

visiting students

Prospective students should bear in mind the following points when making course choices:

  • The Politics Fellow (Professor Karma Nabulsi) and College Lecturers (Dr Orlando Lazar and Mr Tom Fleming) at St Edmund Hall specialise in Political Theory, Political Thought, International Relations, British Government and Politics, and Comparative Government. Other subjects are taught by outside tutors
  • Politics teaching integrates Visiting Students as far as possible into the Politics part of the ‘Philosophy, Politics and Economics’ (PPE) degree course. PPE students first study two ‘core’ Politics subjects, before going on to select from a range of ‘further’ subjects. Visiting students who do not have a strong background in the study of Politics are advised to consider selecting at least one of the ‘core’ subjects. Visiting students who have covered much of the core material already are welcome, in consultation with tutors at their home institutions, to select any of subjects (‘core’ or ‘further’) from the list. Certain of the ‘further’ options are limited in numbers, and get capped.
  • During their time here, Visiting Students attend lectures, classes, and tutorials with PPE students.
  • Availability of courses does vary according to term of study. ‘Core’ subjects usually are taught in Michaelmas (October-December) and Hilary (January-March) terms.
  • Please list your choice of subjects in order of preference. For each term, select at least three subjects so as to provide the Politics tutors some margin for arrangements when courses are available.
  • If you wish to study a subject that is not listed, please contact us in advance of your application in order to determine whether your special request can be accommodated.

A. ‘Core’ Subjects

This course is a comparative study of the main political institutions through which contemporary societies are governed. These include constitutional frameworks, executives, legislatures, bureaucracies, constitutional courts, systems of devolved power, electoral systems, political parties, and party systems. The course also considers some of the main political processes that affect governance and regime stability, such as styles of leadership,  processes of regime transition and democratisation, and patterns of policy-making. Through reference to the distinct methodological approach used by different scholars in studying these phenomena – socio-cultural and behavioural approaches, the various ‘institutional’ schools, and rational-choice analysis – students acquire an understanding of the utility and limits of these individual schools of analysis. The course builds on the country-based institutional knowledge introduced in the first- year course (Introduction to Politics). In Comparative Government, the approach is explicitly comparative. It provides students with an understanding of key concepts and tools of empirical political analysis, and in this way also prepares them for the more specialised study of specific regions or single countries that follow as options later in the PPE syllabus. While the main instruction is via the usual mixture of lectures and tutorials, students should note that the range of knowledge covered makes the lectures even more vital than they might be for some courses. The course also involves two compulsory Department run classes to assist students in dealing with some of the broader comparative and theoretical themes.

This course consists of the close study of political developments in Britain since 1900 and the major academic debates surrounding them. It allows students to study a single political system in depth, over a period long enough both to make visible long-run processes of social, economic and political change, and to permit comparisons and contrasts to be drawn between the situations of political actors at different times. It is also a period with an extraordinarily rich and rewarding academic literature, which encourages students to explore problems of evidence and interpretation, and to consider a range of explanations, based on different scholarly traditions, for the same events. These include techniques and methods as diverse as archivally-based historical analysis, political biography and political science modelling. Among the topics covered are the decline of the Liberal Party and the rise of the Labour Party; the political effects of the two world wars and the widening franchise; the development of the institutions and procedures of modern government; the changing party system under mass democracy; the challenges and failures of political extremism; the domestic impact of foreign policies such as appeasement, decolonisation and European integration; the challenges posed to modern governments by relative economic decline, and efforts to transform the system such as tariff reform, social democracy and Thatcherism.

The course is designed to acquaint students with the political concepts central to the theoretical, normative and interpretative analysis of politics. The study of concepts such as liberty, justice, authority or power provides the foundation for understanding the nature of political thought. These concepts underpin the study of politics in general and are therefore crucial to enhancing the awareness of the relation between political thought and action. Students are also directed towards discursive ideologies displaying complex conceptual arrangements such as liberalism or socialism. The course is devised so as to develop a manifold range of skills necessary for constructing critical arguments in political theory, for working with problems of consistency and justification, for analysing the complexities of the usage of political language, for understanding the principal forms through which political thought presents itself, both as theory and as ideology, and for appreciating the main current and recent debates that command attention in the field. To those ends philosophical, ideological and historical analyses are all appropriate, and the merits of each type may be assessed and contrasted.

Students are therefore encouraged to explore different ways of approaching these issues, though they are also enabled, if they so wish, to choose a specific strategy from among these approaches. Students are also invited, in consultation with their tutors, to balance a broad appreciation of the field with a development of their own interests within the wide choice of available concepts and ideologies. The literature to which they are directed is therefore diverse, encompassing classical texts, seminal philosophers and theorists, significant journal articles, and typical examples of ideological debate. Both substantive arguments and methodological issues are consequently aired. By extending the initial understanding of political thought gained by students in the first year introduction to politics, or by building on other related introductory lectures and subjects, the course provides the basis for specialization in political theory, as well as tools that other specializations may draw upon. It will enable students to reflect on the principles underlying politics, to make reasoned assessments of political discourse, and to develop their own arguments at a requisite degree of sophistication.

The aim of this core subject is to introduce students to the academic study of International Relations and to develop a broad knowledge and understanding of the major issues in international relations, concentrating on the period since 1985. The subject seeks to strike a balance between empirical knowledge and theoretical understanding. Those taking the subject will have the opportunity to study some of the major questions in contemporary international relations (e.g. the reasons why the Cold War ended; the role of the United Nations and of alliances such as NATO; the impact on international relations of globalization and of democratization; the development of European integration; the international impact of civil wars and humanitarian disasters; and problems that arise from national self-determination and attempts to promote human rights). But they will also develop a broad knowledge of the most important analytical and theoretical tools that are needed to make sense of these questions. This knowledge of the principal theories and concepts is intended to tie in closely with work for the Further Subjects in International Relations (International Relations in the Era of the Cold War [subject 213] and International Relations in the Era of the Two World Wars [subject 212].

In this subject students will study in more detail the major theoretical approaches to social class, race and ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, states, interest groups including unions, parties, movements and single issue  campaigns, and the interrelationships between culture, economy, social structure, and political processes and institutions. The theoretical approaches will be critically assessed in the light of empirical evidence from a range of countries, and also put in the context of the philosophically rigorous analysis of power and change. To aid students in attaining a comprehensive grasp of the field of study, they will have the opportunity to look at ‘approaches’ such as structuralism, rational choice theory, political culture theory, and the historical and comparative perspective as such, as well as studying the application of these to the specific topics mentioned. Thus by the end of the course students should have an understanding of recent sociological explanations of political processes and events, a grasp of the competing approaches in the field, an understanding of the main methods of data collection and analysis, and an appreciation of the role of models and theories in sociological knowledge.

B. ‘Further’ Subjects

The course aims to provide a specialist knowledge of contemporary British government and politics. It provides candidates with both an awareness of the most significant debates in the academic literature and of different methodological approaches to the subject and a thorough understanding of the issues and controversies surrounding the operation of British government. This involves the study of the UK electoral system, political parties and voting behaviour; of the organisation and political activities of the executive, legislature, judiciary and civil service; of the powers of Parliament and local government; of the devolution of power to regions of the UK; and of the political influence of the media and pressure groups. The interaction of these political institutions with the European Union is also studied. Current and recent proposals for reforming the constitution are a particular focus of attention. The course includes the examination of a wide range of primary documents, including parliamentary papers and government reports. It aims to provide candidates with the ability to retrieve and analyse official information and other primary documents and to place them in historical and political context. On completion of the course candidates will be familiar with the detailed workings of British governmental institutions, with decision- making processes in government and the evolution of strategies for managing the public sector, and with the political dynamics of the system.

This subject seeks to provide students with a basic understanding of American exceptionalism, of the United States’ political institutions, and of selected areas of public policy, and a good knowledge and understanding of the scholarly literature in the field. It covers the constitution; federalism and separation of powers; the presidency; congress; the federal courts; the federal bureaucracy; parties and the party system; electoral politics; political culture; mass media; interest groups; state and local politics; processes of policy formation and implementation, especially as related to urban policy, economic policy, race, and civil rights. It enables students to use data drawn from the large resources available (inter alia) in the Harmsworth Library (in the Rothermere American Institute) and the Law Library to form their own interpretations of governmental processes, to refine the skill of thinking rigorously and critically for themselves, and thus to contribute more fully to tutorials and classes held in other subjects in Politics.

The course is a comparative study of West European political culture, party systems, institutions of government, and policy processes. The course enables students to understand both the ways in which specific patterns of party configuration and policy-style have developed in different parts of the sub-continent, and the extent to which, despite this variation, there remains a common European political culture, and common political responses to key aspects of the European political agenda, such as the crisis of the welfare state, the development of post-material values and issues, and the pressures of multi- ethnic societies. Since wide areas of contemporary European political life are affected by economic and political integration, the course also covers the institutions, development, and policy processes of European integration, the linkages between the national and European Union tiers of government, and the implications for European liberal democracy of the growth of multi-tiered governance. The course develops the skills of empirical political analysis acquired earlier in the degree course, and enables students to become familiar with some of the basic sources of information from which they can henceforth renew and update their knowledge of changes and developments in European politics, including key academic periodicals, official publications at national and EU level, sources of political monitoring and commentary, and key IT sources.

Candidates will learn about government and politics both in the Soviet Union (with particular reference to the period from the end of the Stalin era in 1953 to the end of the USSR in 1991) and in post-Soviet Russia. Major objects of study are the power structure and the changing relationships between political institutions under Communism and post-Communism, the process of political transformation of the Soviet system, and the  post-Soviet transition. Specific attention is devoted to political leadership, the development of representative institutions, the national question and federalism, the relationship between economic and political power, political parties and interests, ideology and political culture.

This course will enable students to acquire a knowledge and understanding of the recent history and contemporary politics of particular African countries; to analyse their political processes and institutions, to situate them in their social and economic context; and to examine the political conditions and consequences of economic policies. Students will be expected to study the politics of at least three African countries in some detail. These should include one or both of South Africa and Nigeria. They will also be expected to read material on other countries relevant to the study of specific themes and topics dealt with in tutorials and in a weekly class. These include the politics of democratization, structural adjustment, labour and unions, agricultural policy, gender, class and ethnicity. The course will allow students to extend their understanding of comparative politics, and particularly of issues common to Africa and other regions they may be studying, of political theory, of political sociology and of international relations by raising relevant questions in African circumstances. Students will acquire a more informed and critical understanding of African countries, which often appear to be far-away places of which we know little. Students may use this course as a foundation for further work in and about Africa in journalism, business, government, NGOs and academic research. It will contribute to their wider education as informed citizens.

The aim of this subject is to study the major issues in the politics of Latin America. The subject will focus on the politics of a number of major countries, but in a way that leads to comparisons between them. The countries will include Mexico. Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Chile and Venezuela – chosen because they all represent interesting problems to the student, and because they have accessible literature in English. The broad theme that links these countries together is the study of the conditions that facilitate or hinder the consolidation of political stability. This subject will examine institutional approaches to the study of Latin American politics, and will draw upon the political sociology and the political economy of the countries concerned, as well as upon the international context. Attention will be paid to the politics of the military; to the politics of economic stabilisation; to the nature of the governing elites; and to questions of political participation of the major social groups.

This course introduces students to the nature of political change in the major South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) in the period after independence from colonial rule. The subject is intended to educate students in the most significant themes and issues in contemporary South Asian politics, through the study of illustrative cases taken from the various countries of the region. The subject also seeks to enable students to develop a critical engagement with the analytical literature on South Asia, in particular, and on the ‘Third World’ or ‘developing countries’, more generally. While each of the major South Asian countries is studied separately, students are, at the same time, encouraged to analyse political developments comparatively. The course examines the nature of the post-colonial state and the evolution of political institutions and party politics, with a focus on the functioning of democracy and the tendencies towards authoritarianism or martial rule. The interface of democratic politics with the political economy of the ‘developmental’ state is also addressed. The course also explores the development of ‘movement’ politics or social movements as an important element of the democratic process. The course gives attention to social organisation, culture and identities as they bear on politics. In particular, the politics of gender, class, caste, religion and ethnicity are emphasised. The course engages with the evolution of political ideologies, especially those of nationalism and ‘development’, which have played significant roles in the political history of postcolonial states. The course is expected to enable second and third year students to develop the ability to construct rigorous arguments on South Asian politics, based on empirical knowledge and informed by a critical awareness of the scholarly literature on the subject. This course will prepare students to undertake post graduate studies on South Asia and the ‘Third World’, and for careers in journalism, diplomacy, national and international ‘development’ organisations, NGOs and ‘Think Tank’ or consultancy organisations, which specialise on the ‘Third World’ and the field of ‘development’.

The course aims to give the student a wide-ranging and sophisticated introduction to the domestic political dynamics of the contemporary Middle East and its wider social relations. The course is organised thematically, with weekly topics including the nature of the state, political economy, the military, democratisation, succession and gender. The thematic emphasis gives the student maximum flexibility to concentrate on whichever countries most interest him/her. The geographical scope of the course is inclusive, covering North Africa, Turkey and Iran, as well as the core countries of region. It is expected that the student will complete the course knowing six or seven countries in some depth. The course is designed to relate to the discipline of politics in general, eschewing the notion that the Middle East is somehow unique and mysterious; students are encouraged to bring their knowledge of political concepts to bear in the course. Inter-regional comparisons are also encouraged, with students who have studied other parts of the developing world especially welcome. The course has been designed both for the generalist, who may go on to work in business, government, journalism or the professions, and for the budding specialist who may then proceed to a Masters in Middle Eastern studies.

The course covers the international relations of a period crucial for the evolution of today’s world. These have always generated much writing of high quality, which is now further enlivened by the progressive release and assimilation of archive material; and the period now appears sufficiently self-contained for scholars to be able to step back and gain perspective by viewing it as a whole. The course links strongly with the Politics ‘core’ ‘International Relations’ course, providing factual context and tests for many of the subject’s theoretical approaches to international relations, and also valuable background for its treatment of the post-1985 ‘contemporary’ scene. The ‘Cold War’ subject also links back to the Further Subject ‘International Relations in the Era of Two World Wars’, especially as many post-war statesmen were avowedly seeking to avoid the mistakes of that earlier period, and it provides case studies useful for the ‘Government and Politics of the United States’ Further Subject.

The objective of this subject is to introduce students to some of the canonical texts in political thought and to help them to develop an appreciation of their significance for their own time and for contemporary political
theory. The subject is designed to enhance students’ skills in reading and interpreting texts and to develop their appreciation of the richness of the traditions of political thought in the West which will contribute to their
broader understanding of the discipline. The subject allows students to choose from a range of classical texts in the history of political thought and also offers a number of supplementary topics which encourage students to
examine issues raised by these texts in the context of related discussions in the wider cannon of political thought. In both cases, the subject encourages students to develop skills in reading and critically reflecting on
the arguments of complex works of political philosophy. It offers students the opportunity to develop an appreciation of the intellectual context in which the texts were written and/or to discuss the arguments of the
texts in relation to issues in contemporary political theory. Students, in consultation with their tutors, may follow one or other of these options exclusively so long as they are able to demonstrate a sound grasp of the
arguments of the texts on which they answer questions. The subject permits students to take either a narrow focus, concentrating on a few thinkers in depth, or aiming for a wide coverage of many. Either approach, however, relies on developing the capacity to grasp both the way particular texts work as arguments, and to gain some independent critical purchase on the arguments themselves. Students are also encouraged to examine different methods of interpretation in the History of Political Thought.

This subject is designed to acquaint students with the transition from classical political philosophy to modern social theory — that is, to introduce them to major theories developed from the late eighteenth century to the early twenty century, theories which (a) explored the nature and direction of social and economic change in Europe and (b) grappled with the moral and political issues raised by social and economic change.

The subject enables students to study in depth a range of important texts, helping them to develop the skills required to identify and comment critically on the principal arguments contained in those texts. Students are also encouraged to appreciate the intellectual and historical context in which the texts were written. Students may, in consultation with their tutors, choose between a number of approaches to this subject. They may concentrate on a smaller number of named theorists in greater depth or aim for a broader coverage of many theorists by way of topics. Thus, they may approach the subject by choosing a number of clusters of thinkers (e.g. Bentham and Mill, Hegel and Marx, Weber and Durkheim, Saint-Simon and Tocqueville). Or they may focus on topics such as individualism and community, centralisation, the idea of progress, science and religion, by reading further primary texts in addition to those specified in the reading list. These further texts can include both additional works by the named thinkers and works by other relevant writers, for instance those who pre-date the named thinker and who were particularly influential for him, contemporary writers whose work was pertinent and, in some cases, later writers. In any event, students will be expected to demonstrate detailed and critical acquaintance with the major texts, and to analyse some of the main issues of contention, or agreement, in the period covered by the subject. This subject will enable students to read complex texts with discrimination and attune themselves to the variety and depth of modern social and political debates in an historical perspective.

The course, unusual in being devoted to a single intellectual and political tradition, gives students the opportunity to develop a deep and systematic understanding of Marxist theory and practice. Depending on their interests, and reflecting the interdisciplinary breadth of the Marxist tradition, students are able (in consultation with their tutors) to concentrate on one or more of Marxist philosophy, politics, sociology and economics. (Students primarily interested in Marxist economics may consider taking the Economics course Classical Economic Thought: Smith, Ricardo, and Marx (312)). Similarly, although all students are required to cover the essentials of Marxist theory with reference to the key writings of Marx and Engels, the course permits students to strike their own balance between concentrating on these texts – and their interpretation and evaluation – and considering the theoretical contributions of later Marxists.

While most attention is devoted to issues in Marxist theory, students are also expected to approach Marxism as a practical, political ideology, with concrete political consequences. In all cases, the course teaches students to be able critically to evaluate, not just to show knowledge of, the Marxist tradition.

The course permits students to specialise in and develop their understanding of theoretical perspectives, some of which will have been introduced by the core course in Political Sociology. Although it includes the ideas of some of the ‘Founding Fathers’ of sociology – Marx, Weber, and Durkheim – the course is not primarily focussed on the history of sociological thought or on any particular texts. (Political Thought 216 is an author- and textbased subject covering these and others). It rather attempts to encourage critical and analytical engagement with live issues in the assessment of a range of theoretical perspectives such as: rational choice; social exchange; functionalism; Marxism; symbolic interactionism; ethnomethodology; feminism. These are studied in relation to a number of substantive explananda such as: social order and integration (what holds society together?); social norms and roles (where do informal rules come from and why do people comply with them?); social change (is there an underlying dynamic to the historical process?); class and stratification (what generates systematic social inequality and what are its consequences?); deviance (in what circumstances and why do people contravene laws or less formal social rules?) The course also allows students to study more abstract or methodological issues such as: the relation between social structure and individual agency; strategies for integrating macro- and micro- sociology; the merits and limitations of different research methods; the nature and aims of sociological theorising. (Students particularly interested in these more abstract issues might consider Philosophy of Science and Social Science (106)). The course is devoted exclusively to the understanding and evaluation of sociological theories. Since this depends on considering such theories in relation to the empirical facts, processes or institutions that they seek to explain or illuminate, the course requires students to be familiar with relevant empirical studies. (Students interested in a course essentially devoted to empirical rather than theoretical sociology might consider taking Sociology of Industrial Societies (219)).

The aims of the course are to introduce students to the major contemporary theories and central concepts relevant to the study of industrial societies, to show how such theories can be tested against the empirical data, and to give students some knowledge of the relevant comparative literature and thus place the study of contemporary British society within a broader cross-national perspective. One focus of the course is on the study of social stratification, with a particular emphasis on the debates over stratification by social class, gender, ethnicity and national identity. The second focus is on social change, especially with regard to debates over the withering away of social class, the growth of individualism, the process of secularisation, and the changing nature of the contemporary family. By the end of the course students should have gained a good knowledge of the scholarly literature and debates in the fields of stratification and mobility, gender and so on; they will have gained some empirically-based knowledge of the ways in which British society is similar to or different from other contemporary advanced societies; and they should understand how to test theories of industrial society against the empirical evidence.

The course aims to introduce undergraduates to issues and controversies in modern British social history and to the types of evidence and modes of analysis employed by social historians. Candidates have some freedom to select themes for study but they must familiarise themselves with the main features of social change – for example, in demography, class structure, gender, living standards and urban and rural development. They must also acquire a critical knowledge of the recommended documents that have a bearing on their chosen topics. By the end of the course they should be able to give their own account of patterns and processes of social change, making use of primary sources and taking an informed view on controversial questions. This course is administered by the Faculty of History.

This course provides a study one of the very few nations outside the Western world whose politics appears to be stably based on democratic principles and a democratic constitution. It introduces students to Japanese political history since 1945 and the social context of Japanese institutions and policy-making, enabling them to understand the vicissitudes of Japanese experience in the last twenty years: from the 1980s, when Japanese exports were seen as threateningly ultra-competitive in Europe, North America and elsewhere, through the more difficult 1990s and 2000s which have precipitated a concentrated debate on “restructuring” both of the economy and of the political system. The course covers the constitutional framework and structure of government; parliamentary and local politics; the electoral and party systems; the role of corporate interests and pressure groups; the bureaucracy; foreign policy. It aims to provide an understanding of the major debates on the nature of Japanese liberal democracy, and to some of the main interpretive models: “bureaucratic polity”, “developmental state”, “iron-triangle dominance by bureaucrats, business leaders and politicians”, “patterned pluralism” etc. The underlying principle of the course is that Japanese politics is just as capable of being understood empirically as is any other political system, so long as preconceptions are not allowed to get in the way of understanding. No previous knowledge of Japan is required.

The course enables students to develop a critical understanding of welfare states, different approaches to social policy, and definitions and explanations of problems such as poverty, deprivation, and social exclusion. It permits students to draw on different perspectives in their previous study of, for example, public economics or political theory. Students are expected to read widely in the empirical research literature on policy formulation and implementation and to make themselves familiar with current statistics and reports. The course encourages students to engage with both theoretical principles and empirical evidence across a range of issues and policy areas such as: the development and problems of welfare states; voluntary effort and the informal sector; the mixed economy of welfare; citizenship, rights, markets and welfare; the impact of demography on social policy; poverty, inequality, deprivation and social exclusion; urban policy and inner cities; underclass and welfare dependency; income maintenance; family policy; health policy; housing policy and homelessness; education policy; ageing societies. Principles, concepts and institutions are analysed on a cross-national basis. Where specific policy areas are examined, the focus is on contemporary Britain. However, the policies of EU member states and other countries are considered when these have a bearing on British arrangements.

Visiting Student Tori

"It's hard to believe that I am learning and living at one of the best universities in the world. As a visiting student here, I have grown both academically and outside of the classroom."

Tori: Visiting Student studying Politics & Psychology

Read Tori's Student Profile

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