Approaches to Political Studies

As taught Autumn Semester 2010
Dr Mark Wenman, School of Politics and International Relations

The module introduces students to alternative theoretical approaches to the study of political phenomena. We consider the different forms of analysing, explaining, and understanding politics associated with approaches such as behaviouralism, rational choice theory, institutionalism, Marxism, feminism, interpretive theory and post-modernism.

The module shows that the different approaches are based upon contrasting ‘ontological’ suppositions about the nature of politics, and they invoke alternative ‘epistemological’ assumptions about how we acquire valid knowledge of politics and international relations. We examine questions such as: what constitutes valid knowledge in political science and international relations? Should political science methodology be the same as the methods employed in the natural sciences? Can we give causal explanations of social and political phenomena? Can we ever be objective in our analysis? What is the relationship between knowledge and power?

An understanding of the different approaches will be invaluable to students as they pursue their studies at levels 2 and 3, and will provide the opportunity for students to adopt an approach that corresponds to their own questions, research topics, interests, and their own ontological and epistemological assumptions.

Module Code: M12037
Year: 2010/11 
Suitable for study at: undergraduate level 2
Credits: 20

Method and frequency of class: One 1-hour lecture and one 1-hour tutorial class per week

Target Students: Undergraduate students from the Politics Department. There is a limited number of places on this module. Students are reminded that enrolments which are not agreed by the Offering School in advance may be cancelled without notice. Available to JYA/Erasmus students.

Prerequisites: None

Corequisites: None

Offering School: Politics and International Relations