CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN POLITICS - 2020/1

Module code: POL0001

Module Overview

The module will provide students with an introduction to some of the core issues and problem areas in contemporary politics. It will look at domestic and international issues, and will utilize empirical research on public policy, as well as providing a gentle introduction to the utility of a number of core political theory perspectives. This will facilitate both the broader learning requirements of the foundation year in social science and establish a contextual understanding of public policy problem areas relevant to Law, Sociology and Politics undergraduate courses at Surrey.

Module provider

Politics

Module Leader

GILLESPIE Ciaran (Politics)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 3

JACs code:

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

None

Module content

1. Introduction: What are the main issues in politics today and subfields of political study can we engage to explore them? Is it Brexit (European Studies, Populism)? Is it Trump (American Foreign Policy, International Relations)? Racism or the #MeToo movement (Gender, Identity) Is it international action on climate change (International Organisations, International Political Economy)? This session will provide students with a framework for thinking about politics in terms of the disciplines that compose research into key areas related to their everyday lives.

2. Key thinkers of politics: Where do the big ideas in politics and theory come from, where do your own politics line up in relation to them? Perhaps you are Burkean conservative, or share Wollstonecraft’s rejection of any ‘divine right of husbands?’ Maybe Marx has a certain appeal in a post-crisis world, or would you stay true to the tried and trusted explanations of Adam Smith.

3. The state: Carrying on from week 2, where do specific theory frameworks for the state arise in the history of philosophy and political thought? What is the social contract? What does the State owe us, and what do we owe it? What do mean by questions of freedom and sovereignty in relation to society?

4. Democracy: Having determined what the state is, we can consider how it is governed. Democracy, a form of governance by popular consent, has established itself in the majority of countries. But how does it work? What variations exist? What challenges does it face? Is it as Churchill described, “the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried”?

5. Institutions: For the most part, democracy does not produce direct governance. Instead, while electorates make decisions about who is to govern, the process of governing occurs through institutions, both domestically and internationally. They can exist on macro scales to oversee world trade, or at the small scale to decide how your recycling is processed. And they are not limited to functions of governance, but can exist as communities, practices and even ideas. What are some of the key institutions in politics? How do they function?

6. Ideologies: Linking political theories with ideas about how society, government or institutions should function are ideologies. We all have ideas that we subscribe to about how things should work, what are they? Where do they come from? What are the dominant ideologies of today, and how have they evolved historically to get here?

7. Identity: Not all politics can be explained merely with reference to ideology. Who we are can have a mutually constitutive relationship with what we believe and vice versa. It can shape our experience of everyday politics, and can leave people from different backgrounds with deeply contrasting experiences of similar societies. The Brexit result, Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement have all demonstrated that questions of identity are central to contemporary politics. How do we understand identity’s relationship to political processes? How do you think your identity shapes your world view?

8. Britain and Europe: The question that has dominated the last several years of political discourse, and arguably several decades of British economic and foreign policy. How does Britain understand its relationship to Europe? How has the relationship evolved historically and what are the potentialities for a new, post-Brexit reality?

9. International organisation: Building on our understanding of institutions, can the anarchy of the international system be mitigated through a global governance? How do organisations such as the UN, WTO, EU facilitate international cooperation?

10. Globalisation: The rise of populist nationalist political actors in the aftermath of the financial crisis has generated questions about the ‘death of globalisation’? But what does globalisation mean? How did it arise and in what areas can we see it reflected? Is it really in danger?

11. Conclusion: Drawing together these core concepts, we can produce an outline for some of the key areas that will be explored in more depth throughout the undergraduate degree and ask students to reflect on which of these they think will be most important for events in the coming years.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Oral exam or presentation Presentation 50
Examination Exam (2 hours) 50

Alternative Assessment

N/A

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

Students will be tested on two main skills; learning and communication. Throughout the teaching semester, students will be exposed to a broad variety of new concepts and literature, from which the module will develop their ability to understood and analytically consider key issues in politics.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

• 1x 2 hour exam with 10 questions covering the breadth of the module content from which students will be asked to answer 2 questions in short form essay format.

• 1x Individual presentation on an assigned subject area.

These will be allocated at the start of the semester, randomly, with each student receiving an allocated week (with it’s accompanying subject matter to present on). These two pieces will act in conjunction providing students opportunities to demonstrate written and oral skills, as well as allocated and self-chosen areas of study.

Formative assessment

Students will be given questions for group work each week to consider within the seminar. These will be subject specific by week. Students will be asked to submit a 500 word summary to accompany their presentation that will give an opportunity for feedback on written work before the exam.

Feedback

Students will be given detailed feedback weekly in response to participation in group discussions, debates and through formative and summative assessments.

Module aims

  • Provide an overview of the core characteristics of contemporary political issues
  • Introduce distinctions between and demonstrate interactivity between empirical and conceptual frameworks for understanding those issues
  • Introduce key domestic and international political institutions
  • Introduce students to key research and concepts on domestic and international politics
  • Situate problem areas such as Brexit, Populism, Climate Change, Terrorism and Global Health in the context of that key literature.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key political and international relations concepts and theories K
002 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key domestic and international political institutions K
003 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key political moments and movements in contemporary history K
004 Apply introductory research techniques to independently gather relevant scholarship KT
005 Apply theory knowledge in contemporary areas of debate CP
006 Apply practical communication skills in discussion of public policy issues PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 128

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:


  • Introduce students to core concepts in political research and theory

  • Introduce students to subject specific practical research methods

  • Develop communication skills and confidence in public speaking on politics related issues

  • Develop core skills in political academic writing

  • Establish a platform for development of these skills in undergraduate social science courses


Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Reading list for CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN POLITICS : http://aspire.surrey.ac.uk/modules/pol0001

Other information

None

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Criminology with Foundation Year BSc (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Criminology and Sociology with Foundation Year BSc (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Law with Foundation Year LLB (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Law with Criminology with Foundation Year LLB (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Law with International Relations with Foundation Year LLB (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Media and Communication with Foundation Year BSc (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Politics with Foundation Year BSc (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Politics and Sociology with Foundation Year BSc (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Sociology with Foundation Year BSc (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2020/1 academic year.