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Introduction to Western Political Thought

Explore Western political theory to discover the foundations of the modern world with this free online politics course.

Publisher: NPTEL
This free online course introduces you to some of the principles that underpin Western political doctrine, including sovereignty, citizenship, constitution and democracy. We take you through the evolution of the political ideas we encounter today. We cover the pioneers of political thought, dubbed the ‘Classics’, along with the various approaches and methods adopted since their day as ideas continue to evolve in the turbulent world of politics.
Introduction to Western Political Thought
  • Duration

    1.5-3 Hours
  • Students

  • Accreditation


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Society requires rules and regulations to function, which raises questions about order, the State, government and justice. This course probes contemporary questions surrounding sovereignty, citizenship, constitution, democracy and more. These questions have a rich history and continue to evolve and this course looks into the past to explain the present. Are you fascinated by politics and the philosophies that affect people’s daily lives? Because of Europe’s history of colonial dominance, most of the ideas and concepts central to modern political discourse are firmly rooted in Western political thought. This course links the theories and philosophies of the past to hot-button issues and conflicts playing out on streets and televisions near you.

This course demonstrates the importance of studying political theory as we delve into texts known as ‘the Classics’, which embody the knowledge and perspective of gifted thinkers from the past. For some scholars, a text is ‘classic’ if it goes against the grain of prevailing contemporary thought and accurately predicts the future. In this field, such a text endures past its day and deals with eternal questions, like those pertaining to just rule or ideal government. We introduce you to the questions raised by Plato’s ‘Republic’ and the works of Aristotle. 

We employ three methods when studying texts: textual, interpretative and contextual. The textual method gives autonomy to the text and focuses exclusively thereon. This leads to close study of ‘Republic’ but this approach has some limits that are addressed by the contextual method, which places such text within a framework of historical methods and approaches. We employ the interpretative mode, which considers the role of our own subjectivity when interpreting a text and links ancient texts to modern issues. This course can help anyone who wants to understand why today’s world works the way it does. We trace the roots of today’s ideas about power to their source and explain the role of theorists in informing the conflicts you encounter in the news or even in your daily life.

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