Contemporary Political and Social Theory

Subject POLS40001 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 27-Jul-2015 to 25-Oct-2015
Assessment Period End 20-Nov-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 07-Aug-2015
Census Date 31-Aug-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 25-Sep-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 2-hour seminar per week.
Total Time Commitment:

Total of 140 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Politics and International Studies at Undergraduate level

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Dr Clayton Chin


Dr Clayton Chin


Subject Overview:

This subject examines contemporary debates in political and social theory with a particular focus on developments within and challenges to liberal democracy. Initially the difficulties of liberalism will be analysed in the light of theories of postmodernism, new materialism, and communism. From this basis recent challenges to democratic renewal are discussed including those concerned with walled states, climate change, and civil society. Alternative theories of political renewal in complex, pluralistic societies will then be examined focusing in particular on the way that they understand violence, disagreement and incivility. The subject concludes by evaluating recent radical democratic theories which are concerned with establishing a new ethical framework through which we can rethink political disagreement.

Learning Outcomes:
  • understand the major challenges to liberal democracy in contemporary political theory.
  • be able to explain the implications for political theory of recent social and cultural phenomena such as postmodernism and globalization.
  • grasp theories of democratic renewal such as those associated with new materialism and agonistic politics.
  • understand the relationship between civility and incivility and their implications for understanding democracy.
  • comprehend the growth of pluralistic interpretations of complex societies in relation to political conflict and disagreement.
  • be able to explain the reasons behind the emergence of radical theories of democracy and their implications for political ethics.

An essay of 5000 words (100%) due during the examination period.

Hurdle Requirement: Students are required to attend a minimum of 75% of classes in order to qualify to have their written work assessed. Regular participation in class is required.

Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per working day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of this subject students should:

  • possess the ability to explain and analyse complex ideas in a lucid fashion;
  • be capable or organising their work into a coherent structured argument;
  • be able to identify and access relevant research to the topic;
  • display evidence of an analytical approach to theoretical debates;
  • be able to explain the implications of theories for practical politics;
  • demonstrate a thorough and critical understanding of the literature relevant to the topic.
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Anthropology
Hebrew and Jewish Studies
Hebrew and Jewish Studies
Politics and International Studies
Politics and International Studies
Politics and International Studies
Politics and International Studies
Politics and International Studies
Politics and International Studies
Politics and International Studies

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