Becoming Enlightened Citizens: Foundations in Politics and Government

The details
Essex Pathways
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Foundation/Year Zero: Level 3
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 02 July 2021
27 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA M903 Criminology (Including Foundation Year),
BA L250 International Relations (Including Foundation Year),
BA P300 Communications and Digital Culture (Including Foundation Year),
BA L202 Politics (Including Foundation Year),
BA L2CH Social Sciences,
BA LFCH Social Sciences,
BA L304 Sociology (Including Foundation Year),
BA LMHX Sociology and Criminology (Including Foundation Year),
BA V359 Curating (Including Foundation Year),
BA V35B Curating (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BSC L313 Sociology with Data Science (including foundation Year),
BA VV21 Philosophy with Business Management (Including Foundation Year),
BA L934 Global Studies with Business Management (Including Foundation Year),
BA R111 International Relations and Language Studies (Including Foundation Year)

Module description

This module is designed to explore the structures and dynamics of politics and government, providing a broad introduction into the ideas and institutions that shape the contemporary political world. It begins by looking at the beginning of Western political thought and how these ideas emerged and evolved to shape how we view the role of government today. The module then provides an introduction to how politics shapes and is shaped by individuals, identities, culture, society, and electoral systems. Next, the module explores the concepts of nationhood, nationalism, and different types of governmental systems, such as democracies and dictatorships. The final section of the module will examine contemporary issues that shape the modern political landscape, such as inequality, climate change, globalization, and crises of democracy.
Throughout the module, the importance of remaining active and informed in politics will be emphasised, helping students to develop a strong sense of political efficacy. Students will gain first-hand experience engaging in politics through a political engagement activity. Students will also gain confidence in their political knowledge by learning the basics of how to read and understand empirical social science, and how to use reason and evidence in their writing, as well as in forming their own political beliefs.
The module does not assume any prior knowledge of any of the topics. It aims to take the students through the material at a pace that allows for a sound and critical understanding of these key topics and to prepare them fully for academic life as an undergraduate in the social sciences and humanities.

Module aims

1. To provide an introduction to the main concepts of politics and government.
2. To encourage students to think critically and carefully about issues such as ideology, the role of the state, citizenship, identities, and democracy.
3. To understand the importance of the relationship between morality and politics.
4. To enable students to become familiar with the academic conventions of university life.
5. To encourage students to be confident in the expression of their thoughts and ideas in seminars and tutorials.
6. To understand the basic principles of empirical social science.
7. To develop skills for working in groups.
8. To encourage students to follow events in contemporary politics and current affairs.
9. To develop a sense of political efficacy and to engage in the political process.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module a student will be expected to be able to:

1. Demonstrate a good knowledge and understanding of the main concepts of politics and government;
2. Critically analyse issues and themes in contemporary politics;
3. Evaluate and distinguish between different propositions and arguments, and between normative and non-normative claims;
4. Select and evaluate primary and secondary sources and reference accurately in their assignments;
5. Engage in thoughtful academic dialogue and debate;
6. Write well-articulated, well-structured, and well-evidenced essays;
7. Understand the basic principles of empirical social science;
8. Engage actively and thoughtfully in political life.

Module information


Note: This syllabus provides an example of the content and organization of the module, but is subject to minor deviations in timing of delivery.
I. Introduction to Political Thought and Ideologies
Introduction to Politics and Early Political Thought
In this introductory week, students will be introduced to basic concepts in politics and early thinkers in political philosophy. We will pay special attention to some of Plato and Aristotle's ideas.
Politics and The State
Here students will be introduced to the concept of the state, the roles of government, and social contract theory. We will wrestle with questions such as: Why do we have government? and How strong should that government be?
How to Read and Understand Social Science
This week will introduce students to the empirical approach to politics and how it contrasts with theoretical approaches. Emphasis on quantitative methods, making connections with Datacy module.
This week's topic will explore the content and history of the socialist ideology, as well as its applications in practice. Students will be introduced to the writings of Karl Marx.
Liberalism has had a profound impact not only on Western society, but the entire globe. This week examines early liberalism as an out spring of the Enlightenment and how it has evolved over time. Students will examine the writings of liberal thinkers such as John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls.
This week will continue our foray into political ideologies by examining conservatism. We will trace the development of conservative thought from Edmund Burke to the many strands of modern conservatism.
Moral Foundations of Politics
For something different, this week takes a brief venture into political psychology. Using Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory, we will re-examine liberalism and conservatism from a psychological perspective. Why are liberals and conservatives so different and can they ever learn to get along?
II. Identity, Society, and Politics
Politics and Identity: Race, Gender, and Social Class
This week we turn to from political ideologies, to contemporary debates about the roles of race, gender, and social class in politics. Does one's social class, gender, or race have impact on their ability to engage equally in political and social life? Have we spent too much time focusing on identity politics?
Politics and Identity: Race, Gender, and Social Class Continued
We will continue our exploration of the politics surrounding race, gender, and social class.
Political Culture and Media
To start off the new term, we will examine concepts such as political socialization and the role of media in politics.
Representation and Political Participation
Many of us take for granted our privilege to live in democratic countries. This week we will contend with the concepts of political representation and political equality. We will also examine different electoral systems and political participation in a comparative context.
III. From Nations to Regimes
Nations and Nationalism
What exactly is a nation anyway? And what is the deal with nationalism? We explore these questions and more this week as we explore the concept of the nation and the varieties of nationalism.

Democracy and Legitimacy
Those of us who grow up in democratic countries often take for granted that democracy is the greatest type of government. But what exactly is democracy? How can we define and measure it? Are democracies more legitimate than other forms of government?
Governments, Systems, and Regimes
This week explores different types of governments, political systems, and regimes. We cover topics such as the different flavors of democracy and comparative differences in regime types across the globe.
IV. Contemporary Issues
Economic inequality is a defining feature of modern developed countries. Is this problematic, or is it a natural and desirable outcome of a healthy capitalist system?
Climate Change
Global climate change is slated to have an immense impact, with potential devastating effects, such as mass displacement and migration, economic crises, and food shortages. How can these challenges be addressed politically?
Globalization and Political Economy
The world is increasingly interconnected and this poses challenges to governments, political leaders, and economies. We will contend with questions such as: What is the proper balance between global order and sovereignty? What is the relationship between states and markets?
Crises of Democracy
This week will focus on potential threats to democracy, including topics such as the decline in civic engagement, material performance of democratic countries, populism, and mass migration. Are we facing crises of democracy as some have claimed, or is their concern exaggerated?

Learning and Teaching Methods
This module is delivered via 2 x 50-minute pre-recorded lectures and 1 x 2-hour seminar, delivered both face-to-face for on-campus students and via online conferencing for off-campus students. Lectures will provide a broad overview of the week's topics, providing students with a foundation in the concepts and theories necessary for a more in-depth analysis. Students are expected to complete post-lecture activities (e.g., quizzes, forum discussions). Seminars are designed to help students delve more deeply into a specific aspect of the week's topic. It is expected that students will have completed the assigned readings and post-lecture activities prior to seminar sessions. During seminars, students will engage in thoughtful discussions about the week's topic and assigned reading(s), as well as work on both solo and group activities and exercises.


Formative assessment
Throughout the year, students will work on in-class and online individual and group exercises and activities during seminar sessions. Some activities are designed to help students grasp and engage with the concepts learned in lecture and the readings, others are aimed at helping students work toward their summative assignments. For the latter activities, students will receive feedback during seminar sessions for how to improve before submitting their summative assignments.

Summative assessment
* Two Online tests (17.5% each) – Tests will assess both breadth and depth of students' knowledge and understanding of the concepts and theories learned during each term. Tests will use a variety of question types, including multiple-choice, concept identification, and short answer.

* Research Question and Proposal (10%) – To help students prepare for their final essay assignment, they will first submit a proposal for their paper, outlining their topic of interest, the research question they want to explore, some brief background about their topic and why it is important, and identify several potential reference sources to use in their final papers. Students are able to choose the topic of their final essay, but it MUST be related to politics in some way.

* Post-lecture quizzes and activities (10%) – Consists of in-class and online exercises and group activities, as well as quality (not simply quantity) of engagement in seminar discussions. Post-lecture activities will help students keep up with the online lectures, they are required to complete post-lecture activities, such as short Moodle quizzes and forum discussions.

* Research Essay (25%) – Students will undertake in-depth and independent research into their chosen topic to answer the research question proposed in the Research Question and Proposal assignment. They will propose a simple research question related to their chosen topic, formulate a clear thesis statement, and engage in a review of the scholarly literature on their topic to try to answer their research question. This can be related to the chosen research question for the Datacy final project.

Reassessment strategy

Failed coursework - Resubmit a piece of coursework (2,000 words) which will be marked as 100% of the new module mark. The reassessment task will enable the relevant learning outcomes to be met.

Learning and teaching methods

The module is delivered via a weekly two-hour lecture and a two-hour seminar. Lectures and seminars are designed to complement each other. Lectures will cover a broad overview of the week's topics, providing students with a foundation in the concepts and theories necessary for a more in-depth analysis. Seminars are designed to help students delve more deeply into a specific aspect of the week's topic. During seminars, students will engage in thoughtful discussions about the week's topic and assigned reading(s), as well as work on both solo and group activities and exercises.


  • Haidt, Jonathan. (2013) The righteous mind: why good people are divided by politics and religion, New York: Vintage Books.
  • Locke, John; Macpherson, C. B. (c1980) Second treatise of government, Indianapolis, Ind: Hackett.
  • Warburton, Nigel. (2014) 'Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan', in Philosophy: the classics, New York: Routledge.
  • Heywood, Andrew. (2017) Political ideologies : an introduction, London: palgrave Macmillan.
  • Heywood, Andrew. (2019) Politics, London: Red Globe Press.
  • Swift, Adam. (2019) Political philosophy: a beginners' guide for students and politicians, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
  • Heywood, Andrew. (©2019) Politics, London: Red Globe Press.
  • Raworth, Kate. (©2017) Doughnut economics: seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist, London: Random House Business Books.
  • Warburton, Nigel. (2014) 'Plato: The Republic', in Philosophy: the classics, New York: Routledge.
  • Wängnerud, Lena. (2009-06) 'Women in Parliaments: Descriptive and Substantive Representation', in Annual Review of Political Science. vol. 12 (1) , pp.51-69
  • (no date) Manifesto of the Communist Party.
  • (no date) Reading and understanding political science.
  • Warburton, Nigel. (2014) 'John Locke, Second Treatise on Government', in Philosophy: the classics, New York: Routledge.
  • (no date) How to read (and understand) a social science journal article.
  • Valentino, Nicholas A.; Neuner, Fabian G.; Vandenbroek, L. Matthew. (2018) 'The changing norms of racial political rhetoric and the end of racial priming', in The Journal of Politics. vol. 80 (3) , pp.757-771
  • Huntington, Samuel P. (1957-06) 'Conservatism as an Ideology', in American Political Science Review. vol. 51 (2) , pp.454-473

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Empirical Social Science Assignment     10% 
Coursework   Research Question and Proposal     10% 
Coursework   500 Word Engagement Activity    10% 
Coursework   Research Essay    25% 
Practical   Participation    10% 
Written Exam  In Class Test 1     17.5% 
Written Exam  In Class Test 2    17.5% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Raynee Gutting, email: raynee.gutting@essex.ac.uk.
Dr Raynee Gutting
Lucy Anthony (lanthony@essex.ac.uk)



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 312 hours, 270 (86.5%) hours available to students:
42 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Essex Pathways

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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