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ASPO 12A00 - Introduction to Political Science

Type d'enseignement : Lecture and tutorials

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 60

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

What is politics? How do we define key notions in political analysis such as power, authority, legitimacy or democracy? What are the key political institutions and forms of organizing political authority in contemporary societies? What are the main actors, processes and processes that structure politics? In summary, how do we make sense of the political realm? This course introduces students to the key concepts, theories and approaches in Political Science that will allow them to acquire the essential analytical tools to understand politics and to reflect about it in a sophisticated manner. It will do so by providing students with an introductory overview of the various approaches developed within the three sub-fields in the discipline  political theory, comparative politics, and international relations  and discussing the key organizational principles of power and authority both in historical perspective and for contemporary societies. The course is organized in two different but interconnected parts. The first block (weeks 1-6) focuses on the key concepts and theories that structure our understanding of politics. In this first part we will define what is politics, power, authority and legitimacy; we will examine the concept of political system and how it helps us schematize the various components of the complex organisation of political relations in contemporary societies; we will also delineate the various historical forms of politically organizing society and the emergence and consolidation of Nation-States; we will discuss what is an ideology and what are the main ideological understandings of politics; and, finally, we will examine what is a democracy and in which specific ways it differs from authoritarian and totalitarian rule. The second block (weeks 7-12) moves on to provide the essential analytical tools to understand and analyze contemporary political systems and politics. This second part introduces students to the institutional structure of political systems, their actors and processes, and their outputs. It then moves on to consider the role of global politics and globalization in our current understanding of contemporary politics, as well as the role of the economy. The course finishes with a more detailed discussion of the several theoretical and analytical approaches that have shaped and continue to shape how Political Science examines political life. The 48 hours of lectures and seminars that form the core module of Introduction to Political Science have been designed to offer students and coherent approach in their learning by combining and complementing the lecture material and readings with the readings and practical cases that will be discussed in the seminar.


  • BLOM, Amélie L. (Lecturer)
  • MORALES, Laura (Professeur des Universités)

Pedagogical format

- 12 lectures of 2 hours each taught by Prof Laura Morales on Thursday 15.30 - 17.30. The lectures will provide an overview of the key concepts and scholarly approaches to the topics covered each week. For each lecture, a recommended preparatory reading is indicated. While not essential, this reading will help students better understand the material covered by the lecture and will also help them to consolidate their learning when preparing the exams. The additional optional readings specified for each week have been selected to guide students in their process of going into greater depth about the topics covered each week. These additional optional readings will provide students with a more wide-ranging understanding of the core themes and will help them better prepare for the written assignments that form an integral part of the seminar sessions, as well as for the exams. - 12 seminar sessions of 2 hours each taught by Maxime Audinet, Antoine Bondaz, Barry Colfer and Lola Guyot. Seminars will consist of a first part with two presentations from students (up to 10 minutes each) and a discussion of the specific readings assigned for that seminar session focusing on the development of the understanding of political science scholarship. The second part will focus on the targeted discussion of practical cases that aim at developing students' analytical and argumentative abilities. For some of the seminar sessions, students will need to write a short assignment to support the discussion and for marking by the seminar instructor, and these assignments will form part of the continuous evaluation. The full programme of the seminar sessions is contained in a separate document that will be made available to students in Moodle. A third component of 12 hours of supplementary lectures on International Relations and an application of the general lectures to the Asian region complements the 48 hours of the core module. This additional focused component will be taught by Amélie Blom on designated weeks (see separate course description for this portion of the course). Office hours: Prof Morales will be available to all students of the course to discuss any query relating to the lectures or the course overall during her office hour on Thursday 14.15 - 15.15 in the Faculty Room (on teaching weeks only).

Course validation

To validate the course, the student is expected to pass the following assignments: 1) Continuous assessment: 67% of the mark, which breaks down as follows. - Oral presentations during seminars: one presentation per student throughout the 12 weeks of 10 minutes each maximum, 12% of the mark. - Three short written assignments to deliver at the seminars: 20% of the mark. - Active participation in the seminars: 10% of the mark. - Mid-term exam, 17 March, on the material covered in Weeks 1-4 (same format as Final exam, see below): 25% of the mark. 2) Final exam of up to four hours duration: 33% of the mark, which breaks down as follows, • One long question (choice out of two) to develop reasoned responses and outline arguments (up to a maximum of 6 pages): 16% of the mark • Two short questions to assess understanding of key concepts/theories: 5% of the mark • Reasoned analysis and discussion of a document (up to a maximum of 2 pages) relating to the topics covered in the supplementary 12 hours course taught by Amélie Blom: 12% of the mark. Indicatively, the expected time required to complete each section of the exam is as follows: the long question should not take more than two hours / two hours and a half, the two short questions should not take more than half an hour, and the discussion of the document should not take more than one hour.


At the end of the course, the student is expected to: 1) Master the key concepts and analytical tools that structure the understanding of politics from a political science perspective; 2) Be well acquainted with the multiple theoretical and analytical approaches that shape political science as a discipline; 3) Be able to engage with a set of core readings and references in political science and political sociology; 4) Demostrate an incipient knowledge of and familiarity with the political systems of a range of key countries across the globe; 5) Possess the analytical skills to examine politics in a sophisticated and critical manner, and employing scientific approaches to the understanding of politics; 6) Be able to synthesize arguments and evidence while using a range of sources of data and information; Students will be able to develop these skills and abilities through a multiplicity of learning tools and formats that will include the lecture presentations and discussions, office hours and engagement with the course director, undertaking readings, making oral presentations, engaging in critical debate around the readings, preparing discussions and assignments around practical cases and writing short essays and commentary of documents in the exams.

Required reading

Robert Garner, Peter Ferdinand and Stephanie Lawson, Introduction to Politics (3rd edition), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016

Additional required reading

Rod Hague, Martin Harrop and John McCormick, Comparative Government and Politics (10th edition), Macmillan, 2016

Senior lecturers

  • AUDINET, Maxime (PhD student)
  • BONDAZ, Antoine L. (PhD, Researcher)
  • COLFER, Barry (PhD Student)
  • GUYOT, Lola (PhD Sutdent)