Department of Political Science


Meanings of Liberty: Applied Methods in Political Theory

Course Code


Course Tutor

Dr John Wilesmith (Department of Political Science)


Two 3,000 word essays (40/60%)

Credit Value


About this course

What kinds of questions should we ask in political theory? How should we address these questions? Are some approaches more plausible or insightful than others? To what extent should political theory be ‘realistic’? 

This module will explore these and other questions through the application of a variety methodological approaches to the most pivotal concept in political theory – liberty. In doing so, we consider questions such as, what is liberty? Why is liberty important? What constraints should be placed on liberty? 

Who lacks liberty and why do they lack liberty? The module will introduce students to various conceptual, normative, legal, historical, and critical methodologies in political theory, including: consequentialism, thought experiments, reflective equilibrium, legal positivism, Marxism, feminism and many others. 

We will critically assess these methodologies through the close study of influential works on liberty, such as from J. S. Mill, Isaiah Berlin, John Rawls, and Karl Marx.

This is a core module for students registered on the MA Legal and Political Theory programme and is not available as an optional module.