Department of Political Science


Republicanism and Liberalism

Course Code


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One 3,000 word essay

Credit Value

15 credits

About this course

This is an advanced module in political theory, examining two of the richest and most influential traditions in contemporary and historical political theory – republicanism and liberalism. It does so through a critical combination of two key approaches to the discipline: the history of political thought and normative political philosophy.

It aims critically to assess the attempt by a number of contemporary political theorists and historians of political thought (such as Philip Pettit, J. G. A. Pocock, Michael Sandel, and Quentin Skinner), to retrieve the 'lost language' of republicanism – a language seemingly eclipsed by the triumph of liberal political thought from the eighteenth century onwards. Republican doctrine is articulated around certain central concepts – citizenship, virtue, equality, independence, mixed government, suspicion of commerce, and freedom from domination. Once the exclusive ideology of the male, property-owning citizen of independent city-states in the Renaissance, in modernity the republican ideal of 'non-domination' came to provide an egalitarian, socially progressive, patriotic, and democratic alternative to the liberalism of 'non-interference' championed by Hobbes, Bentham, Constant, and Berlin. Ever since, republicans have been engaged in a critical dialogue with liberalism, in ways that often parallel, but remain distinct from, socialist, feminist, and anarchist critiques.

The module examines both historical figures (like Aristotle, Cicero, Machiavelli, Harrington, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Madison, Paine, and Tocqueville) and contemporary debates (about freedom, citizenship, democracy and capitalism), to investigate how earlier traditions of thought may be brought to bear on contemporary philosophical debate.

*Please note that this module will not be running in 2018/19