Department of Political Science


POLS0032 Authority, Democracy and Resistance

Course Code: POLS0032

Course Tutor: Dr John Wilesmith (Department of Political Science)

Length: One term (Spring term)

Teaching: 20 contact hours (10 hours lectures, 10 hours seminars)

Assessment: 2000 word essay (40%), 2000 word essay (60%)

Credits: 15 credits, 4 (US), 7.5 (ECTS) 

Module Level: L5 (Intermediate)

Authority; Political obligation; Democracy; Civil Disobedience; Political violence

About this course

This is a module in normative political theory, defined as the study of the norms and principles that should guide political societies.  The module will cover three core areas in contemporary political theory, which have received growing or renewed attention in recent years.

I. Political Authority: do states have the right to demand obedience of their citizens? Do citizens have a duty to obey the law? What is the best answer to the ‘anarchist challenge’? What are the relative merits and weaknesses of various accounts of political obligations? 

II. Democracy: Is democracy the only legitimate form of political authority? What are the intrinsic and instrumental values of democratic rule? Should there be limits to the will of the majority in democracies? Do democratic citizens have special duties, such as the duty to vote? 

III. Resistance: what are the limits of obedience in just and unjust societies? Do citizens have a right to civil disobedience, and what is the proper legal response to this form of protest? Do citizens have the duty to engage in resistance to injustice? Under what circumstances might they resort to violent protest?