Outlines of Courses taught by Ian Pirie (now retired) at UEL             Return to: Imagining Other Index Page


History of Political Thought  (replaced by Political Philosophy I and II)


Aims: - to give an overview of western political thought... identifying the characteristic outlooks on politics of different historical periods

            - to examine the thought of selected key figures

            - to analyse and compare models of the state, and assumptions about human nature – in particular the conflict between individuality and community, and

            between sentiment and rationality.



Introduction – definitions, overview, political philosophy as part of philosophy, and its relationship with political science. Idea of historical periods, use of models of the state, assumptions about human nature.


Block 1: ‘Organic model – collectivism – community’

(a) The ancient world – classical Greeks, philosophic vision, organic model, city-states, Socrates and the Sophists. Nature and convention.


Plato: ideal state, ideal man. Human nature and social order.

Aristotle: state as association for a purpose. Self-sufficiency. Distribution of wealth and power. Rule of law. Decline of city-states. Epicureans and Cynics.


(b) Middle ages: ‘religious vision’ – Stoics and universal community. Fall of Roman empire.

St Augustine: human nature. Sity of God and Earthly City. Problem of obedience.

‘Natural law’ model – feudalism, Thomas Aquinas’ four kinds of law, Aristotelianism. Faith and reason.


(c) Modern period: ‘social vision’ Rousseau (part 1) and French Enlightenment thinkers.

‘Historicist  model – Hegel: idealism, historicism, nationalism. Dialectic. Civil society and the state.


Socialism and Marxism. Utopians (part a – rationalists). Levellers and Diggers. Paine and Godwin. Saint-Simon and Owen. Anarchism.


‘Class model’ – Marx (and Hegel). Realisation of philosophy. Demystification of religion. Proletariat. Class, economic and political power. Communism.


Currents in socialist thought and practice since Marx.


Block 2. Mechanistic model – the individual, rights, freedom.


(a) early modern period: civic vision. Renaissance, secularism, humanism. Nation state. New economic and social order.


Machiavelli: power, morality, order. Means and ends. Sovereignty.


Reformation: individualism, passive obedience and resistance. Calvin: predestination and self-discipline. Luther: priesthood of all believers, quietiem. Peasant revolts. Anglicans and Divine Right. Counter-Reformation.


Mechanistic model: social contract. Growth of science, rationalism.

Hobbes: individualism and rationalism.

Locke empiricism. Natural rights. Property. Limited government.

Liberalism and capitalism. Adam Smith: economic man, market, hidden hand.


Utilitarian model: Bentham, calculus of happiness, theory of law. J.S. Mill: quality of pleasures, freedom, tyranny of the majority.


Block 3 The limitations of reason. Power of sentiment.


Protests against rationalism, industrialism etc: Blake, utopian socialists (part b), romantic movement, early feminists.


Rousseau (part 2) sentiment, natural man/woman.


Nietzsche, Scopenhauer, Sorel. Fascism. The ‘will’, myth, violence.

Existentialism, Kierkegaard, Sartre, humanism.




1. Political Philosophy I: (First Year Undergraduate):


(i) Introduction: the nature of philosophy and of political philosophy. Political philosophy and political science. Perspectives and models of the state and politics (organic, mechanistic, historical).


(ii) Plato and Aristotle:

Man is a political being, and politics is natural

Plato: justice, aristocracy, ideal state

Aristotle: teleology, happiness, citizenship.


(iii) Augustine and Aquinas:

Augustine : Obedience to God, or to secular rulers? Sinfulness of man and need for controls/punishment.

Aquinas: Natural law accessible to reason.  


(iv) Thomas More:

Utopian writing, and its purpose (criticism of times?  Ideal state?  An academic exercise?). Against utopianism. Conditions in Utopia: desirable or not?

Planned societies: desirable?


(v) Reformation (Luther and Calvin):

Freedom of conscience, individualism and liberalism. Unexpected consequences of reformation (in both religion and politics): the right to resist.


(vi) Machiavelli:

The order of the state as the highest good. Rulers’ rights to go beyond morality. Ends and means.

“Virtu” and “fortuna” – the psychology of politics, political culture.


(vii) Hobbes and Locke:

Classical liberalism: individual rights and freedoms. Social contract.

Hobbes: the war of all against all – security, and power of the state.

Locke: property rights. Tolerance. Rights to replace rulers.


(viii) Rousseau:

Sovereignty of the people based on the general will. Democracy.

Rousseau's critique of existing society ("man is born free, but is everywhere in chains").

"Forced to be free" – Rousseau as liberal or totalitarian?

Romanticism - feelings/sentiment against reason?


(ix) Tom Paine:

Common sense. Rights of man. Society distinct from government

Minimal government. The state and welfare


(ix) Edmund Burke:

Revolution and tradition. Political representation.


2. Political Philosophy II (Second year Undergraduate):


(i) Hegel:

The dialectic as method of knowing about the world. Philosophical idealism - the Absolute Idea.

The dialectic used to explain: (a) historical progress  (b) the social and political order – the state, civil society, family.

Self and Other.


(ii) Marx:

A materialist dialectic.

Use of dialectic to explain: (a) history  (b) class structure  (c) capitalism.

Economics as basis of society and the state. Future of capitalism. Communism, socialism, revolution

Marxism since Marx


(iii) Gramsci:

Rejection of “base/superstructure” model of capitalism. Culture and hegemony

Intellectuals. The Party and the masses.


(iv) Bernstein and Crosland:

Revisionism – where Marx was wrong or incomplete. Social Democracy and its Descendents. Capitalism in the mid - 20th century


(v) Kropotkin:

Anarchism – social co-operation without the state. Origins of the law and the state.

Mutual Aid: evidence against social Darwinism in: (a) animals  (b) human history  (c) society today


(vi) Karl Popper:

Philosophy of science – falsifiability. Piecemeal social engineering. The Open Society.


(vii) Michael Oakeshott:

The nature and purpose of philosophy – the problem with rationalism. Conservatism – as a “disposition”. The conversation(s) of mankind.


(viii) John Rawls:

The hypothetical first position (a new social contract theory?). Justice as fairness.

Two principles of justice. Rawls and the modern state.


(ix) Nozick:

The “minimal” state

Property rights – entitlement

The problems of end-state approaches

The state and social welfare


(x) Simone de Beauvoir:

First wave feminism, and Feminism since de Beauvoir

The female body – becoming a woman

Existentialism and “the other”. 




1. Give a brief account of Hegel’s use of the dialectic in explaining

(a) historical progress and (b) the social and political order. How convincing do you find this explanation?


2. Give arguments for and against the view that Marx was completely wrong in his predictions about the future of capitalism.


3. Why did Gramsci reject the “base/superstructure” model of capitalism?  With what did he try to replace it?


4. How much, if any, of the thinking of Bernstein and Crosland might be useful to the Labour Party in Britain today?


5. Are Kropotkin’s ideas of mutual aid at all applicable in the modern world?


6. How did Popper make a connection between his thinking on science and his views on politics?


7. What was Oakeshott’s view of the nature and purpose of philosophy, especially in relation to politics?


8.  What are Rawls’s “two principles”? How does he arrive at them?


9. Discuss what Nozick meant by the “minimal” state, with particular reference to how he believed the state should act in regard to (a) property and (b) social welfare.


10. What did de Beauvoir mean by her statement that for men, women are "the other"?]


3. Introduction to Government (First year Undergraduate):

(teaching shared [7/10] with another lecturer)


(i) Methods in political science:

Empirical/descriptive accounts

Explanations and ideological views

Normative approaches (political philosophy)


(ii) Ideologies:

Religion, philosophy and ideology

Right and left, authoritarian and libertarian

The “end of ideology”?


(iii) Economy and politics:

The state and the economy

Marxist theory of property, class and power

Models of capitalism, socialism etc


(iv) Supra-national politics:

Theories of international relations: realism and idealism

The UN

War and peace, threats to international order



(v) Leadership, bureaucracy:

Prime ministers and Presidents

Theories of legitimacy and authority: charisma, tradition, legal/rational

Problems of bureaucracy – public and private bureaucracy, management


(vi) Citizenship, participation:

A “democratic deficit”?

Citizenship and rights – civil, social/economic and political aspects

Democracy: representative, paternalistic, participative, direct


(vii) Power in Britain:

Who rules Britain? Monarchy, Government

Theories of power: pluralist, elitist, class

Corporate power

4. The Radical Twentieth Century (Second Year Undergraduate): (teaching shared [8/10] with other lecturers):


Notes from this course are being written under: Power and Protest (Social Movements)


(i) Overview of 20th c. and definition of terms:

Radical ideologies, and the “end of ideology” debate.

What is "radicalism"?  

Protest, opposition and new social movements: theoretical perspectives (social movement theory and “new social movements”).


(ii) The labour movement: radical and revolutionary left in theory and practice, with particular reference to the Soviet Union


(iii) Anti-colonial movements: India and Gandhi


(iv) Race and the Civil Rights Movement in USA


(v) Ecology:  politics of the environment; the “greens”, Greenpeace, FoE.


(vi) The “sixties”: youth movements, beats and hippies: critique of consensus politics and consumerism; civil rights.


(vii) Anti-war movements and anti-nuclear movements.


(viii) Globalisation and its opponents.

5. Capitalism, Bureaucracy, Democracy (Third – Final – Year Undergraduate):


(i). Introduction:

The connections between political theory, economics and the social sciences. 

Political and Social Models: pluralist/individualist, managerial and class

Levels of analysis (state/system, organisation/structure, individual/situation)

Functional vs. political approaches


(ii) Introduction continued: Economic models and approaches. 

The creation/origin of value


Block (a): Democracy - the pluralist/individualist perspective.


(iii) Origins of pluralist/individualist model:

Adam Smith, his ethics and his economics – “sympathy”, the impartial observer and the market system


(iv) Modernised liberalism:

Hayek, Friedman – origins of society and of the market

Dangers of state direction 


(v) Conservatism, Thatcherism, New Right:

Tensions between free market ideas and conservatism

State, society and the individual

Achievements and failures of Thatcherism


Block (b): Bureaucracy - the managerial perspective.


(vi) Managerialism, industrial society. 

Economic and managerial/technocratic theories (cost-of-production school)

Veblen, Burnham, Galbraith. Keynes.


(vii) Elites and bureaucrats/bureaucracy:

Weber and rationalisation. 

Defending Bureaucracy?


(viii) Elites and bureaucrats/bureaucracy:

Schumpeter: Two Theories of Democracy, rise of the engineers/technocrats


Block (c): Capitalism - the class perspective.


(ix) Socialism and Marxism.

The debate between functional/structuralist and humanist/political approaches:

Structural Marxism, Althusser


(x) Marxist “cultural and political theories”:

E.P. Thompson: humanist Marxism, history and “experience” 

Critique of bureaucracy (New Left)



(xi) C. Castoriadis: socialism, bureaucracy and autonomy.

Institutions and instituting society.

The individual psyche and the radical social imaginary.


(xii) Conclusion, revision of main themes:

philosophy, ideas, interests and ideology

the economy, society and politics: models

individualism, pluralism, socialism and collectivism

the market, morality, and planning

equality and freedom

conservatism and the new right

democracy and elitism

rationality, managerialism and bureaucracy

class, social structure and autonomy

economic determinism and class consciousness

social institutions/instituting society

the construction of the individual psyche, and its relation to social organisation



6. Social Responsibilities of Business (Second Year Undergraduate, and Second Year HND):


Lecture notes for this course can be found at:  CSR in Context: Contents Page

Lectures fall into two blocks:

(a) the theoretical context - key terms, viewpoints and models, historical background (first three lectures)

(b) an examination of the impact of business on a number of areas (themes) 




(i)  Definitions of key terms; perspectives; models of business and society         


(ii)  Historical context (a): "Ethical business" in theory and in practice, in recent decades. Constraints on business; social audits


(iii) Historical context (b): the emergence and development of management theories on business and society: alternative explanations and interpretations


(iv) The worker:

Motivation, alienation and participation

Management styles and philosophies


(v) The consumer:

Consumerism (the consumer movement) and the consumer society

Consumer sovereignty

Pressures of marketing.


(vi) The natural environment:

Ecology and the limits to growth

Pollution and environmental damage (ozone layer, greenhouse effect etc)

Ways of protecting the environment


(vii) The “third world”:

Poverty gap


Cultural imperialism

Role of Trans National Companies


(viii) Wealth and power, poverty and powerlessness:

The government/business relationship

Strategies for improvement and regulation


(ix) Empowerment and disempowerment:

Theories of democracy and participation at work

From Taylorism to TQM



7. Business Ethics (Second Year Undergraduate): See also: Business Ethics Paper (the Social Politics of)


(i) Nature of ethics:

Subjectivism vs. ethics

Ethics and: etiquette, law, codes, religion

Characteristics of moral standards

Ethical conflicts

History of business ethics

Role of government.


(ii) Moral Reasoning:


Consequentialism (a) for myself (b) for others

Professional values

The good life


(iii) Moral Reasoning, continued:

Deontology: will; conscience




(iv) Cases and issues: harm to the consumer

Pharmaceuticals and: Thalidomide


(v) Cases and issues: “breaking the rules”: fraud and regulation  


City of London

Savings and Loan



(vi) Cases and issues: abuse of power




(vii) Cases and Issues: the work situation

Managers and employee rights

Work: General Electric, Texaco  (openness re documentation; affirmative action)


(viii) Cases and issues: whistle-blowing: La Roche et al


(ix) Cases and issues: Environmental damage: Exxon Valdez et al


(x) Whose responsibility?  

Government, or Regulators? (Enron, ITT revisited)

The firm? (Pinto revisited)


Voluntary vs. Legal controls


(xi) Future challenges

Examples of ethical practice?



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