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MSc Political Theory

Course Description

About the MSc programme

Political theory has been central to research and teaching at LSE since its founding in 1895. The Chair of Political Science in the Department of Government has been held by a succession of internationally recognised political theorists: Graham Wallas, Harold Laski, Michael Oakeshott, Maurice Cranston and Brian Barry. Currently, there are eight political theorists in the Department of Government, which is one of the largest concentrations of specialists in the world.

Political theorists in the Department work in areas such as multiculturalism, the history of political thought, including Kant and Marx, feminism, social choice theory and democracy, contemporary theories of justice, and non-Western traditions of political thinking. Members of the Political Theory Group in the Department also collaborate with colleagues from cognate disciplines in the School, including Law and Philosophy.

Political theory is the study of the good society. Public debate is dominated by controversies such as what justice requires of citizens and the state; what the most important rights and liberties are and how they can be protected; and whether political decisions should be made by majorities. Political theory provides a scholarly examination of these questions, informed by moral philosophy, legal theory, historical study, political science, and rational and social choice theory.

Applications are considered from all candidates with an upper second class honours degree in any discipline, with a strong interest in the areas of political theory taught on the MSc.

Programme details

All students study the compulsory half-unit course Foundations of Political Theory and write a 10,000 word dissertation. In addition, students choose the equivalent of two and a half unit courses from the course options. Students are also able to study suitable courses from other programmes in the Department and School, with the approval of the MSc course convenor.

Each student is assigned a personal tutor who is a member of the Political Theory Group. The personal tutor provides support for personal and academic well-being during the programme.

Students write a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic agreed with their supervisor. Previous dissertation titles include: 'Rawls on global distributive justice', 'Relativism, political liberalism, and impartiality', 'On the nature and boundaries of right in Kant's political theory: an argument in favour of a right to revolution', 'Liberal toleration and dissent: minority rights as a political challenge to democratic constitutional state', 'What obligation, if any, do governments have to preserve cultural heritage?', 'Is the debate between feminism and multiculturalism problematic in terms of women's autonomy?', 'Methods in the history of political thought: a critique of different approaches to Thomas Hobbes.'

Each half unit course is taught through ten weekly two-hour seminars. These take place in the first and second terms with two weeks of revision scheduled for the third term. Methods of assessment differ from course to course, and may include unseen written exams in the summer term and/or assessed essays. In addition you will meet with your supervisor and work on your dissertation.

If you are studying full-time you should arrange your study so that you are not taking more than three courses (in addition to the Foundations of Political Theory course) in either of the first two terms. If you are studying part-time your programme will span two years. You must take the Foundations of Political Theory course in the first year along with up to three other half units (or equivalent, ie, one full unit and one half-unit course); the remaining courses and the dissertation are completed during the second year.

Compulsory courses

(* half unit)

Foundations of Political Theory* provides a systematic introduction to the philosophical and methodological foundations of political theory.
Students will be expected to choose courses to the value of two and a half units (one for the research track) from a range of options.

Please note that not every course is available each year and that some courses may only be available with the permission of the course convenor and/or may be subject to space.

Graduate destinations

This programme is a good preparation for further research work or for a career in education, public administration or the private sector.

Visit the MSc Political Theory page on the London School of Economics and Political Science website for more details!

Entry Requirements

2:1 or equivalent in any discipline with a considered interest in the relevant area. English standard level.

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