Fall 2019 - POL 210 D100

Introduction to Political Philosophy (3)

Class Number: 7389

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    SSCC 9000, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 12, 2019
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    SSCC 9002, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    POL 100 or 101W or permission of department.



An examination of concepts presented by the major political thinkers of the western world. The course surveys those ideas which remain at the root of our political institutions, practices and ideals against a background of the periods in which they were expressed. Breadth-Humanities/Social Sciences.


In this course, we are concerned with the major concepts that constitute the Western political imaginary. Our journey is historical and begins in Classical Greece with Plato and Aristotle. Here, amidst the vibrant and agonistic democratic culture of Athens, citizens and philosophers formulated and vigorously debated rival conceptions of community, citizenship, freedom, justice, and governance. Next, we engage with Niccolò Machiavelli, a widely misunderstood figure who was less an advocate of immorality and ruthlessness in politics than an ardent defender of Republican liberty with a highly nuanced perspective on political conflict. This leads us to the Modern era and the contentious rise of Liberal political theory on the European continent. Here, we discuss the social contract tradition using the texts of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Mary Wollstonecraft. These thinkers were involved in the radical formulation of new conceptions of the state, democracy, right, equality, and freedom. The final section of the course places emphasis on a series of thinkers that call into question the dominant categories of modern political thought, albeit in very different ways. Through text and film, we explore Karl Marx’s concepts of ideology, class, alienation, resistance, and revolution. The overall project of Marx (along with his friend and co-author, Friedrich Engels) is an immanent critique of capitalism along with the social and political forms it engenders. Friedrich Nietzsche, on the other hand, writes as a political and cultural diagnostician. Nietzsche’s genealogical analysis of morality functions to demonstrate the contingency of existing social and political forms, while calling for a new kind of politics (Groβe Politik) released from the metaphysics of resentment. Finally, Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist writings recast the entire history of political thought from the perspective of women. She demonstrates how universal concepts such as equality, humanity, freedom, and right have been formed through a process of exclusion. As a result, we end the course by deliberating on the history of and necessity for further political practice to actualize the promises made by modern theory.

This course is not simply an exercise in abstract thought. At every stage, we will explore the materiality of concepts; the many ways in which ideas emerge from material conditions as well as the ways in which they have concrete effects upon the world. Students will be urged to think of theory as a toolbox, as something to be used in their daily lives to enhance their capacity for understanding social and political reality, and to open their lives up towards new possibilities.

There will be one two-hour lecture and one one-hour tutorial each week.  Tutorials start in Week Two.


  • Short Essay 15%
  • Mid-Term Test 20%
  • Critical Film Review 15%
  • Tutorial Participation 15%
  • Final Exam 35%



None. All readings will be posted on Canvas.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

The Department of Political Science strictly enforces a policy on plagiarism.
For details, see http://www.sfu.ca/politics/undergraduate/program/related_links.html and click on “Plagiarism and Intellectual Dishonesty” .

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html