Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Module Cap
Tied to L2K207


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The module, as a core module in the Politics MA Programme, aims to provide part of the intellectual framework needed as a basis for studies in the government, politics and political culture that re offered as options elsewhere in the Programme. In particular, it aims to investigate a set of research areas, and their associated concepts, in the study of the general political process; to consider the theoretical and methodological issues raised by the use of these concepts; and to consider in more general terms the methodological issues arising out of the comparison in political science.


  • A series of 8 2-hour seminars on the following topics (indicative list)
  • 1. The state in Comparative Politics (1):
  • Definitions; comparative 'state traditions'; description and evaluation of the state; historicism; system theory
  • 2. The state in Comparative Politics (2):
  • Behaviorism and 'new institutionalism'
  • 3. Marxist Theories of the State:
  • The state as a class instrument; the 'relative autonomy of the state
  • 4. Government and 'Governance':
  • Privatization and outsourcing; the state and international institutions; the example of the EU and the 'postmodern state'
  • 5. Democracy and Democratization:
  • Modernization theory; democratic transitions and 'transitology'
  • 6. Political Culture and Participation (1):
  • Social capital
  • 7. Political Culture and Participation (2):
  • Post-materialism
  • 8. The comparative Method:
  • Quantitative vs qualitative comparison; impediments to comparison

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge and understanding of:
  • the analysing of political processes at both institutional and social/contextual levels
  • debates surrounding the meaning and use of these concepts
  • the issues and problems arising out of the attempt to generalise about political processes across contexts
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will acquire:
  • the ability to use and criticize the conceptual apparatus of empirical political analysis
  • sensitivity to problems of generalization in the study of politics across different political contexts
Key Skills:
  • Independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level
  • Independent thought in analysing and criticizing existing scholarship in comparative politics
  • The ability to work to a deadline and complete written work within word limits
  • Advanced essay-writing skills
  • The ability to seek out and use relevant data sources, including electronic and bibliographic sources

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module is taught by means of a series of 2-hour seminars in which students (either singly or in pairs) make presentations to the class, accompanied by briefing notes, followed by class discussion guided by the teacher. Formative feedback is given on class presentations using a proforma. Summative assessment is via a terminal essay of 3000 words, on a subject on which the student has already given a presentation.
  • Formative Presentations demand independent reading and research, contributing to independent learning, and require the structuring of the results in a digestible format, developing presentational skills.
  • Class discussion calls for background reading on the part of non-presenters, contributing to their independent learning, enables critical assessment of presentations by other participants, developing their critical skills, and allows gaps and errors to be identified and rectified to the advantage of the presenter.
  • Summative essays test the acquisition of knowledge and the ability to apply in critical argument in relation to a specific question.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 weekly 2 hours 18
Preparation & Reading 132
Total: 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays - when module taught in Michaelmas Term Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
essay 1 - submitted 3 weeks before the end of Michaelmas Term 2,500 words 50%
essay 2 - submitted at the beginning of Epiphany Term 2,500 words 50%
Component: Essay - when module taught in Epiphany Term Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
essay - submitted at the end of the second week of Easter Term 5,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Class Presentations accompanied by briefing notes; formative feedback via proforma.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University