Saint-Louis University - Bruxelles

HDPO1211 - Political science: Founding texts

Credits : 10

Lecturers :
Mode of delivery :
Face-to-face , first and second term, 45 hours of theory.

Timetable :
First term
Tuesday from 17:00 to 18:30 at 119 Marais 2300
Tuesday from 17:00 to 18:30 at 119 Marais 2300
Tuesday from 17:00 to 18:30 at 119 Marais 2300
Second term
Tuesday from 17:00 to 18:30 at 119 Marais 3300

Language of instruction :

Learning outcomes :
This course aims to introduce the students to some of the most important theories relating to the analysis of political phenomena produced before the advent of political science in the 20th century. Particular emphasis is placed on the relations that these theories share with the historical and intellectual context which gave rise to them and with the specific paradigms and concepts that they embody.

At the end of the seminar, the student should have appropriate the thoughts of the authors of the texts read, building from this theoretical stock an analysing framework that can be applied to a contemporary political issue in order to assess the heuristic potential that these theories still offer today.

In terms of transversal skills, should be acquired by the end of the seminar: a) the capacity of comprehensive reading of original scientific papers, b) the capacity of synthetic restitution and critique of these readings both in written form (reading notes) and oral form, c) the written communication skills of personal scientific analysis, respectful of fundamental formal rules (outline, bibliographical references, quotes...). The seminar is also used to support the development of oral communication skills of a personal scientific analysis, notably the production of written supports (diagrams, computer-assisted presentation...) and the well-argued - but not stubborn - defence of this analysis faced with the expression of critical remarks.

Prerequisites :
Co-requisites :

Course contents :
The course is built around a both historical and epistemological common theme.

The historical background is fundamental: each time, we will try to highlight the originality of the political theories or institutions mentioned in these theories invented throughout history to globally respond to new political questions: the invention of democracy in the experience of the Greek city, the separation of political and religious dimensions in the theologico-political problem, the rational reworking of political theories at the end of the Middle Ages, the emergence of liberal theories and their “social” challenging.

From an epistemological point of view, the aim is to define the essential paradigms and concepts that are used in a given period, by a given author, to understand the political order or its fundamental aspects, also trying to distinguish what is of a descriptive or normative / prescriptive epistemological register. Then we will study the evolution of these paradigms and concepts in later texts, produced in different historical contexts, and this until their current uses.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods :
The first two thirds of the course are devoted to the reading of texts that form the primary substrate of the course. In this context, each student will have to prepare - alone or with a colleague - the presentation of a "founding text". He will have to write a book report beforehand that should be posted on the course website at the latest at 9.00am the day before the presentation of the text in class.
After each presentation of a text by students, teachers will intervene in order to:
a) ensure the correct restitution of the meaning of the texts,
b) ensure that their understanding is integrated in a process of accumulation of knowledge,
c) start a critical reflection on the texts
d) link the paradigms and concepts that structure the text with the analysis frameworks of current political science.

During the last third of the course, the students are invited to undertake a written work, alone or in groups of 2, as they choose, on a contemporary political issue, and using mainly the intellectual resources contained in the texts, which have been the subject of a preliminary analysis in class. To help the students in the achievement of their work, some class sessions will turn into individualised coaching sessions of the work in progress. After having received feedback from the teachers on their final written work, the students are invited to make an oral presentation-defence of this work, taking into account the comments previously made by the teachers. More precise recommendations for the presentation of texts, the achievement of the work and its oral presentation are to be found in the course presentation document handed out during the first session.

Assessment methods and criteria :
Although the course is given during two terms, it will be marked only once (out of 20) at the end of the second term.

It is the final written work, which mainly makes up the final mark. However, the mark given for the written work is likely to be modified (raised or reduced) according to, on the one hand, the quality of the presentations of the texts and the comments relating to these presentations, and on the other hand, the quality of the oral presentation of the final work.

The final written work and oral defence mainly make up the final mark that is assigned to each student, these elements are worth 75% of the points. The presentation of the text and the writing of the book report relating thereto, are worth 25% of the points. Whether it be for the written presentation of the text or the book report, special attention will be given to the formal presentation. Thus, if the written work contains too many shortcomings in formal terms, it may be ruled inadmissible, which will lead to the student receiving a mark of 1/20 for the overall evaluation. If the written work contains plagiarism as define by the Code of Ethics, it will result in a mark of 0/20 for the entire course, without prejudice to other penalties associated with fraud.

The presentation of a text and the writing of its book report as well as the written work and oral presentation-defence, may be done alone or in pairs, depending on the student's choice. To encourage group work, work done in groups of 2 will have a volume inferior to twice the volume of a single work. Any work performed in group of 2 will give rise to the same mark concerning the “written” work for both students involved. Different marks can be given to each student for the “oral” aspect of the work.

Recommended or required reading :
Basic bibliographic guidelines are provided in the document presenting the course that is handed out at the first session.

Other information :
Built on the mode of a seminar, the course is not subject to a syllabus. It has two supports. Firstly, a reading portfolio containing all the texts that will be analysed during the course. Secondly, a document presenting the course, handed out at the first session, which gives a more detailed overview of the approach of the course, presents the content of the reading portfolio, indicates the subject of the different sessions, and provides instructions for the realisation of the different works expected from students throughout the year. Some bibliographical references are also mentioned. Finally, a course website allows documents to be circulated during the year (including reading book reports) and enables the teachers to answer, via the “forum”, questions from the students.