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Political Science

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Elective course
2 year, 3, 4 module


Course Syllabus


Political science is an optional one semester course for the second year students (HSE program). The course is taught in English and Russian. Students are supposed to be familiar with Intellectual history of Europe and World history
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The aim of the course is to give students basic knowledge of politics and government. In the course we will analyze basic political concepts, political values and ideologies, major political institutions and their characteristics in different political regimes. Throughout the course we will discuss major themes and issues in Russian politics.
  • By the end of this course the students will have learned about · basic political concepts (politics, power, authority, state, government, political regime, democracy, political culture etc.) · major theories of politics and ideologies (Marxism, elitism, pluralism, liberalism, conservatism, socialism) · political values (freedom, equality, justice, etc.) · political systems · political process in modern Russia
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • - analyze the role of political science in the study of modern society
  • - critically evaluate basic approaches to defining politics
  • - use basic political concepts for the analysis of politics in Russia
  • - be able to use various conceptions of power in the analysis of the Russian politics
  • - critically evaluate the role and functions performed by the modern states
  • - evauate the role of authority in modern world and explain why people obey the state
  • - critically evaluate different views on human nature
  • - able to analyse how freedom is understood and realised in modern society
  • - use concepts of various forms of equality and inequality and evaluate the ways of achieving a more just society
  • - critically evaluate various principles and theories of social justice and their interpretations in modern ideologies
  • - analyze ideologies of modern political parties and political movements
  • - analyze basic articles of the Russian Constitution
  • - analyze programs of political parties and their role in political systems
  • - analyze how people can participate in politics
  • - critically evaluate modern political regime in Russia
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Politics as a subject of study
    Politics as a subject of study. Origin of political science. History of the discipline. Approaches to the study of politics. Political theory and political science. Political science in Russia. Structure and methods of political science. Political science and other social sciences. Contemporary themes and developments in political theory. Major themes and issues in the study of Russian politics. Perspectives in political science. Reasons for studying politics in universities
  • Politics
    Conceptual framework. Basic problems in defining political concepts. Idea of essential contestedness of political concepts. Basic political concepts. Politics. Policy. Polity. Political actors. Political institutions. Political system. Political process. Government. Political values. Ambivalent nature of politics. Approaches to defining politics. Politics as an arena. Politics as a process. Politics as the art of government. Politics as public affairs. Politics as compromise and consensus. Politics as power. Politics as a constrained use of social power. Power as an attempt to establish order and justice. Politics as a struggle for power and domination. Conceptual disagreements and politics. ‘Politics’ and politics in Russia
  • Power
    Power as essentially contested concept. Basic problems in defining power. Power to and power over. Power and domination. Forms, bases and uses of power. Force, coercion, persuasion, manipulation, authority. Three-dimensional conception of power. Decision-making. Agenda setting. Thought control. Theories of political power. Elitism. Pluralism. Marxism. State autonomy theory. Power indicators. Who benefits? Who Governs? Who wins? Who has a reputation for power?
  • State
    Concept of state. Defining features of the state. Sovereignty. State authority. Territory of the state. Compulsory and universal jurisdiction of the state. Theories on the origin of the state. Rule of law. State and government. Theories of the state. Pluralist state. Capitalist state. Leviathan state. Patriarchal state. Role and functions of the state. Minimal state. Developmental state.Social-democratic state. Collectivized state. Globalization and state. Totalitarian state. Types of states. Monarchy. Republic. Presidential, parliamentary and mixed systems of government. Unitary states and federations.
  • Political authority and domination
    Concept of authority. Main traditions in defining authority. Authority as a right to influence. Authority as people’s belief about its rightfulness. An authority and in authority. De jure authority and de facto authority. Authority and persuasion. Authority and power. Forms of authority. Personal authority. Traditional authority. Legal authority. Institutionalization of authority. Political authority. Political authority and political power. Authority and legitimacy. The ground of political authority. For and against authority. The basis of political authority: divine right, natural subordination, knowledge, and consent-based theories. Rejection of political authority. Anarchism. Authority and domination. Types of domination. Ideological hegemony.
  • Human nature and politics
    Concept of human nature. Man as a political animal (Aristotle). Man in a “natural” state (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau). Man as a set of social relations (Marx). “Pessimistic” vs “optimistic” views of human nature. Nature versus nurture. Intellect versus instinct. Competition vs cooperation. Individualism vs collectivism. Individual and community. Psychoanalyst tradition (S. Freud, G. Marcuse, E. Fromm) and existentialism (J.P. Sartre). Human nature and political arguments.
  • Freedom
    Conceptions of freedom in the history of political thought. “Freedom” in different political ideologies. Types and sources of constraints. Negative vs positive freedom. The negative concept of liberty. J.S. Mill on liberty. Objections to the negative concept. The positive concept of liberty. Objections to the positive concept. Freedom and equality. Freedom and democracy. Personal freedom and free society. Conditions of freedom. Freedom and law. Political rights and liberties. Political freedom and political regime
  • Equality
    Conceptions of equality in the history of political thought. Forms of equality and inequality. Egalitarianism. Human nature and equality. Formal equality. Foundational equality. “All men are created equal”. Left and right interpretations of equality. Equality of outcome. Equality of opportunity. Social equality. Natural inequalities and social inequality. Economic equality. Political equality and political inequality. Liberal equality. Democratic equality. Decentralization of political and economic power and equality. Gender inequality. Racial inequality. Reverse discrimination. For and against equality.
  • Justice
    Concept of justice. Legal justice. Social justice. Distributive justice. Procedural justice. Principles of justice. ‘To each according to his needs’. ‘To each according to his rights’. ‘To each according to his deserts’. Utilitarianism and justice. Mills on justice. Nozick's Libertarian Theory of Justice. Rawls’ theory of justice. Justice as fairness. Difference principle. Communitarianism, libertarianism and anarchism against Rawls’ theory of justice.
  • Political ideologies
    Concept of ideology. Basic theories of ideology (K. Marx, K. Mannheim, K. Popper). Ideology and political theory. Functions of political ideologies. Classification of ideologies. Origin of ideologies. Liberalism. Classical and modern liberalism. Variations in modern liberalism. Libertarianism. Conservatism. Traditionalism and fundamentalism. New right. Thatcherism. Christian democracy. New Right. Socialism and communism. Classical and modern Marxism. Leninism. “Command socialism”. Revisionism. Social democracy. Market socialism. Ethical socialism. Communitarianism. Fascism and right-wing ideologies. Italian fascism and German national-socialism. Modern fascism and nazism. Islamic fundamentalism. Left radicalism. Feminism. Ecology as political radicalism. Anarchism.
  • The Constitution of the Russian Federation
    Concept of Constitution. Role and functions of constitutions. Types of constitutions. Constitutions in the USSR and the Russian Federation. Constitution of 1993. The Fundamentals of the Constitutional System. Rights and Freedoms of Man and Citizen. The Federal Structure. The President of the Russian Federation. The Federal Assembly. Separation of powers. Checks and balances. Constitution and political regime in Russia
  • Political parties, pressure groups and social movements
    Articulation and aggregation of interests. Representation in politics. Models of political representation. Basic representative institutions. The nature of modern political parties. Party systems. Variations in modern political parties and party systems. Parties and party system in Russia. Trends in Russia's party system. Party of power. United Russia, its satellites and its enemies. Liberal parties. Seat composition after election 2016. Pressure groups. Types of pressure groups. Social movements. “New social movements”. Pressure groups and social movements in Russia.
  • Political participation
    Concept of political participation. Types of political participation. Democratic theory and participation. Institutional forms of political participation. Noninstitutional forms of political participation. Participation in different political regimes. Problems of collective action. Absenteeism. Political participation and social cleavages. Voting behaviour. Rational and irrational in voting behaviour. Sociological theories of voting behaviour. Party identification theory. Theories of rational voting behaviour. Ideology and voting behaviour. Issue voting. Retrospective voting. Voting behaviour in Russia.
  • Political regimes
    Concept of political regime. Basic elements of political regime. Classifications of political regimes. Totalitarian regimes. Sources of totalitarianism. Origin of totalitarianism. Fascist and communist totalitarian regimes. Post-totalitarian regimes. Sovietological theories of political regime in the USSR. Authoritarian regimes. Types of authoritarianism. Absolute monarchy. Military regimes. Bureaucratic regimes. Oligarchy. Populist regimes. Sultanistic regimes. East Asian regimes. Islamic regimes. Hybrid regimes. Western poliarchies. New democracies. Defective democracies. Political regime in Russia.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking exam
  • non-blocking active seminar contribution
  • non-blocking tests for each topic
  • non-blocking presentation
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (4 module)
    0.25 * active seminar contribution + 0.35 * exam + 0.1 * presentation + 0.3 * tests for each topic


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Political theory : an introduction, Heywood, A., 1999
  • Politics, Heywood, A., 2013

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • The concepts and theories of modern democracy, Birch, A. H., 2008