Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

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Unit Overview


This unit is a close study of texts of central importance in the development of modern Western political thought – Plato's Crito, Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, John Locke's Second Treatise of Civil Government, Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract, Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism, On Liberty, and The Subjection of Women. We shall consider both historical and contemporary responses to these texts, together with their influence on later thinkers. We shall also consider how the ideas set out in these texts continue to inform debates over a range of real-world political controversies.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 core unit in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics; Human Rights major sequences
  • Level 2 option in the Philosophy major sequence
  • Level 2 elective

Students are able to (1) independently interpret complex texts; (2) demonstrate an understanding of complex philosophical arguments and positions concerning Western political thought; (3) evaluate complex philosophical positions and argument concerning Western political thought; (4) demonstrate advanced written communication and research skills; (5) communicate an understanding of the field of the history of Western political thought, its central preoccupations, and its main methodologies; and (6) utilise the various methodologies of political philosophy to analyse, compare and evaluate texts.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) essay; (2) examination; and (3) tutorial participation and quizzes. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Lachlan Umbers
Unit rules
POLS3311 History of Political Ideas.
POLS2211 History of Political Ideas
Contact hours
2 x 45 minute online lectures per week, 1 x 1 hour tutorial per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.