Undergraduate Modules

Explaining Politics

This module takes us beyond the conventional question: ‘What is politics?’ Explaining Politics encourages you to draw upon both the topics you have studied as well as drawing on insights from other social sciences to consider how we explain politics. As the module’s heart is the tension between the two great social science traditions of positivism (that there is a knowable material reality) and interpretivism (there is no single reality so the only way we can grasp reality through the stories we tell about the world). The first implies we can explain the world and the second implies that we can only understand it. But is it possible to reconcile these two approaches? These questions are explored by exploring how cognate disciplines such as history, economics, psychology, and sociology have influenced the study of politics, encouraging students to think seriously about the competing claims of explanation and understanding, and a practical exercise in exploring the complexities of politics.


The topics covered on this module currently include:

  • What are we trying to achieve through the study of politics?
  • Explanation or understanding?
  • Political Judgement: Foxes or Hedgehogs?
  • Politics as problem solving
  • Explanation, causation and laws
  • Psychology and politics
  • Gender and politics
  • Sociology and politics
  • Economics and politics
  • History

Final Year
Autumn Semester
Module Code POL3100


  • 10 one-hour lectures
  • 11 one-hour seminar classes


  • One essay (60%)
  • One Project Report, prepared as a group (30%)
  • One Presentation, prepared as a group (10%)