Introduction to Western Political Thought


Prof. Mithilesh Kumar Jha

IIT Guwahati

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One of the major objectives of this course is to introduce the students to the key debates and ideas in Western political thought. It is hoped that familiarity with the ideas or concepts of some major western political thinkers will help the students to understand different perspectives and approaches to state, politics, government, sovereignty, citizenship and so on. It is also hoped that this course will enable the student to make sense of and interpret the major developments and key debates in the political debates and discussions in any contemporary society and polity.


UG and PG students of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sciences, and Engineering


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Prof. Mithilesh Kumar Jha teaches Political Science in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati. His research interests are – political thought in comparative perspective particularly Indian and Western political thought, political theory, Indian politics especially language and related issues of state formations in modern India. His important publications are Language Politics and Public Sphere in North India: Making of the Maithili Movement, Oxford University Press, New Delhi (2018); Glimpses of Mithila and Maithili: The Correspondence of George Abraham Grierson, Kalyani Foundation: Darbhanga (2013).

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1. Join the course
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COURSE ENROLMENT FEE: The Fee for Enrolment is Rs. 3000 + GST

2. Watch Videos+Submit Assignments
After enrolling, learners can watch lectures and learn and follow it up with attempting/answering the assignments given.

3. Get qualified to register for exams
A learner can earn a certificate in the self paced course only by appearing for the online remote proctored exam and to register for this, the learner should get minimum required marks in the assignments as given below:

Assignment score = Score more than 50% in at least 9/12 assignments.
Exam score = 50% of the proctored certification exam score out of 100
Only the e-certificate will be made available. Hard copies will not be dispatched.”

4. Register for exams
The certification exam is conducted online with remote proctoring. Once a learner has become eligible to register for the certification exam, they can choose a slot convenient to them from what is available and pay the exam fee. Schedule of available slot dates/timings for these remote-proctored online examinations will be published and made available to the learners.

EXAM FEE: The remote proctoring exam is optional for a fee of Rs.1500 + GST. An additional fee of Rs.1500 will apply for a non-standard time slot.

5. Results and Certification
After the exam, based on the certification criteria of the course, results will be declared and learners will be notified of the same. A link to download the e-certificate will be shared with learners who pass the certification exam.


Course Details

Week 1: Introduction: General Outline and Method; Text and Context
Week 2: Plato: Justice; Philosopher king; Communism; State
Week 3: Aristotle: Politics, Virtue
Week 4: Aristotle: State; Citizenship & Machiavelli: Virtu
Week 5: Machiavelli: Religion and Republicanism
Week 6: Hobbes: Human Nature; Political Obligation; Sovereignty
Week 7: Locke: Natural Rights; Limited government, Dissent
Week 8: Rousseau: Social Contract; General Will
Week 9: Kant: Enlightenment; Morality, autonomy and freedom
Week 10: Hegel: Freedom; Rights; State
Week 11: Marx: Historical Materialism; State; Class
Week 12: Mill: Utilitarianism and on Liberty

Books and References

1.T. Ball, (2004) ‘History and Interpretation’ in C. Kukathas and G. Gaus, (eds.) Handbook of Political Theory, London: Sage Publications Ltd. pp. 18-30.
2. B. Nelson, (2008) Western Political Thought. New York: Pearson Longman
3. Shefali Jha, (2010) Western Political Thought: From Plato to Marx, Delhi: Pearson
4. L. Strauss and J. Cropsey, (eds) History of Political Philosophy, 2ndEdition. Chicago: Chicago University Press
5. J. Coleman, (2000) A History of Political Thought: From Ancient Greece to Early Christianity, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers
6. A. Skoble and T. Machan, (2007) Political Philosophy: Essential Selections. New Delhi: Pearson Education
7. C. Macpherson (1962) The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke. Oxford University Press, Ontario
8. D. Boucher and P. Kelly, P. (eds) Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press
9. I. Kant. (1784) ‘What is Enlightenment?,’ available at,


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