Classical Western Political Theory: Inspecting the Foundations

Western Political Theory today rests heavily on foundational contributions. We explore key themes of power, democracy, social justice, freedom, property, rights, secularisation, and stability & change as understood and expounded by some of the ‘greats’ of Western analytical political thought.

This class will be delivered face-to-face at WEA Sydney. Enrolling students need to ensure they have read the current COVID-19 Safety Guidance that WEA Sydney has put in place before enrolling.


  • Cranston,M (ed.) (1964) Western Political Philosophers : eleven essays, London, Bodley Head.
  • Lane, M (2015) The Birth of Politics : eight Greek & Roman Political Ideas & why they matter, Princeton, NJ, PUP.
  • Runciman, WG (2010) Great Books/Bad Arguments, Princeton, NJ, PUP.
  • Christiano, T & Christman, J (eds.) Contemporary Debates in Political Philosophy, Oxford, Wiley/Blackwell.
  • Clayton, M & Williams, A (eds.) (2007) Social Justice, Oxford, Blackwell.
  • Heywood, A (2004) Political Theory : an introduction, London, Palgrave.
  • Miller, D & Siedentop, L(eds) (1983) The Nature of Political Theory, Oxford, Clarendon Press.
  • Plant, R(1991) Modern Political Thought, Oxford, Blackwell.
  • Quinton, A (ed.) (1967) Political Philosophy, Oxford, OUP.
  • Rosen, M & Wolf, J (eds.) (2012) Political Thought, Oxford, OUP.
  • Thomas, G (2000) Introduction to Political Philosophy, London, Duckworth.
  • White, M (2003) Political Philosophy : an historical introduction, Oxford, One World Pubs.


  • Aristotle (c. 384-322 BC), Plato (c. 427-347 BC) & Confucius (551-479 BC)
  • Machiavelli (1469-1527)
  • Hobbes (1588-1679)
  • Locke (1632-1704)
  • Hume (1711-1776)
  • Burke (1729-1797)
  • Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97), Harriet Taylor (1807-1858) and Dame Edith Sommerskill (1901-1980)
  • John Stuart Mill(1806-1873)
  • Marx (1818-1883)
  • Conclusion – identifying the next ‘great’ theorist

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