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    Environmental issues in the history of political thought from the classical period to the present day; people’s engagement with nature and with each other examined from multiple theoretical perspectives.

    How can human beings order their relations to each other and to the natural world under conditions of scarcity and conflict? What cultural, social, institutional, and theoretical resources might human beings use to arrange these relationships in ways that promote human and non-human flourishing? What collective and individual responses can we make to problems like climate change, species extinction, water and other resource shortages, animal welfare, habitat loss for human and non-human beings, inequality, and generally insufficient flourishing?

    These issues are not new, only especially acute today. Writers from ancient Greece to the present day have thought about these questions, and we will think them through in the company of a broad range of perspectives. Taking this paper will:

    1. Acquaint you with some of the core texts in the history of political thought and environmental political thought
    2. Help you identify ways in which they apply to our world
    3. Develop your original political thinking about human relationships in nature

    You will be able to demonstrate understanding of these texts the ability to think critically - including applying key political concepts to the world as we encounter it.

    About this paper

    Paper title Nature, Conflict, and the State
    Subject Politics
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $981.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    18 200-level POLS points
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music

    Interdisciplinary participation in this paper is encouraged. If you are interested in this paper but do not meet the prerequisite requirement, please get in touch with the lecturer to discuss your options.


    Teaching staff

    Professor Lisa Ellis

    Paper Structure

    Each week we focus on a different theme reading both a classic from the history of environmental political thought and contemporary environmental political theory. Themes include individualism, collective action, animal rights, democracy, anarchism, and deliberation, inter alia.

    Teaching Arrangements

    Instruction consists of a one-hour lecture per week and two hours of discussion per week. Students read to prepare for discussion section and reflect on their reading by writing weekly diary entries. These diary entries are formatively assessed each week; the instructor provides feedback on how well the student understands the reading discussed and how that might be improved, and on how well the student uses the ideas from the reading for further reflection or connection among ideas, and how that might be improved. Diary entries on ten of the readings are selected for revision and submission as the final reflective diary for summative assessment. The weekly diary entries also form the basis for discussion in weekly discussion section.


    Readings will be made available through Blackboard.

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised

    Interdisciplinary Perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical Thinking, Ethics, Environmental Literacy
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete the paper will:

    • Understand significant literature in the history of environmental political thought
    • Be able to interpret complex arguments in political theory
    • Have an ability to make and defend arguments in political theory effectively in writing and orally
    • Appreciate the collaborative aspect of scholarly work as part of a community of learning


    Semester 1

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Tuesday 09:00-10:50 9-13, 15-22


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    Attend one stream from
    A1 Wednesday 13:00-13:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22
    A2 Wednesday 16:00-16:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22
    A3 Thursday 09:00-09:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22
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