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POLS301 Power and Liberty

An introduction to the complex and contested nature of the concept of power, and the different ways in which power shapes and constrains human liberty. A variety of theories and theorists will be considered, drawing from the ancient, modern, and contemporary periods in the history of ideas.

This paper examines the contested nature of the concepts of liberty and power and the different ways that power shapes and constrains our liberty. Are we freer the less we are constrained by the power of the state? Or does freedom involve more than being left alone to do whatever we wish? Can laws be a source of liberation? Is the will to power a cause for celebration or the curse of modern existence? Is modern surveillance empowering, or is it the latest method forcing us to conform? In exploring these questions we draw on a variety of thinkers in modern and contemporary political thought.

Paper title Power and Liberty
Paper code POLS301
Subject Politics
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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18 200-level POLS points or one of CHTH 231, GEND 201, GEND 208, PHIL 221, PHIL 227, PHIL 228, PHIL 234, PSYC 204
Schedule C
Arts and Music

An interest in theories of power and liberty.

Teaching staff

Associate Professor Vicki Spencer

Paper Structure

1 x 2 hour lecture and discussion; 1 x 50 minute tutorials


All readings will be available on e-reserve via Blackboard.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will gain

  • an in-depth understanding of theories of power and liberty in modern and contemporary political theory,
  • advanced skills in critical analysis, argumentation, research and writing.

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system