BASS Politics and Criminology

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Hegel and Marx

Unit code PHIL23022
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Social Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course aims to introduce the work of Hegel and Marx.  The approach taken is philosophical rather than historical, and will involve examining critically their claims and arguments about such matters as the alienation, exploitation, justice and human labour, and the possibility of mutual recognition and community.  It is expected that students will engage with the original texts,  formulate the central arguments to be found in them and to assess their cogency. 

Learning outcomes


Student should/will (please delete as appropriate) be able to


Knowledge and Understanding: 

Students should be able to:


State and critically respond to the central arguments Hegel’s social and political philosophy including some of the following:

·        The relation of master and slave

·        The claim that property is the "embodiment of personality"

·        Hegel's critique of Kant’s moral philosophy and his account of "Sittlichkeit" or ‘ethical life’

·         The claim that marriage is non¿contractual

·         Hegel’s account of Civil Society

·         Poverty as  a problem for Hegel’s account of civil society

·         The different senses of freedom discussed by  Hegel

·         The  attempt to show how  an individual free in the modern State


State and critically respond to the central arguments Marx’s economic and political philosophy including some of the following:

·         The central arguments about the relation of civil society and politics in On the Jewish Question

·                     The  theory of alienation in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts

·                     Marx’s account of historical explanation and the use of functional explanations

·                     Marx’s theory of exploitation and the question of whether Marx thought exploitation was unjust


Intellectual skills: 

Students should be able to:

·                     analyse the argument of key primary texts;

·                     to formulate their own informed responses to these arguments studied;


Practical skills: 

Students should be able to:

·                     to write a cogent and well-argued essay on a topic taken from the course unit;

·                     to present and articulate arguments and analysis in seminar discussion;

·                     to listen to arguments of other students and respond to them;

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, tutorials and extensive use of Blackboard.

Please note the information in scheduled activity hours are for guidance only and may change.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 67%
Written assignment (inc essay) 33%

Recommended reading


The main text will be Hegel's Philosophy of Right.  There are two translations, both good, by T. Knox (Oxford University Press) or A. Wood (Cambridge University Press). We shall also be looking at The Phenomenology of Mind. This has two translations, an old one by J. Baillie, and a recent one by A. V. Miller (entitled, confusingly, Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit). Miller's may be better; but many commentaries, including R. Norman's excellent Hegel's Phenomenology, make page¿references to Baillie's. The Knox translation of Philosophy of Right and the  Baillie translation of The Phenomenology of Mind are now both freely available on the internet at:

In this course we will be concerned with Hegel’s ethical and political thought.  This is less difficult than other parts of Hegel’s philosophy.  However, it is not an easy read.  To get some orientation, Peter Singer Hegel provides an excellent short introduction. Another useful starting point are the chapters by A.Wood  ‘Hegel’s Ethics’ and ‘Hegel and Marxism’ and by K. Westphal ‘The basic context and structure of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’ in F. Beiser ed. The Cambridge Companion to Hegel.  The secondary text that best deals with the ground we will be covering is A. Wood Hegel's Ethical Thought.



In this part of the course we introduce some of the basic themes in Marxian political economy and philosophy.  We start by considering the early writings of Marx in which it is possible to see him responding most clearly to themes in Hegel the normative criticisms of capitalism developed in his earlier writings.  We then explore the explanatory account of  historical change that is offered in both his earlier and later writings. Finally we will consider Marx’s mature political economy, focusing in particular on his theory of exploitation.  Good sources for the texts are:


            C. Arthur (ed)  The German Ideology

            L. Colletti (ed) Karl Marx: Early Writings

            L. Easton & K. Guddat (eds)    Writings of the Young Marx

            D. McLellan (ed)         Karl Marx: Selected Writings

            J. Elster (ed)    Karl Marx: Selected Texts

            E. Kamenka (ed)          The Portable Marx (Viking/Penguin)


The secondary texts that best cover the material we will consider are A. Wood  Karl Marx  and G.A. Cohen Karl Marx's Theory of History

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
John O'Neill Unit coordinator

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