BA Comparative Religion and Social Anthropology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Religion in Political Philosophy: From Early Modernity to the Contemporary

Course unit fact file
Unit code RELT30271
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Religions & Theology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course is based on classical texts in political philosophy and their implicated religious elements. Key political concepts such as the polis, sovereignty, freedom etc. will be examined with respect to religious beliefs and practices. The sharp distinction between religion and politics as a result of the Enlightenment became axiomatic for democratic cultures today. These and other prerequisites of modern political thinking will be discussed. The lectures will facilitate a deeper understanding of political philosophy and corresponding forms of theology such as liberation theology, whereas the seminars will focus on current problems of the interdependence of religion and politics.


  • To develop political thinking through classical texts in political philosophy
  • To appreciate the interdependence of religious concepts and political thoughts
  • To understand the historical development of secular politics in Western political cultures
  • To acquire critical and analytical skills to examine contemporary forms of political theology and theological politics

Knowledge and understanding

  • To have acquired a sound knowledge of classical political texts
  • To become aware of the historical transformation of key political concepts
  • To gain an in-depth familiarity with political philosophy and political theology

Intellectual skills

  •       To be able to be critical about the current models of the relationship between religion and politics
  •       To enhance contextual awareness and improve hermeneutical skills in reading primary texts
  •       To gain firm understanding of using different methodologies in analysing media sources

Practical skills

  •      To gain experience of working to fulfil the requirements of a specified brief
  •      To practice working as part of a team

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • To understand and critically evaluate contemporary forms of secularisation and their intellectual background.
  • To manage and undertake self-defined research tasks and present the outcomes to a wider audience.
  • To develop religious literacy

Employability skills

The following skills will all be developed as part of this unit: - Working as part of a team - Communication skills (written and oral) - Working to fulfil the requirements of a specified brief - Research skills - General knowledge of organisation theory - Religious literacy - Careful generalisation on the basis of analysis of specific examples - Critical awareness of different contemporary political and theological ideologies

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Essay draft










2 hours




Assessment task



2 hours


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on draft essay plan


Verbal and peer feedback on draft essay plan


Written and verbal feedback on essay and exam



Recommended reading

Hoelzl, M. Ward, G. [eds.]. Religion and Political Thought (Continuum, 2006).

Rosen, Michael [ed. et al.]. 2000. Political Thought.  Oxford Readers. Oxford
University Press.

Cohen, Mitchell; Fermon, Nicole [eds.]. 1996. Princeton Readings in Political
Thought. Princeton University Press.

Boucher, David; Kelly, Peter. [ed]. 2003. Political Thinkers. From Socrates to the Present.
Oxford University Press.

Wolff, Jonathan. 1996. An Introduction to Political Philosophy. Oxford University

Kymlicka, Will. 22001. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction. OxfordUniversity Press.

Heywood, Andrew. 2000. Key Concepts in Politics. Palgrave Macmillan.

Davis, Creston [ed. et al.]. 2005. Theology and the Political. The new debate. Duke University Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Hoelzl Unit coordinator

Additional notes


A full description of this course can be found in MyManchester.


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