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Great Debates in Political Science (Leiden, Fall)



The Master’s program in Political Science has several specialisations, each taught on the basis of a range of specific courses. However, the master program also aims to provide a broader perspective on the study of politics and the theories and methods that are used by political science. This course aims at providing exactly such a broad perspective.
This course centers around two important “great debates” in Political Science. The debates are introduced by reading an influential book, which is followed by a discussion of its various aspects through several examples of responses to the books, and research on the original debate.
In selecting the debates, we balance many considerations including sub-disciplinary and methodological variance, thematic diversity, and complementarity. They do not per se represent ‘the’ greatest debates ever’ in the discipline and we welcome student discussion and deliberation about our choice and potential challengers in terms of books and debates.

Course Objectives

  1. Introduce students to influential major debates in political science both in terms of their theoretical and conceptual substance as well as the different methodological approaches and standards of empirical evidence.
  2. Advance students’ critical thinking through the evaluation of these theories and concepts, as well as their critiques.
  3. Further students’ academic skills through independent writing and group discussions.

Method of Instruction

The course consists of seven sessions and is delivered in mixed format of interactive lectures and seminar-style discussions. Students prepare for class by studying the course materials and writing papers. Students are expected to attend class and to contribute actively to class discussions.

Study Material

  • Mair, Peter. 2013. Ruling the Void. The Hollowing of Western Democracy. New York, NY: Verso Books (available as e-publication or paperback)

  • Acharya, Amitav. 2018. The End of the American World Order. Second edition. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press (available as e-publication or paperback)

  • A selection of articles and chapters available online (for free) through the Leiden University Library.

Assessment Method

  • Reaction papers (2 x 20% = 40%)

  • Participation (10%)

  • Final assignment / exam (50%)


See 'Practical Information'


See 'MyTimetable'