• IR-AS 102
    Politics for Global Studies

    Online Syllabus

    Thomas French

    Associate Professor

    Thomas French


    What are the aims of the course?

    This course examines the history of political thought from ancient Greece to the modern era. It aims to enhance students’ knowledge of the major political ideas which have influenced society and the state over the last 2500 years. The course also aims to contextualise the thinkers examined by giving an overview of the times and conditions in which each political philosopher we look at lived in. Students will also improve their knowledge of the political systems of the modern world and the origins of the concepts that make them up, including society, the state, justice etc. The course also seeks to provide students with a solid basic knowledge of politics and political thought on which to build their subsequent study of politics, diplomacy, society, law and culture inside the Global Studies major.

    What is the most important thing students will learn through the course?

    Aside from learning about the political thought of thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Locke and Rousseau, students will deepen their understanding of the sometimes contested meanings of key political concepts like liberty, democracy, freedom and nationalism. Students will also learn that political thought and ideas in general are of their time and are highly influenced by society and state inside which they emerge. Finally and most significantly, students will learn to critically engage with the topics and ideas raised in the course through debate, discussion and individual assignments.

    What are some of the strategies/ methods you use to get students to reflect on what they are learning?

    In this class, like most in the Global Studies Major, discussions, debates and pair work are used every week to help students reflect on, and think more deeply about, the material they are studying. This approach serves as a good way to introduce topics or examine them in more detail once the tutor has presented them to the class. In direct relation to this class we often use the ideas of the thinkers we are looking at to debate a major moral or political point, for example: “when the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?” or “what is the difference between nationalism and patriotism?”. We often also discuss the real-world implications and parallels of the ideas we look at. This in particular gives us the chance to draw on the incredibly diverse backgrounds and life experiences of our student body and relate the ideas we look at to their knowledge and places of origin.

    Why would you recommend that a student studies International Relations at university?

    Study of International Relations at university level broadens the mind at any university but the Global Studies Major at Ritsumeikan is special. Unlike many IR majors which sometimes narrowly focus on traditional IR and its often over theorised and impractical aspects, the Global Studies Major takes a broad based approach with courses spanning traditional IR, politics, sociology, history, law, economics, development, cultural studies and language. This range of courses and topics allows students to acquire the wide range of practical knowledge they will need for careers in international organisations, politics, business and government service. Alongside this diversity of subjects, another major advantage this course has over its rivals is its incredibly diverse student body and faculty. With ten or more different nationalities often present in the classroom this environment provides students with a chance to learn so much about the modern world both inside and outside class, plus it’s all based in Kyoto, one of the most beautiful and culturally rich cities in the world.