The first of the AS papers concerns democracy and participation – the point of democracy, parties, elections, pressure groups – and the second involves government – the UK Constitution (including devolution), Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, the core executive, and the UK’s judiciary (transformed since 2004).
The ideologies studied are Liberalism, Conservatism, Socialism, and Anarchism. We ask: what are freedom, equality, human nature, society, the individual, or the state, and can any of these notions be made to work in practice, singly or together? We also learn at A2 about US Government: the US Constitution, federalism, the Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court.
There has never been a better time to teach or to study this subject. All the received opinions of previous decades have been overthrown in the last twenty years: the two-party system, the Westminster model of the state, the point and nature of voting, the people who might get in if we don’t. We have recently had the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. In 2016 there are ground-breaking elections due in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the USA.
We actively encourage students to engage in the subject and engage in debate. There is a lively Westminster Society run by students as well as staff which has held meetings to talk through topical issues such as Corbyn’s leadership, as well as student led talks on themes like the politics in Ghana or the global rôle of China, or to view films such as Good Night and Good Luck, about McCarthy’s Un-American Activities hearings, or to debate other political issues that arise.
Government and Politics complements History A level well, but provides a different perspective and insight. Whereas History seeks to understand the long-term and short-term causes of events, political science (to which Government and Politics is an introduction) is about the structures of power: how it is distributed, who has it, what they can do with it, what they can’t do.
The subject also combines well with humanities such as English and Christian Theology and it prepares people for active and informed citizenship in a way which frankly we believe is useful for students studying any subject. It lends itself immediately to International Relations, History, Politics, History and Politics, or Anthropology, degrees, but success in this subject will of course support any university application. It is often taken by people who are also interested in Law. Insofar as Politics exists only because we cannot agree the Form of the Good, it goes with Classics too.
The Government and Politics Department aims to teach students:
- To understand why politics exists and what has helped democracy survive so far
- To see how power is distributed and to form one’s own opinion as to how best this can be done
- To get inside political ideas and ideologies and to form one’s own world-view
- It has become fashionable to criticise democracy of late but we try to look with increasing academic detachment at whether some form of it may be the best option among the world’s political systems.
We also run a weekly Westminster Society which has held debates, shown films like Good Night and Good Luck, or learned from presentations by students about issues such as the real agenda behind strengthening liberal democratic institutions in China, the difficulties of establishing liberal democracy in Africa and a feminist perspective on UK politics.