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Last modified: 22 May 2019 17:07

Course Overview

This module encourages students to explore and engage with the concepts of political and social progress and our contemporary anxieties with utopian thinking and peacebuilding. It will enable students to identify the intellectual, cultural, social and political roots of historical progress and the main critiques from a number of theoretical and disciplinary perspectives. The course will afford students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to apply theoretical concepts acquired in previous courses to debates about neoliberalism, democratization, Political Islam, Marxism and the apocalyptic in contemporary culture.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus Old Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Dr John Nagle

Qualification Prerequisites

  • Programme Level 4

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • One of International Relations (IR) or Politics (PI) or Sociology (SO) or MA European Studies
  • Programme Level 4
  • Any Undergraduate Programme

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

This course explores the idea that history has a linear and logical dynamic moving forward to an inevitable historical endpoint or peaceful utopia. We examine this through various historical movements and political philosophies that advance different utopian goals - including the concept of free-market democracy, revolutionary Marxism, political Islam, feminism and even peacebuilding, and which have inspired significant social and political turmoil. Yet, the idea of progress to a peaceful utopia is fundamentally questioned by the current global reversal of democracy, new forms of identity politics, the economic collapse of 2008, global warming, and a number of ethnic conflicts since the end of the Cold War. Such anxieties also pervade the social sciences, where its historical roots in ideas of social and theoretical progress have been critiqued and even dispensed with. Themes to explore: Progress and Utopia, Utopian Beliefs in peacebuilding and development Utopian beliefs in politics: free-market democracy, communism, political Islam Utopian beliefs in US foreign policy, Historical Utopian movements: Muslim Brotherhood, the Bolsheviks, Christian Evangelicalism, nationalist movements, the social sciences as contributing to social progress Challenges to Utopia The global reversal of democracy Critical peacebuilding, Lack of faith in scientific progress, Identity politics, Postmodernism in the social sciences.

Further Information & Notes


Course Outcomes:

  • To acquaint students with the ability to engage in critical thinking with regards to concepts of peacebuilding, social, political and intellectual progress
  • Enable students to understand the key debates and arguments regarding neoliberalism, democratization, political religion, and peacebuilding
  • To facilitate students' awareness and utilisation of reflexivity in their studies
  • To advance students' presentational skills via oral debates, in-class presentations and role-plays
  • To encourage independent, scholarly learning among students through the assessment process
  • To foster group-work via in-class presentations and debates

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

1st Attempt

  • 2500-word essay 50%
  • 3 hour written examination 50%

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.



Course Learning Outcomes


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