Field Requirements for M.A. Students
Field Requirements for Ph.D. Students
Electives for Students Interested in Political Theory
Guidelines for Writing a Political Theory Dissertation Prospectus
Political theorists explore the foundations of political life and deliberate about its proper organization. To study political theory is to develop the analytic and interpretive skills, the moral and philosophic judgment, and the social and historical knowledge needed to critically assess a tradition of political thought that dates back over two millennia.
Students in the graduate program in political theory investigate how various political quandaries have been intellectually and morally grappled with over time and creatively work through such quandaries themselves. The faculty expose students to the major figures and texts in the 2500 year old tradition of political thought, the moral and epistemological foundations and methods of political theory, the ideological foundations of politics, current controversies in political thought, and enduring topics of concern such as the nature of equality, liberty, justice and power.
Within the broad confines of this curriculum, students selecting theory as one of their fields are given considerable room to define their own avenues of research. Political theorists in the department have particular interests in continental political philosophy, democratic theory, environmental ethics, liberalism, and contemporary political thought.
Areas of Study: The following areas of study constitute a fairly traditional demarcation of the predominant concerns within the field of political theory. It is meant to serve students as a guide in preparing developing their personal programs of study and preparing for their comprehensive examination.
A. The History of Political Thought: Study and comparison of the leading thinkers and works comprising the tradition of political theory from ancient to modern times.
Politics and Theory (POT 6505): This seminar is part of the required sequence for all Ph.D. candidates. It provides an introduction to the major themes of political theory.
Ancient Political Thought: A close reading of political philosophers and themes from antiquity, with a focus on ancient Greece, Rome and early Christian thinkers.
Modern Political Thought: A close reading of political theorists and themes from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century. Emphasis will be placed on thinkers regarded as central to the development of republicanism, liberalism, democracy, conservatism, feminism, and communism.
Marxism and Critical Theory: Examines the seminal works of Karl Marx and their development and transformation by Lenin, Gramsci, and Laclau and Mouffe. The seminar also explores the Frankfurt School's distinctive effort to integrate elements of Marxism with psychoananlysis and cultural criticism.
Great Political Thinkers Ancient and Medieval (POT 4013: can be taken for graduate credit if Ancient Political Thought seminar not offered): Close reading of major classical political thinkers such as Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine, and Aquinas, and Cicero. Emphasis on the principles of a just political order, the nature of political knowledge, civic virtue, and church-state struggles.
Great Political Thinkers: Machiavelli to Marx (POT 4053: can be taken for graduate credit if Modern Political Thought seminar not offered): Study of selected political theorists from Machiavelli to Marx. Themes covered include liberalism, conservatism, utilitarianism, idealism. Emphasis on ideas of authority, freedom, obligation, and consent.
B. Contemporary Theorists and Current Controversies: Study of contemporary issues and debates in the field of political theory. In preparing for this part of the exam, students will look at new, with a focus on influential interpretations of canonical figures, original contemporary political thought, and and also important topical issues themes. such as multiculturalism, communitarianism, environmentalism, deliberative democracy, globalism, feminism, liberalism, republicanism, and poststructuralism
Contemporary Political Theory (POT 6067): A close reading of one or more twentieth century contemporary political philosophers whose works have had major impacts on the field. (e.g. Arendt, Foucault, Habermas).
Democratic Theory (POT 6314): In this seminar we will briefly look at some of the classical theorists and critics of democracy (Plato, Rousseau, Tocqueville, Marx) and then focus on contemporary debates in democratic theory. The topics covered include participation, deliberation, representation, and multiculturalism, and representation.
Liberalism and Its Critics: A close reading of selected texts by leading contemporary defenders of liberalism, in conjunction with an investigation of influential theoretical standpoints questioning liberal orthodoxy (e.g., feminism, post-structuralism, communitarianism, Marxism, critical race theory).
Normative and Interpretive Methods of Political Inquiry: Examination of methodologies employed by political theorists, with reference to various schools of thought, such as the analytical, critical, deconstructive, feminist, genealogical, hermeneutic and historicist.
Judgment: Investigation of the nature
of judgment and its role in political life, from Aristotle’s writings on
prudence through contemporary theories of decision-making grounded in social
statistics and political psychology.
Students pursuing an M.A. in Political Science with a central field of Political Theory should take a minimum of two seminars from Section A and one seminar from Section B of the Areas of Study.
Prior to dissertation work, students taking political theory as a first field should take a minimum of five seminars beyond Politics and Theory (POT 6505), which is required for all Ph.D. students. It is highly recommended that these seminars be relatively evenly distributed between section A and Section B. First field students are also responsible for all readings in bold face on the Master Syllabus (below), as well as three additional texts from Section 1 of the Master Syllabus, five texts from Section 2, and three texts from Section 3. The selected texts should not duplicate readings that appear on syllabi of seminars that students have taken.
Prior to dissertation work, students taking
political theory as a second field should take a minimum of four seminars
beyond Politics and Theory. It is highly recommended that these seminars
be relatively evenly distributed between Section A and Section B. Students
are also responsible for all readings in bold face on the Master Syllabus,
as well as one additional text from Section 1, two texts from Section 2,
and one text from Section 3. The selected texts should not duplicate readings
that appear on syllabi of seminars that students have taken.
Students taking political theory as a third field are required to take Politics and Theory as well as two additional theory seminars.
Students interested in Political Theory are encouraged to broaden their intellectual horizons by achieving fluency in a foreign language and exploring seminars in cognate disciplines, including English Literature and Composition, History, Philosophy, Religion, Classics and the Social Sciences. The following courses might be considered:
CLA 1100 The Glory that was Greece
CLA 1120 The Glory that was Rome
CLA 3501 Women in Classical Antiquity
ENC 3312 Advanced Argumentative Writing
LIT 6855 Cultural Studies
HIS 4114 The Nature of History
AMH 6557 Constitutional and Legal History of the United States
LIN 2000 Language: Humanities Perspective
LIN 2001 Language: Social Science Perspective
PHI 5456 Philosophy of the Social Sciences
PHH 5505 Studies in Continental Philosophy
PHM 5826 Social and Political Philosophy
PHI 6426 Seminar in Epistemology and Social Theory
PHI 5665 Ethical Theory
PHM 5125 Feminist Philosophy
REL 3021 The Individual and Religious Experience
REL 3140 Religion and Society
SYA 6125 Classical Sociological Theory
Comprehensive exams for Ph.D. students in Political Theory
The comprehensive examination in Political Theory is designed to test students’ knowledge of the field as a whole. As such, it requires that students have read broadly within the field and integrated their understanding of this scholarship with the knowledge and skills gained in seminars.
The written exam consists of three questions for students taking Political Theory as their first field, and two questions for students taking Political Theory as the second field. In both cases, questions will address topics within the History of Political Thought as well as Contemporary Theorists and Current Controversies. Students should submit the syllabi of their Political Theory seminars and their selection of texts from the Master Syllabus to the Field Chair during the first week of the semester in which they will be taking their comprehensive examination.
First field students are responsible for all readings in bold face on the Master Syllabus (below), as well as three additional texts from Section 1 of the Master Syllabus, five texts from Section 2, and three texts from Section 3. The selected texts should not duplicate readings that appear on syllabi of seminars that students have taken.
Second field students are responsible for all readings in bold face on the Master Syllabus, as well as one additional text from Section 1, two texts from Section 2, and one text from Section 3. The selected texts should not duplicate readings that appear on syllabi of seminars that students have taken.
In answering examination questions, students should demonstrate mastery of the relevant literature in the field, the ability to use the literature creatively in constructing an analytically coherent argument, and the ability to formulate a critical perspective.
The oral component of the examination allows students:
to respond to questions arising from weaknesses or gaps in their written
- to display their general knowledge of political thought in addressing related questions
- to display their fluency in the classic and current debates of the field
Section I: History of Political Thought
of the Peloponnesian War
Plato, Republic, Laws, Apology, Crito, Gorgias
Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Politics
Augustine, City of God, Confessions
Cicero, Republic, On Duties, Laws
Aquinas, Summa Theologica (Treatise on Law)
Machiavelli, The Prince, Discourses
Luther, Secular Authority
Calvin, On God and Political Duty
Locke, Second Treatise of Government, A Letter Concerning Toleration
Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, Persian Letters
Rousseau, Discourses and Social Contract
Constant, "The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns”
Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” “Perpetual Peace,” Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, Wealth of Nations
Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Madison, Hamilton, Jay, The Federalist Papers
Paine, Common Sense, Rights of Man
Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience”
Hegel, Philosophy of Right, “Lordship and Bondage” in The Phenomenology of Spirit
Bentham, Principles of Morals and Legislation
Mill, On Liberty, On Representative Government, On Subjection of Women,Utilitarianism
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Genealogy of Morals
Marx, “On the Jewish Question,” “Thesis on Feuerbach,” Economic and
Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844,“The German Ideology,” The Communist Manifesto
Lenin, Imperialism, State and Revolution, What is to Be Done?
Gramsci, Prison Notebooks
Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
Freud, Civilization and its Discontents
Schmitt, The Concept of the Political
Dewey, The Public and its Problems
Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment
Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Representation,” “Critique
of Violence,” “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century”
Heidegger, Being and Time, The Question Concerning Technology
Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy
Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty
Hayek, The Road to Serfdom
Arendt, The Human Condition, Between Past and Future, On Revolution, On Violence)
Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement
Habermas, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Between Facts and Norms
Foucault, Discipline and Punish, Power/Knowledge, “Governmentality”
Section II: Important Recent Thinkers/Commentators
Agamben, Homo Sacer
Benjamin Barber, Strong Democracy
Seyla Benhabib, Situating the Self
Wendy Brown, States of Injury
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
William Connolly, Identity/Difference
Robert Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics
Jacques Derrida, “White Mythology”, “Declarations of Independence”
Nancy Fraser, Unruly Practices
David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity
Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice
Bonnie Honig, Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics
George Kateb, Inner Ocean
Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship
Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy
Steven Luke, Power: A Radical View
Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition
Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue
CB Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism
Charles Mills, The Racial Contract
Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia
Michael Oakeshott, "Rationalism in Politics"
Susan Okin, Justice Gender, and the Family
Carole Pateman, Participation and Democratic Theory, The Sexual Contract
Philip Pettit, Republicanism
J.G.A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment
Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope
Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice
Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, 2 Vols., Liberty Before Liberalism
Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self, “The Politics of Recognition”
Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice
Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision
Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference
Section III: Approaches to Political Thought
Condren, The Status and Appraisal of Classic Texts
Jacques Derrida, “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” “Le Difference”
Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” “What is an Author?” The Archeology of Knowledge
Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method
Clifford Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures
John Gunnell, Political Theory: Tradition and Interpretation, The Descent of Political Theory
Max Horkheimer, “What is Critical Theory?”
J.G.A. Pocock, "Languages and Their Implications: The Transformation of the Study of Political Thought"
Karl Popper, The Poverty of Historicism
Quentin Skinner, "Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas"
“Motives, Intentions, and the Interpretation of Texts,” The Return of Grand Theory in the Human Sciences
Leo Strauss, "What is Political Philosophy?" Persecution and the Art of Writing
Charles Taylor, “Neutrality in Political Science,” “Interpretation and the Sciences of Man"
Sheldon Wolin, “Political Theory as a Vocation”
Students also might want to look at the following essays in Political Theory 30, no. 4 (2002): Kateb, “The Adequacy of the Canon”; Cavarero, “Politicizing Theory;” J. Tully, “Political Philosophy as Critical Activity;” Brown, “At the Edge;” Shapiro, “Problems, Methods, and Theories in the Study of Politics”