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Political Theory

Graduate seminars in Political Theory cover a wide array of areas in the field, with particular strengths in the history of western political theory [Classical, Early Modern, Late Modern]; American and African-American political thought; critical theory; historical, contemporary, and normative democratic theory; feminist theory; and comparative political theory. 

Research and Studies in Political Theory

Both first and second field graduate students in political theory are advised to read and explore widely in the subfield offerings. Towards that end, we strongly encourage all first and second field theory students to have a distribution of their course selections across three general categories:

2 seminars in the history of political theory; 1 seminar in contemporary political theory; and 1 seminar in normative or analytic political philosophy.

The particular seminars in question are open to students’ interests and choices. They usually fall clearly into one of these categories (for example, PS 461, 462, and 463 for the history of political theory). If there are questions about this or if a seminar fits more than one category, distribution solutions can be worked out between faculty instructor, graduate student, and the Field Chair.

These 4 seminars must be those offered by faculty members in the department of political science. Additional ones may also be in cognate fields like philosophy, history, classics, science studies, or gender and sexuality studies.

Recent seminars reflect the interests or ongoing scholarship of the theory faculty. We have had on offer Marxism and Pragmatism; Frankfurt School Critical Theory; Black Political Thought; Utopian Political Thought; Political Realism; Language and Politics; and the Interpretation of Texts, as well as seminars on specific thinkers, for example, Aristophanes; Plato; Aristotle; Machiavelli; Hobbes; Locke; Marx; Dewey; Nietzsche; Arendt; and Foucault. We have also recently added seminars in Early Chinese Political Thought; Islamic Political Thought; Global Democratic Theory; Comparative Political Theory; and Recent Analytical Political Philosophy, among them.

The Comprehensive Examination in Political Theory

At the start of their first year graduate students with first field specializations in political theory receive a set of subfield study guidelines and expectations to help them prepare for the comprehensive examination, given in the Fall Quarter of their third year. The examination consists of three parts, a broadly thematic question; an interpretive question based on a text of the student’s own choosing; and seminar material. Students pursuing political theory as a second field are expected to take at least two seminars in the history sequence plus three others, earning a B+ or higher in each course. Whether first or second field, all graduate students in political theory are encouraged to consult regularly with the faculty Field Chair and their faculty Advisor as they pursue their studies in the program.  Information about the exam format can be found here.

Political Theory Faculty and Students’ activities include:

Faculty and Graduate Students

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