PhD Seminar: Introduction to Political Theory and Philosophy

Institution: Washington State University

Department: Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs

Course-level: PhD Seminar

Format:  Seminar

Description: This core course in the doctoral program in political science provides an advanced introduction to a number of central areas in which political theory is practiced today. It is composed of three parts. The first part (I. History of Political Thought), engages with the core ideas of central thinkers in different historical periods, focusing on Plato, Machiavelli, Rousseau and Marx, as well as contemporary readings of those thinkers. The second part (II. Concepts in Political Thought), engages with core concepts in political theory and philosophy, focusing on justice, freedom, power and resistance, by reading classic historical and contemporary texts. The last part (III. Paradigms of Political Theorizing), discusses four paradigms in which political theory and philosophy is discussed today, focusing on democratic theory, feminist political theory, critical theory, and comparative or non-Western political thought. Here we assess the ways in which the thinkers within these paradigms have (re)formulated some of the concepts discussed in part two of the course.

Rather than a comprehensive survey into the history of political thought, this course is designed to provide students with an insight in which political theory today is discussed. Rather than focusing on the quantity of materials in each of the sub-fields of political theory, it focuses on select core texts of thinkers, concepts and paradigms, which we aim to study and discuss in depth. It is designed as a starting point for both those students who want to pursue a PhD track in political theory and philosophy as well as those students who focus their studies in other sub-fields in political science and other disciplines, as a means to deepen or awaken their interest in the study of political theory. Those students who want to deepen their understanding of the history of political thought are advised to take Pols. 437.1.

Course Goals: The study of the texts will improve students ability (both orally and in writing) to 1) obtain an insight into the main arguments of some of the central thinkers of political thought; 2) understand how central concepts have emerged and have shifted their meaning in the history of political thought; 3) obtain an insight into central debates in contemporary political theory; 4) understand the relationship between political theory and political practice; 4) write coherent essays on the main arguments of the discussed thinkers, concepts and paradigms.