Political Theory

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 features 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, the history of Anglophone political thought, liberalism, and contemporary political thought. Faculty employ historically informed, interdisciplinary methods and perspectives to explore how gendered, racial, social, political, technological and ecological identities are shaped and contested in a globalizing world of rapid change.

First Field Requirements

Summary of First Field Requirements (6 courses for a total of 18 credits)

  • POT 6505: Politics and Theory (required of all Ph.D. students)
  • Five additional seminars from the list below — at least one seminar must be taken in each Section (A and B). It is highly recommended that the five seminars be relatively evenly distributed between Section A – The History of Political Thought, and Section B – Contemporary Theorists and Current Controversies.

Field Examination

  • Written component: answer three questions in 72 hours
  • Oral defense: scheduled after written component
  • Comprehensive Exam Reading List

Committee Selection

  • Committee chair is student’s dissertation chair
  • Committee is composed of Dr. Les Thiele and Dr. Dan O’Neill

Examination Questions

  • Section I: Question on the History of Political Thought (section A); 4,000 word limit
  • Section II: Question on Contemporary Theorists and Current Controversies (section B); 4,000 word limit
  • Section III: Pertaining to student’s specific area of dissertation research. It is the responsibility of first field students to speak with the Field Chair in the semester prior to their comprehensive examination to ensure that their area of dissertation research is familiar to faculty; 4,000 word limit

Second Field Requirements

Summary of Second Field Requirements (4 courses for a total of 12 credits)

  • POT 6505: Politics and Theory (required of all Ph.D. students)
  • Three additional seminars from the list below — at least one seminar must be taken in each section.

Field Examination

  • Written component: answer two questions in 48 hours
  • Oral defense: scheduled after written component
  • Comprehensive Exam Reading List

Committee Selection

For second field exams, committee chair does not have to be student’s dissertation chair.
Committee is composed of Dr. Les Thiele and Dr. Dan O’Neill

Examination Questions

  • Section I: Question on the History of Political Thought (section A); 4,000 word limit
  • Section II: Question on Contemporary Theorists and Current Controversies (section B); 4,000 word limit

Third Field Requirements

  • Summary of Third Field Requirements (3 courses for a total of 9 credits)
  • POT 6505: Politics and Theory (required of all Ph.D. students)
  • Two additional seminars from list below — one from each section

Courses that Satisfy Field Requirments

Section A – The History of Political Thought

  • POT 6016: Ancient Political Thought
  • POT 6056: Modern Political Thought
  • POT 6416: The Marxist Tradition and Its Critics
  • POT 4013: Great Political Thinkers: Ancient and Medieval (If Ancient Political Thought seminar is not offered.)
  • POT 4053: Great Political Thinkers: Machiavelli to Marx (If Modern Political Thought seminar is not offered.)

Section B – Contemporary Theorists and Current Controversies

  • POT 6067: Contemporary Political Theory
  • POT 6314: Democratic Theory
  • POT 6306: Liberalism and Its Critics
  • POT 6516: Political Judgment