Courses

ballot-boxPolitical Science 106, “Introduction to Political Theory”
This course offers an undergraduate level introduction to the field of political theory. We focus on four major themes–power, freedom, justice, and democracy–reading some canonical texts, such as Bentham’s Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation and Marx’s Capital, but emphasizing contemporary works, such as those of Michel Foucault, John Rawls, and Robert Dahl. By the end of the semester, you should have a good working knowledge of the texts we have studied and the arguments their authors advance. You should also have the basic skills you need to read, analyze, debate about, and write about similar texts in political theory, so that you are well equipped for further study in the field, including but not limited to the history of political thought sequence at Washington University. Download syllabus.

honest-abePolitical Science 3044, “Foundations of American Democracy”
Since its founding, the United States of America has been strongly identified with principles of democratic rule. This course provides an introduction to some philosophical and historical foundations of American democracy. Over the course of the semester, we will ask what democracy means, and what it requires. We will examine thinking about political rights and liberty at the American founding. We will ask what democratic inclusion and political equality entail. We will ask what democracy means, and what it should mean, in the American context, and whether and to what extent American institutions embody democratic ideals. Download syllabus.

explosionPolitical Science 389, “Power, Justice, and the City”
This course examines questions of power and justice through the lens of the contemporary metropolis, with a focus on St. Louis specifically, and American urban life more generally. It asks what power is, and how we can best study and criticize power relations. It asks what justice requires, and how we can realize or approximate just institutions and practices. It explores racial hierarchy and racial injustice, the relationships among contemporary cities and their suburbs, and the question of urban institutional reform. By the end of the semester, you should have a sense of some of the challenges facing the American metropolis today, as well as the conceptual tools you need to think about those and related challenges in terms of power and social justice. Download syllabus.
Calvin & Hobbes

Political Science 392/5092, “History of Political Thought II: Legitimacy, Equality, and the Social Contract”
Government is often justified as legitimate on the grounds that it is based on the consent of the governed. In History of Political Thought II, “Legitimacy, Equality, and the Social Contract,” we examine the origins of this view, focusing our attention on canonical works in the social contract tradition, by Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), John Locke (1632-1704), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), David Hume (1711-1776), and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). In addition, in the early weeks of the course, we examine precursors to the social contract tradition, including works by John Calvin (1509-1564) and Jean Bodin (1530-1596). In the concluding weeks, we consider John Rawls’s recent return to the social contract tradition and Charles Mills’s critique of social contract theory. This course is the second in a three-semester sequence on the history of political thought. Students are encouraged but not required to take all three courses. Download Syllabus.

grumpy

Political Science393/5093, “History of Political Thought III: Liberty, Democracy, and Revolution”
How (if at all) should the modern state express and secure the liberty and equality of citizens? What is the political significance of private property? What does it mean to understand humans as rational beings, and how does this understanding of human nature influence political theory and practice? In History of Political Thought III, “Liberty, Democracy, and Revolution,” we address these and other fundamental political questions, focusing our attention on canonical works from the late 18th and the 19th centuries, by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), Karl Marx (1818-1883), Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), J.S. Mill (1806-1873), and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). This course is the third in a three-semester sequence on the history of political thought. Students are encouraged but not required to take all three courses.Download syllabus.

MozartPolitical Science402/502, “Theories of Democracy”
What does it mean to govern democratically? Why value democratic government? What role, if any, should notions of power, participation, deliberation, recognition, and contestation play in theorizing about, and in empirical research into, problems of democratic governance? Political Science 402/502 provides an advanced undergraduate/graduate-level introduction to debates in democratic theory, with an emphasis on work done since the second half of the twentieth century. It will be particularly useful to students concentrating in political theory, and to students of American, comparative, and international politics with a substantive focus on questions related to democracy. Download Syllabus.

karlPolitical Science 568, “Graduate Field Survey in Political Theory”
This course is a graduate survey designed to introduce students to the scope, concepts, and methods of political theory. Its intended audience is students in the field (including minors) and in cognate disciplines. Over the course of the semester we will ask, “What is political theory, and how does one ‘do’ it?” exploring methodological debates in the history of political thought and in contemporary theory. We will ask, “What is the best approach to analyzing and evaluating political phenomena?” considering as possible answers utilitarian, Kantian, Marxian, feminist, and poststructuralist approaches. We will engage debates about key concepts in the field, as well, devoting one week each to the study of power, freedom, equality, justice, and democracy. Download syllabus.