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Thinking about Politics: Power and Sovereignty


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None, although successful completion of at least one of the compulsory 100-level World Politics courses is strongly recommended.

Recommended course(s):



This is an advanced level seminar course which aims to focus on certain schools of thought in contemporary political philosophy. The course concentrates on strands rather than topics in contemporary political philosophy. We will specifically analyze liberal egalitarianism, libertarianism, communitarianism, republicanism, feminism and postcolonialism. In our examination, we will concentrate on specific thinkers as representatives of each school of thought and try to make a close reading of the primary texts rather than only sketching the general arguments of each strand. Our goal is to reflect on “What is politics and why does it matter?”. This question will be addressed in relation to concepts such as power, freedom, equality and justice.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course, the students;

  1. will have gained a deeper knowledge on the meaning and dimensions of the concept of politics the contemporary age.
  2. will have developed a better insight on how major theoretical strands in contemporary political philosophy understand and evaluate the concept of politics and its relation to major concepts such as power, freedom, equality and justice.

  3. will have improved their analytical skills in textual interpretation of theoretical texts in contemporary political philosophy.

  4. will be able to critically engage with the literature in contemporary political philosophy by comparing and contrasting the major texts.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, in- class discussions, student presentations

Assessment Method

One presentation made in groups- %10 of overall grade

Participation to class discussions- %10 of the overall grade

Two short reaction essays (about 500 words) (due on week 3 and 5 )- % 40 (each essay amounts to %20 of the overall grade)

One final longer take home essay about 1500-2000 words (due on week 8) - %40

Reading list

Required Readings are Below. A full list of suggested readings will be available in the syllabus. The weblinks to the required readings will be provided on Brightspace.

  • D. Miller, Political Philosophy, A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003 (Chapter 1)

  • John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1973 [sections 11-17, 20-26] (available as e-book)

  • Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, Oxford, Blackwell, 1974 [ch.7 sec.1] (available in print)

  • M. Walzer, 'The Communitarian Critique of Liberalism', Political Theory, 18(1), 1990, pp. 6-23 (available online)

  • Linda Zerilli, “Politics”, in The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory (edited by Lisa Disch and Mary Hawkesworth), Jan 2015 (available as e-book)

  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe- Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton University Press, 2008, (Chapter 1- Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History) (available as e-book)

  • Alex Callinicos, “Marxism and the Critique”, The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy, Edited by Michael Rosen and Brian Leiter, Sep 2009. (available online)


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,