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Thinking about Politics: Political Theory


Admission requirements

This is a required methodology course for LUC students wishing to major in World Politics.


Political Theory attempts to help us model, analyse, and sometimes predict political behaviour in its various forms and modes around the world and throughout history—its ambitions, therefore, are transnational and transhistorical. It is fundamental to our understanding of core concepts in ‘global challenges’ such as justice, liberty, equality, democracy, and even the constitution of individual dignity. The study of political theory helps us understand the variations in political traditions, but also enables us to critique and even build concepts and ideas about politics and the political.

Central to the field of political theory are debates about the similarities and differences between law, order, and politics, as well as the problematic nexus between ethics and politics. More recent debates have focused on questions of gender, the environment, and the politics of political knowledge itself. Structured around themes, issues, problems, and approaches (rather than around individual thinkers or regions), this course aims to expose students to a variety of ways to think about real-life dilemmas using politico-theoretic tools from a range of different contexts. Alongside this process, the course is also designed to guide students in the techniques and methods of interrogating complex theoretical texts.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete this course will:
 understand a variety of ways of thinking about real-life dilemmas using politico-theoretic tools from a range of different contexts;
 understand the central themes, concepts and traditions in political theory today;
 understand different viewpoints on major political themes, including ancient and modern, European and non-European traditions;
 understand the techniques and methods of interrogating complex theoretical texts; and
 appreciate the politics of knowledge regarding the boundaries of political theory and its deployment in scholarship.


Please see the LUC website:

Mode of instruction

 Seminars will form the main body of this course;
 A variety of texts (primary and secondary sources) will be used to ensure exposure to diverse resources, forms of knowledge, forms of expression, and types of evidence;
 Where appropriate, sources in translation will be used, and the issue of ‘translation’ will be problematised;
 Students will prepare for seminars by completing the assigned readings (which will be made available electronically) and completing web-postings about each reading in advance of the class;
 In class, the seminar leader will commence by dealing with the questions posed by the web-postings, using them as spring-boards for discussion;
 Classes will also include detailed readings of difficult texts, helping students to unpack dense or theoretically demanding passages, showing them how to read ‘out’ of a text into its context and into the debates in which it participates;
 Where possible, at least two sources (from different eras and/or different regions) that deal with common issues will be analysed together, and the interactions between meaning and context will be considered;
 A blackboard site will support the course, hosting readings as well as multimedia material, web-forum/postings, and assessment.

Assessment method

This course will be assessed in a variety of ways. Emphasis will be placed on the interaction and active engagement of students with the material, since the course is discursive in nature and its goals revolve around normative as well as scientific awareness. Continuous assessment of in-class performance will therefore be important. In addition, students will be assessed on the basis of their preparation for class (via completion of their web-postings), on their ability to interrogate texts on their feet (via in- class discussion), and on their capacity to analyse and evaluate secondary sources (via a book review) as well as the theoretical position in a primary source (via a final essay).

  1. Development of normative and scientific awareness in field of political theory: assessed through In-class participation (20% of final grade): Weeks 1-7
  2. Critical reading and analysis : assessed through Web-postings (350-words each; 20% of final grade): Weeks 1-3, 5-7
  3. Interrogate and evaluate secondary sources; writing and reading skills: assessed through book review (2000-2500 words; 30% of final grade): Week 4
  4. Understand and present academic positions; writing & reading skills: assessed through essay (2000-2500 words; 30% of final grade): Week 8


a link to the blackboard page may be entered here

Reading list

A reader will be prepared for this course, and will be made available via blackboard. The following texts are recommended for additional reading:

 Duncan Bell (ed), Ethics and World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)
 Boudewijn Bruin & Christopher Zurn (eds), New Waves in Political Philosophy (New York: Palgrave, 2009)


This course is only open for LUC The Hague students.

Weekly Overview

Session 1: What is Political Theory?

Session 2: Ethics, Institutions, and Political Thought
Session 3: Economy, Market, and Political Thought
Session 4: Gender, Race, and Political Thought
Session 5: Environment and Green Political Thought
Session 6: Post-Colonial and Comparative Political Thought

Session 7: Community and Belonging
Session 8: Responsibility and Dignity
Session 9: Freedom and Integrity
Session 10: Representation and Oppression
Session 11: Poverty and Inequality
Session 12: Violence and Security
Session 13: Conflict and Revolution

Session 14: Conclusion – Global, International, and Political Theory