Political Theory

Exam Schedule
Comprehensive examinations in political theory will be offered annually in June; any retakes of the exam will be scheduled for September. To take the exam, a student must declare an intention to do so well in advance. Please consult the Department’s “Graduate Degree Requirements” for details.

Structure of the Exam
The exam will be two days in length; students will answer one question per day. At the start of each day, students will be given a list of two or more questions, typically by e-mail, from which they will choose one question to answer. Students must return their answers to the exam administrator eight hours after they receive their questions. Delivery by e-mail attachment is acceptable. Answers should be typewritten, double-spaced, in 12 point or larger type; each answer should be between 2000 and 3500 words in length.

At each offering of the exam, at least two faculty in political theory will be responsible for writing questions and evaluating answers. Each essay will be read and evaluated by at least two faculty members. Students will be notified of the results within one month of taking the exam. “Pass” and “not pass” are the only evaluation options. In accordance with departmental policy, students who do not pass the exam the first time shall have the opportunity to retake the exam at a subsequent offering. If a student fails to pass the examination twice, his or her retention in the Ph.D. program will be under review.

We encourage students to talk to faculty members about strategies for exam preparation. We’re happy to help.

Reading List and Appendix
The exam will cover a set of readings that is listed below. The required texts below represent key interventions in the history of political thought spanning from the Ancients to the twentieth century. While this list is by no means exhaustive, students seeking qualification in political theory should display a thorough knowledge of these texts as well as the interpretive and theoretical debates they have inaugurated. Students are encouraged to consult faculty about helpful secondary sources for these authors. The appendix to this list provides a broader list of authors and texts to help you in your studying.

  1. Plato, Republic
  2. Aristotle, Politics
  3. Cicero, On the Commonwealth and On the Laws
  4. Augustine, City of God, books IV, 3–4; V, 24; VIII, 1–11; XIV, 28; XV, 1–5; XIX, 4–22, 25–28; XX, 1–2
  5. Machiavelli, The Prince and The Discourses on Livy
  6. Hobbes, Leviathan
  7. Locke, Second Treatise of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration
  8. Rousseau, Second Discourse (Discourse on the Origin of Inequality) and Of the Social Contract
  9. The Federalist Papers (1–2, 6–10, 14–28, 33, 36–58, 62–63, 70, 78–85)
  10. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  11. Kant, the selections in Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings, ed. Kleingeld
  12. Hegel, The Philosophy of Right
  13. Tocqueville, Democracy in America
  14. Marx, “On the Jewish Question,” “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844,” “The Communist Manifesto,” and Capital, vol. 1 [the selections in The Marx-Engels Reader or McLellan’s Selected Writings are sufficient]
  15. Mill, On Liberty and The Subjection of Women
  16. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals
  17. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
  18. Weber, “Science as a Vocation” and “Politics as a Vocation”
  19. Gandhi, Selected Political Writings (ed. Dalton)
  20. Schmitt, Concept of the Political and Political Theology
  21. Arendt, The Human Condition
  22. Rawls, A Theory of Justice, sec. 1-5, 11-26, 28-44, 46, 48, 50-60, 63, 65, 67, 69, 76-77, 79, 80-82, 87
  23. Foucault, Discipline and Punish
  24. Okin, Justice, Gender, and the Family
  25. Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, chapters 1, 5 & 6; “Actions, Speech Acts, Linguistically Mediated Interactions, and the Lifeworld” in On the Pragmatics of Communication; and Between Facts and Norms, chapter 7, Afterword, Appendix 1, Appendix 2
  26. Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference

The following lists provide a wider view of central texts in political theory. While not required for the exam, we encourage students to consult these texts in their studying and to pursue coursework that will expose you to these works.

Sabine, A History of Political Theory

Wolin, Politics as Vision

Strauss & Cropsey, History of Political Philosophy

Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition

Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought

Okin, Women in Western Political Thought

Benhabib, Critique, Norm & Utopia

Dryzek, Honig, and Phillips, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory

Ryan, On Politics: A History of Political Thought

Sophocles, Antigone

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War

Plato, Apology; Crito; Laws

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Cicero, On Duties [ De Officiis]

Aquinas, Selections from Summa Theologica in On Law, Morality, and Politics, trans. Richard J. Regan, ed. William P. Baumgarth and Richard J. Regan (2nd ed.) ST I-II, Questions 90-95 (pp. 10-59) I-II, Q. 96-97 (pp. 59-75); Q. 105 A. 1 (pp. 93-96); II-II Q. 57 A. 2-3 (pp. 100-103); Q. 40 A. 1 (pp. 164-167); Q. 64 A. 6-7 (pp. 167-71); Q. 104 A. 5-6 (pp. 182-185); Q. 42 A. 2 (pp. 188-189)

More, Utopia

Luther and Calvin, Luther and Calvin on Secular Authority, ed. Höpfl

Vitoria, “On the American Indians”; “On Dietary Laws, or Self-Restraint” (selection: pp. 217-230, Pagden and Lawrance edition)

Montaigne, “Of Cannibals”; “Of Cruelty”

Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, ed. Tuck, Prolegomena [Preliminary Discourse]; Book I: chs. 1, 2 (sections 1-4); Book II: chs. 1, 22, 24, 25; Book III: ch. 1 (sections 1-5 only), and chs. 7, 8, and 25

Spinoza, Theologico-Political Treatise

Montesquieu, Persian Letters; Spirit of the Laws

Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Book III, Parts I and II; “Of the First Principles of Government,” “Of the Origin of Government,” “Of the Original Contract,” “Of Passive Obedience” in Essays

Rousseau, “Discourse on the Sciences and Arts”; “Discourse on Political Economy”; “The State of War”

Herder, “Yet Another Philosophy of History”

Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments; The Wealth of Nations, Bk I chs. 1-10; Bks III-IV, Book V, chs.1

Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Nonsense Upon Stilts; “Emancipate your colonies”

Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France; “Speech on Fox’s East India Bill” and “Speech in Opening the Impeachment of Warren Hastings” [selections in Bromwich, ed., On Empire, Liberty, and Reform or J. Welsh and D. Fidler, eds., Empire and Community]

Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Man

Paine, Rights of Man

Constant, “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns”

Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit: Preface; Introduction; Lordship and Bondage; Absolute Freedom and Terror

Tocqueville, “Essay on Algeria”; The Old Regime and the Revolution

Mill, “A Few Words on Non-Intervention”; Utilitarianism; Considerations on Representative Government

Emerson, “Self-Reliance”; “Politics”

Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government”

Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July”

Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism; “The Types of Legitimate Domination”

Schmitt, Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy

Dewey, The Public and its Problems

Freud, Civilization and its Discontents

James, The Black Jacobins

Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment

Beauvoir, Second Sex

Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism; On Revolution

Fanon, Black Skin/White Masks; Wretched of the Earth

Strauss, Natural Right and History

Hart, The Concept of Law
Wolin, “Political Theory as a Vocation” and “Fugitive Democracy” in Fugitive Democracy and other Essays

Pitkin, The Concept of Representation

Nozick, Anarchy, State, Utopia

Lukes, Power: A Radical View

Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars; Spheres of Justice

Jameson, “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture”

Habermas, “What is Universal Pragmatics?” in Communication and the Evolution of Society; “Discourse Ethics: Notes on a Program of Philosophical Justification” in Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action; “The Postnational Constellation and the Future of Democracy” in The Postnational Constellation

Foucault, History of Sexuality, vol. 1

Sen, “Equality of what?”

Pateman, The Sexual Contract

Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology

Shklar, “The Liberalism of Fear”; The Faces of Injustice

Butler, Gender Trouble

Rawls, Political Liberalism; The Law of Peoples

Mouffe, The Return of the Political

Benhabib, Butler, Cornell, and Fraser, Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange

Mills, The Racial Contract

Pettit, Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government; On the People's Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy

Waldron, Law and Disagreement

Sen, Development as Freedom

Pogge, World Poverty and Human Rights

Fraser and Honneth, Redistribution or Recognition?

Scott, Conscripts of Modernity

Nagel, “The Problem of Global Justice”

Shelby, We Who Are Dark

Benhabib et al., Another Cosmopolitanism

Anderson, The Imperative of Integration

Young, Responsibility for Justice

Carens, The Ethics of Immigration

Brown and Forst, The Power of Tolerance

Brown, Undoing the Demos

Tully et al., Global Citizenship