Political Theory

Teaching and Research

Graduate Placement

Political Theory Resources

Teaching and Research

Political theory analyzes and interprets the foundations of political life and evaluates its principles, concepts and institutions. The history of political thought and analytic and philosophical investigation are its two traditional perspectives. Columbia’s political theory faculty cover both areas, and its graduate program excels at providing students with a thorough grounding in the history of political thought, while simultaneously training them to analyze the most important normative questions confronting contemporary political society. Although a number of faculty members contribute prominently to scholarship on the interpretation of classic texts, from ancient through modern works, all are motivated by an interest in contemporary principles and institutions.

Columbia’s political theory faculty and students work in the field of democratic theory, theories of liberty and government and constitutionalism, drawing on departmental strengths in rational-choice and historical institutionalism, the study of political representation and electoral systems. Other noteworthy faculty and student interests lie in examining the development of the concepts and institutions of secularism and of justice; faculty and students alike regularly engage with scholars in the departments of classics, philosophy and history on these questions and beyond. Several also work in the fields of international political theory, addressing issues of global justice, sovereignty, human rights, global constitutionalism and post-national democracy, drawing on departmental strengths in the field of international relations and international law. They draw on the remarkable resources at Columbia Law School and collaborate with several leading Columbia institutions, like the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life (IRCPL), the European Institute, the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, and the Heyman Center for the Humanities.

The political theory program at Columbia features two seminar series that bring in leading outside speakers: the Columbia University Political Theory Workshop, primarily for Columbia faculty and students, and the Columbia Seminar in Political and Social Thought, which brings together scholars from the wider New York area. Moreover, because New York City is home to perhaps the largest group of political theorists in the world, every week of the academic year offers additional opportunities for students to attend seminars and conferences both at Columbia and beyond. 

Graduate Placement

In recent years, Columbia graduates have secured tenure-track positions and postdoctoral fellowships at top universities and liberal arts colleges, including Bosphorous University (Istanbul), Brown University, CIDE, Harvard University, McGill University, McMaster University, University of Michigan, The New School for Social Research, Queen’s University, Rollins College, University of Virginia, Washington University, and Yale University, Oxford University in addition to the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (Oslo), Tel Aviv University, University of Copenhagen, and Sciences Po (Paris).

Political Theory Resources

Association for Political Theory

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

For political theorists, the American Philosophical Association's gopher provides access to a preprint server as well as to many searchable classic texts. In addition, BEARS (Brown Electronic Article Review Service) provides reviews of recent articles in the fields of moral and political philosophy. 

The Perseus Project at Tufts University is a repository of useful information on various aspects of ancient Greek literature and theory. There is access to a very comprehensive body of Greek texts in translation. There is also an interesting collection of secondary texts on Thucydides, including Hobbes's On the Life and History of Thucydides, and Finlay's Three Essays on Thucydides.

The Hume Archives at the University of Tennessee-Martin, provide access to a substantial collection of Hume's texts, as well as to early biographies, and to eighteenth century reviews of the philosopher's writings.

The Nietzsche Page at the University of Southern California contains information about various Nietzsche-related societies, the full text of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and an assortment of Nietzschean maxims.

The Online Liberty Fund http://oll.libertyfund.org/

The Augustine Page at the University of Pennsylvania includes selections from the works of St. Augustine (in Latin and also in English translation), as well as papers written by participants in an on-line seminar.

The Marxism Page provides access to texts by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky, as well as to contemporary Marxist writings.

The Spoon Collective provides links to archives of papers and discussions on theorists including Deleuze, Foucault, Habermas, Heidigger, Lyotard, and Marx.

Oxford University provides access to a significant collection of political theory texts, from the classical to the contemporary. The Marxism Page provides access to texts by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky, as well as to contemporary Marxist writings.