Fall 2021


, 3 pts, UN3104


How did political theory explain the rise of Nazism in Germany? What models did it develop to understand the structure of the Nazi state, politics and the economy? What can we learn from this for dealing with the crises of democracy and the emergence of authoritarian politics today? This course in political theory and the history of political thought will explore contemporary answers to these questions. It will explore the thought of crucial thinkers on the problems and pitfalls of modern parliamentary democracy such as Max Weber and Hans Kelsen, as well as some of the most influential theoretical voices associated with ideas of Fascism, Totalitarianism and Anti-Semitism such as Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Ernst Fraenkel and Hannah Arendt. 

The course will be structured around texts mainly from the 1920s to the 1960s which still have relevance for political theory today. A strong emphasis will be laid on originally German thinkers who fled to the US in the time of Nazi rule and who contributed decisively to American political science and its particular outlook in the post-war era.  

This course aims to contextualise the discussed texts within the intellectual world of their own time. Students with an interest in twentieth century political, intellectual and social history will, therefore, be particularly welcome. However, the questions raised in the set texts also demand a theoretical and creative engagement with questions of good democratic rule, the challenges of mass society and participation, political in- and exclusion, minority rights and the emergence of terror and authoritarian rule. Additionally there will be a midterm and a final exam which will examine both students’ understanding of the set texts as well as their own thinking on the political theoretical problems raised in this course. 

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Clara Maier