Political theory has long played a central role in the graduate program of the Department. The courses offered in this field are designed to serve the needs of minors as well as majors, and they cover a wide range of topics, ranging all the way from ancient Greek and Roman political thought to quite recent developments. The program is designed to acquaint students in some depth with the history of political thought, Western and non-Western alike, while at the same time equipping them with the tools necessary to bring those resources to bear creatively on topics of current interest.
In its treatment of the history of political thought the Department currently pays particular attention to: ancient Greek (Joshua Mitchell) , Roman (Shannon Stimson) and Chinese (Loubna El Amine) political thought; early modern Western thought (Richard Boyd, Mitchell & Stimson); the Scottish Enlightenment (Boyd & Stimson); and 19th and 20th century Liberalism and its critics (Joshua Cherniss & Bruce Douglass).
In its treatment of topics of current interest the Department currently emphasizes: religion & politics (Douglass, Michael Kessler & Mitchell); social theory (Boyd, Douglass & Stimson); human rights and multiculturalism (El Amine); political ethics (Cherniss); and comparative political theory (El Amine).
In its theory offerings the Department also regularly makes use of the talents of a number of people with appointments in other units who offer courses on topics of interest to theorists. Included in that group are such people as E.J. Dionne from the Public Policy Institute (religion & politics); Judith Lichtenberg, Terry Pinkard and Henry Richardson from the Philosophy Department (ethics); and Marilyn McMorrow from the School of Foreign Service (ethics & international relations). The Department also encourages its doctoral students (especially in political theory) to take advantage of the resources available in other departments (Philosophy, Public Policy, Berkley Center, etc.) that are germane to their interests.