Subfield Coordinator: Wendy Brown
Berkeley’s department offers a full range of courses in political theory, including classical, modern, and contemporary political philosophy (both European and American).
In the history of political thought, faculty have particular strengths in ancient moral and political thought, renaissance and early modern political thought, Enlightenment social and political thought, and nineteenth and twentieth century Marxism, British and Continental theory, and critical theory. In contemporary political theory, their areas of expertise include liberal and democratic thought, sovereignty and multiculturalism, and postfoundational approaches to subjectivity and social inquiry.
The core curriculum for graduate study in the department involves those courses recommended in preparation for the qualifying exam in the history of political thought (such courses include PS212a, 212b, 212c, 213, and 214); and courses of special relevance to the qualifying exam in contemporary political theory (including PS215a, 215b, and 216). The history of political thought exam has two parts. Part I queries students about the nature of the history of Western political thought as a field of knowledge, and/or about debates focused on particular periods or problems. Part II of the exam asks students to respond to questions about particular theorists or texts in each of three major time periods (ancient and medieval; early modern; modern). The contemporary political thought exam approaches twentieth and twenty-first century political theory from three angles: subfields of theory, theorists and approaches, and topics.
The research, writing, and pedagogical interests of faculty within political theory are impressively varied. Greater details about the work and interests of each faculty member may be found on their faculty web pages.