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politics and social theory

MA In Social and Political Thought

Politics and Social Theory 1


Monday 1-3 pm R1.15

Charles Turner (R2.26,





Week 2: Introduction

Week 3: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

Week 4: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

Week 5: G.W.F. Hegel: Philosophy of Right  

Week 6: Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America

Week 7: Karl Marx: Selected Political Writings

Week 8: Max Weber: Socialism and The Profession and Vocation of Politics

Week 9: Emile Durkheim: Professional Ethics and Civic Morals

Week 10: Carl Schmitt: The Concept of the Political


Provisional Reading List and Seminar Questions

The reading list offers an initial guide.  Thousands of books and articles have been written about all of these thinkers so you should supplement it with your own reading. Depending on student numbers/interests, amendments and additions may be made to this programme. 


 Week three: Hobbes’ philosophy of the state

 Seminar reading

 Hobbes, Leviathan, Cambridge UP, Introduction, chapters 13-18, 22.


 Background reading:

Mary G.Dietz, ed., Thomas Hobbes and Political Theory (Lawrence, Kansas, 1990).

Hampton, Jean (1986). Hobbes and the Social Contract Tradition, Cambridge.

Martinich, A.P. (1992). The Two Gods of Leviathan: Thomas Hobbes on Religion and Politics, Cambridge.

----- (1999). Hobbes: A Biography, Cambridge.

Oakeshott, Michael (1975). Hobbes on Civil Association, Oxford.

----, (1991) Rationalism in Politics, Liberty Press

Sorell, Tom (1986). Hobbes, London.

Strauss, Leo (1936). The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: its Basis and Genesis, Oxford.


Tuck, Richard (1989). Hobbes, Oxford.


Warrender, Howard (1957). The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: his Theory of Obligation, Oxford.


Quentin Skinner, ‘The Ideological Context of Hobbes’ Political Thought’, Historical Journal 9, 1966


Reinhart Koselleck, Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society, Berg. 


Pierre Manent, An Intellectual History of Liberalism, ch.3



 Seminar questions:


1.      What role did the ‘state of nature’ play in Hobbes’s theory of Leviathan? 2.      According to Hobbes, what makes the state ‘rational’?

3.      What is sovereignty?



 Week four: Rousseau’s theory of the general will


 Seminar reading

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book I (all) and Book II (parts 1-VI)


Background reading 


James Miller Rousseau: Dreamer of Democracy, London: Yale, 1984


Lucio Colletti, 'Rousseau as critic of civil society' From Rousseau to Lenin, Verso, 1972 


Marshall Berman, The Politics of Authenticity: Radical individualism and the emergence of modern society (New York: Atheneum 1970).


Hannah Arendt On Revolution Penguin ch.2


Ernst Cassirer, The question of Jean Jacques Rousseau Indiana 1967


Maurice Cranston The noble savage: Jean Jacques Rousseau 1754 – 1762 Penguin 1991, chapter 11.


Durkheim, Montesquieu and Rousseau


Manent, P.  An intellectual History of Liberalism, ch.6


 Seminar questions


1.                  What does Rousseau mean by the general will and why does he say that it cannot err?

2.                  Why does Rousseau say that ‘there can be no partial societies in the state’?

3.                  Was Rousseau an authoritarian, a democrat or both?





Week five:  Hegel on the modern state & civil society


 Seminar reading


G.W.F. Hegel Elements of the Philosophy of Right, edited by Allen Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), Preface and Part 3, Section 2: ‘Civil Society’.


 Additional reading


Robert Fine Political Investigations: Hegel, Marx, Arendt (London: Routledge, 2001) chapters 1 and 2. Steven Smith Hegel’s Critique of Liberalism: Rights in Context (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), chapter 5.

Manfred Riedel Between Tradition and Revolution: The Hegelian Transformation of Political Philosophy, trans. Walter Wright (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).

Herbert Marcuse Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979). 

John Rawls, Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy (London: Harvard University Press, 2000), ‘Hegel’ I (pp.329-348, especially ‘Civil Society’, pp. 344-348) and II (pp.349-371).

Charles Taylor Hegel and Modern Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

Steven Houlgate Freedom, Truth and History: An Introduction to Hegel’s Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1991).  

Anthony Black, Guilds and Civil Society



 Seminar questions


1.      What did Hegel mean by a philosophy of right? 2.      Why does Hegel characterise civil society as a ‘system of need’?

3.      What does Hegel’s theory of civil society tell us about the contradictions of modernity.





Week 6: de Tocqueville on Democracy in America (and elsewhere)


Required Reading


de Tocqueville, A., Democracy in America, [1840] London: Everyman, Vol.II: Book iii, chs.1-5; Book iv, Chs. 3-6


Background Reading


De Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution


Aron, Main Currents of Sociological Thought, Vol. I

R. Herr, Tocqueville and the Old Regime, Princeton, 1962

J.P. Mayer, Alexis de Tocqueville, New York: Harper, 1960

L. Seidentop, Tocqueville, Oxford: O.U.P., 1994

Gianfranco Poggi, Images of Society

Pierre Manent, An Intelllectual History of Liberalism, chapter 10

Sheldon Wolin, Tocqueville: between two worlds, Princeton


Seminar questions


-         why does democracy imply increasing administrative centralisation?


-         why for de Tocqueville is social equality something to be feared? 


-         how do Americans overcome the dangers of cultural uniformity?   


Week 7.  Marx and the Modern State

Seminar reading

Marx, 'On the Jewish Quesiton, in Marx: Early Writings, Penguin


Background Reading


Marx, ‘Contribution to the critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right’ (extracts), in The Marx‑Engels Reader (ed. by Robert Tucker), Norton, 1978.

David Held, Models of Democracy, (Cambridge: Polity, 1997), chapter 4 ‘Direct democracy and the end of politics', pp. 121-154.

Robert Fine, Democracy and the Rule of Law, (London: Blackburn, 2003) ch.2 and 4.

Robert Fine Political Investigations: Hegel, Marx, Arendt (London: Routledge, 2001) ch.s 4 and 5.

Jurgen Habermas The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere trans. Thomas Burger (Cambridge: Polity, 1992), pp. 117-129.

Hal Draper, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Volume One, State and Bureaucracy, MRP, 1977, Part 2, ‘The theory of the state'.

Ralph Miliband, ‘Marx and the state’, Socialist Register, 1965.

Hal Draper, ‘The dea‘The profession and vocation of politics’ (extractsth of the state in Marx and Engels’, Socialist Register, 1970.


 Seminar questions


1.      What lessons did Marx draw from the ‘Jewish question’?

2.      How did Marx distinguish between the political state and civil society?

3.      Was Marx a ‘true democrat’?


Week eight: Weber’s conception of the state

Seminar reading

Max Weber, 'The Profession and Vocation of Politics',  Political Writings, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994),

         Background reading


Max Weber, The Russian Revolutions, Cambridge: Polity, 1995

David Beetham., Max Weber and the Theory of Modern Politics, (Cambridge: Polity, 1974).

Wolfgang Mommsen, Max Weber and German Politics, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, [1959] 1974)

J. P. Mayer, Max Weber and German Politics, London, 1956

Charles Turner Modernity and Politics in the Work of Max Weber (London: Routledge 1992).

Peter Breiner, Max Weber and Democratic Politics 1996

Duncan Kelly, The State of the Political, 2003


 Seminar questions.


1.      What was the basis of Weber’s critique of socialism?

2.      What is the difference between an ‘ethics of conviction’ and an ‘ethics of responsibility’?

3.      What role did violence play in Weber’s idea of politics?


Week Nine: Durkheim on the State, Nation and Democracy

Seminar reading


Emile Durkheim 1986 Durkheim on politics and the state, ed Giddens, A. Cambridge: Polity Press.


 Background reading


Emile Durkheim 1973 [1898] ‘Individualism and the Intellectuals’ in Bellah, R. (ed) On Morality and Society, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. E. Durkheim 1992 Professional Ethics and Civic Morals, London & NY: Routledge.

E. Durkheim 1962 Socialism and Saint-Simon, NY, Collier, ch.1

E,. Durkheim 1984 The Division of Labour in Society, Macmillan

S. Lukes, Emile Durkheim, Penguin, 1973, Ch. 12-18.

Cladis, M. 1992 A communitarian defense of liberalism: Emile Durkheim and contemporary social theory, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Gane, M., 'Institutional Socialism', in The Radical Sociology of Durkheim and Mauss, Routledge, 1992

Giddens, A. 1978 Durkheim, GB: Fontana, Ch. 3.

Jones, S. 2001 Durkheim reconsidered, Cambridge: Polity.

Lepenies, W. 1988 [1985] Between literature and science: The rise of sociology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Poggi, G. 2000 Durkheim, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Ch. 7.

Prager, J., 'Moral Integration and Political Inclusion: A comparison of Durkheim's and Weber's Theories of Democracy', Social Forces 59, 1981.

Richter, M., 'Durkheim's Politics and Political Theory', in K. Wolff, Emile Durkheim on Sociology and Philosophy, Columbus, Ohio U. Press, 1960


 Seminar questions.


1.      How did Durkheim analyse the nature of modern democracy? 2.      How did Durkheim understand the relation of the state to non-state groups and to the individual?

3.      Was Durkheim a French patriot?


Week Ten: Carl Schmitt on ‘the political’.’

 Seminar Reading


Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political ----, Political Theology ch.1


 Background Reading

Carl Schmitt, The Leviathan in the state theory of Thomas Hobbes, Greenwood Press, 1996

---- The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy

Leo Strauss,Review of Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political’ in Schmitt, The Concept of the Political

Heinrich Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995

McCormick, Carl Schmitt’s Critique of Liberalism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

John P. McCormick, (1994), ‘Fear, Technology and the State: Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss and the Revival of Hobbes in Weimar Germany, Political Theory 22:4.

Holmes, S., (1993), The Anatomy of Anti-Liberalism, Cambridge. Mass.: Harvard University Press.


 Seminar questions:


  1. Why should the distinction between friend and enemy define ‘the political’?
  2. How does Schmitt’s definition of sovereignty differ from that of Hobbes?
  3. What is meant by ‘the total state’?