Graduate Course Code: POL2038H1S L0101
Studies in Comparative Political Theory
The current historical moment of globalization provides the context for the emerging field of “comparative political theory,” that is, the study of “non-Western” ideas about politics. Both of these terms (“comparative”; “non-Western”) are in scare quotes to signal that they they fit awkwardly with what scholars in this field actually seek to accomplish. Many of them do not use an explicitly comparative method in their studies, and the term “non-Western” is a backhanded way of acknowledging that political theory, as an academic discipline, continues to be dominated by European and North American traditions of thought. The terminology itself demonstrates and reproduces the intellectual biases that we seek to resist. A better terminology would capture the aspiration to “deparochialize” political theory, that is, to configure political thought as a human activity that arises universally just because the political orders of human societies inescapably arouse conflicting judgments about better and worse forms of order.
In this course, we will critically examine what “comparative political theory” is and what it would mean to genuinely “deparochialize” political theory. The course neither presupposes background knowledge of any non-Western thought tradition, nor does it aspire to provide students with sufficient knowledge of particular traditions to ground serious scholarly contributions to this emerging field. To provide that background would require a series of specialized courses in, e.g., East Asian political thought, Indian political thought, Latin American political thought, Indigenous political thought, African political thought, and so on. Rather, the course aims at sharpening our understanding of (a) the purposes served by “deparochializing” political theory; and (b) the various methods by which we can seek to serve these purposes.
Texts will include an array of recent contributions to the study of political ideas in East Asia, South Asia, Africa, Islam, Latin America, and Indigenous cultures. There will be two interludes focusing on specific 20th-century thinkers: Mohandas Gandhi and Sayyid Qutb.
Format and Requirements
Weekly participation, seminar presentations, and term papers.
POL200Y1 or POL200Y5 or POL320Y1 or POL320Y5 or JPP343H1 or JPP343Y1 or (POLC70H3 and POLC71H3)