Global Political Thought

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Leigh Jenco


This course is available on the BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in History and Politics, BSc in International Relations, BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations, BSc in Politics and Philosophy, BSc in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Introduction to Political Theory or equivalent.

Course content

This course examines normative and conceptual theories of politics from a global, transhistorical perspective. We go beyond current theories of “decolonization” to consider how conversations about political life can be and have been transformed on the basis of distinctive concerns that emerge from specific times and places, marked by different levels of affluence, historical connections (or the lack thereof), textual or oral heritages, as well as the experience of imperialism. The course will bring these diverse sources into a meaningful discussion about the political questions that they pose, both on their own and in comparison with others. We consider how context should matter in the investigation of political ideas. We ask how, but also whether, we should integrate these disparate perspectives into a shared conversation.

The course cannot aspire to comprehensiveness, but it aims for a certain integrity of themes and builds up a methodological toolbox for critical engagement with a diverse range of sources. All readings will be in English.


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Lectures of 90 minutes; seminars of 60 minutes based on intensive student participation. 

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT and 1 problem sets in the LT.

One formative essay of 1500 words (MT) and one "problem set" (a comparison grid requiring comparison of multiple texts on up to three different questions, LT).

Indicative reading

Ibn Tufayl, Muhammad ibn Ê»Abd al-Malik, Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzan: A Philosophical Tale. Trans. Lenn Evan Goodman. Updated edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Saaler, Sven, and Christopher W. A. Szpilman, eds. Pan-Asianism: A Documentary History. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011.

Tedlock, Dennis, ed. Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life. Rev. ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli, and Charles A. Moore, eds. A Source Book in Indian Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957.

Confucius, The Analects: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries. Translated by Edward Slingerland. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2003.


Essay (40%, 2000 words) in the LT.
Class participation (20%) in the MT and LT.
Online assessment (40%) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills