University of Florida
Department of Political Science

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POT 3302 Honors

POT 6505


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Daniel I. O'Neill
Associate Professor
Anderson Hall, Room 334
(352) 273-2386

Office hours

POT 6505: Politics and Theory, Fall 2007
Dan O'Neill                                                               Office: Anderson 311
tel. 392-0262 x274
Hours: M, W: 9.30-11.30;
T, Th: 9.30-10.30

Course Description:
This course is designed to introduce graduate students to political theory.  It begins by situating theory within the broader discipline of political science, and highlights some of the methodological debates and self-understandings that have emerged from this connection. The rest of the course focuses largely on familiarizing students with a variety of ways of thinking about and “doing” political theory, with the aim of ascertaining what might be gained from approaching politics from the particular standpoints under consideration.  A number of these approaches have been important, in various ways, for people doing everything from American politics and international relations, to comparative politics and public policy. More broadly, the course prompts students to critically interrogate their own epistemological, moral, and political commitments, and the relationship these bear to their particular field of academic interest.


 Course Requirements and Grading:  Your grade for this class will be based on four components:


1.)    One presentation/response paper (20%) (see guidelines below)

2.)    Class participation (15%)

3.)    Discussion Questions (15%).


This course is based on a seminar format; therefore regular attendance, careful preparation, and active participation are essential. Every participant is also required to prepare two or three discussion questions for each meeting. You must email those questions to me by 5 p.m. on Thursday each week.  The questions should refer to issues raised by your reading of the author’s argument.


4.) One take home exam (50%).  The final exam will be a 48-hour take home exam. The goal is to provide students with practice for comprehensive exams. Students will choose two questions from a list of possibilities. Answers should be approximately 7-9 pages (typed, double-spaced) per question.


Required Texts:


John J. Gunnell, The Descent of Political Theory: The Genealogy of an American Vocation (University of Chicago Press)

The Marx-Engels Reader (Norton)

John Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (Harvard)

Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract (Stanford)

Charles Mills, The Racial Contract (Cornell)

The Portable Nietzsche (Penguin)

Donald P. Palmer, Structuralism and Poststructuralism for Beginners (Writers and Readers)

Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope (Penguin)


Reader, available at Orange and Blue Textbooks


Course Outline:


August 24:  Introduction


August 31: No Class (APSA)


September 7: Political Theory and Political Science: From Marriage to Divorce

Reading: John J. Gunnell, The Descent of Political Theory


September 14: The Ineluctability of Political Theory

Reading: Charles Taylor, “Interpretation and the Sciences of Man,” “Neutrality and Political Science”; Sheldon Wolin, “Political Theory as a Vocation”; Leslie Paul Thiele, “Theory and Vision” (Reader)


September 21: Strauss and Pro/Anti-Straussians (History of Political Thought, I)

Reading: Leo Strauss, “What Is Political Philosophy?” “Persecution and the Art of Writing”; Arthur Melzer, “Esotericism and the Critique of Historicism”; Shadia B. Drury, “Leo Strauss and the American Imperial Project”; Steven B. Smith, “Drury’s Strauss and Mine”; Shadia B. Drury, “Reply to Smith” (Reader)


September 28: The Cambridge School (History of Political Thought, II)

Reading: Quentin Skinner, “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas”; J.G.A. Pocock, “The Concept of a Language and the métier d’historien: Some Considerations on Practice”; Richard Ashcraft, “One Step Backward, Two Steps Forward: Reflections Upon Contemporary Political Theory”; Iain Hampsher-Monk, “‘Publius’: The Federalist” (Photocopy)


October 5: Marx(ism)

Reading: Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 26-52, 53-54, 66-105, 143-165, 172-173, 187, 344-345, 3-6, 299-302, 594-617, 203-217, 305-306, 336-339, 469-500


October 12: Analytical Liberalsim

Reading: John Rawls: Justice as Fairness: A Restatement


October 19: Feminism

Reading: Susan Moller Okin, “Justice as Fairness: For Whom?”; Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract; Carole Pateman, “Self-Ownership and Property in the Person: Democratization and a Tale of Two Concepts (Reader)


October 26: Critical Race Theory

Reading: Charles Mills, The Racial Contract


November 2: No Class (Homecoming)


November 9: There’s No Avoiding Nietzsche

Reading: Twilight of the Idols, in The Portable Nietzsche (pp. 463-563)


November 16: “Postmodernism”

Reading: Donald P. Palmer, Structuralism and Post-Structuralism for Beginners; Michel Foucault, “The Subject and Power,” “Governmentality”


November 23: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)


November 30: Post-Foundational Democracy: A Reason for Hope (?)

Reading: Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope


Final: 48 hours, Dates to be Determined






  1. As a presenter, you are taking on the role of teacher for your peers in the seminar. Make sure that you lay out the arguments in the text(s) in a clear and concise manner.  Identify what you take to be the most important concept(s) in the text. Limit yourself to one or two issues, since you will need to give a thorough treatment to each one. In order to develop a critical commentary, you will need to discuss the concept(s) you have selected by referring extensively to the text(s). You should quote crucial passages in order to analyze them in more detail; however, you should not rely on the citations to speak for you. Look for not only the basic meanings of the term in question but also subtle nuances and even contradictions in the text.  Your own voice should emerge indirectly in the critical analysis. By pointing out any tensions, oversights, and contradictions in the author’s argument, you will also be developing your own position. In the conclusion you may want to pose additional questions that could not be explored in your response paper. The oral presentation will be informal. The presenters will each have roughly 10-15 minutes to highlight the main points of their papers and sketch out what they take to be the most interesting lines of discussion.
  1. Your paper should be about 6-8 pp. in length.
  1. Edit and proofread your paper for spelling and grammar.
  1. Send your paper to the class via e-mail attachment (in Word). Please also paste the text of the paper into the body of your e-mail message.
  1. The seminar participants should read the response papers before class; therefore, for full credit you must email your paper by 5 p.m. the day before class.
  1. All presenters must meet with me the week prior to the one in which they are presenting for a list of relevant secondary literature to consult.






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