Methodology of Political Theory

Methodology of Political Theory


This class aims at giving a broad perspective on the debates about the methodology of political theory. This will be done in a general and abstract way in the first two meetings, while the remaining units will tackle applications of different methods of political theorizing — such as the resource curse and international trade, immigration, populism. The final two meetings will be devoted to individual dissertation projects, and to the advantages that awareness of methodological issues in political theory can provide.


Political theory students should present at least one item (i.e. an article, or a chapter) per meeting – the first and the last two units are excluded – and an original paper about a topic covered in this course. Other students should present at least one text per meeting, and join the discussion. The final assessment is of the pass/failed kind. Students who are absent in more than 25% of meetings should write a paper.

Schedule of classes

October 28th, 12.30-14.30: Politics for Earthlings? (A203 – Aula Toti)


D. Miller, Justice for Earthlings. Essays in Political Philosophy, CUP, 2013, chs. 1, 2, and 10

G.A. Cohen, “Facts and Principles”, PPA, 31:3 (2003), 211-45

J. Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Belknap Press, (1972) 1999, §§ 1-3

M. Walzer, Spheres of Justice. A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, Basic Books, 1983, preface

J. Waldron, Law and Disagreement, Clarendon Press, 1999, introduction

M. Sleat, Liberal Realism. A Realist Theory of Liberal Politics, Manchester University Press, 2013, introduction

R. Geuss, Philosophy and Real Politics, Princeton University Press, 2008, part I

B. Williams, In the Beginning was the Deed, Princeton University Press, 2005, ch. 1

W. Galston, “Realism in political theory”, European Journal of Political Theory, 9:4 (2010), 533-53

C.A.J. Coady, Messy Morality – The Challenge of Politics, OUP, 2008, ch. 1

D. Bell (ed.), Political Thought and International Relations – Variations on a Realist Theme, OUP, 2009, chs. 1, 12

M. Philp, “What is to be done? Political theory and political realism”, European Journal of Political Theory, 9:4 (2010), 466-84

November 4th, 12.3o-14.30: Ideal Theory? (A203 – Aula Toti)


A.J. Simmons, “Ideal and nonideal theory”, PPA, 38:1 (2010), 3-36

Z. Stemplowska, “What’s ideal  in ideal theory?”, Social Theory and Practice, 34 (2008), 331-40

A. Swift, “The value of philosophy in non-ideal circumstances”, Social Theory and Practice, 34 (2008), 363-87

L. Valentini, “On the apparent paradox of ideal theory”, Journal of Political Philosophy, 17:3 (2009), 332-55

H. Steiner, “Levels of non-ideality”, Journal of Political Philosophy, 25:3 (2017), 376-84

November 11th, 11.00-14.30: Blood Oil, and Other Curses (Sala Riunioni IV floor – A409)

L. Wenar, Blood Oil. TyrantsViolence, and the Rule That Run the World , OUP, 2015, Part III

L. Wenar, Beyond Blood Oil. Philosophy, Policy, and the Future, Rowman & Littlefield, 2018

November 18th, 11.00-14.30: Migration, or the Right to Exclude (Sala Riunioni IV floor – A409)


C. Bertram, Do States Have the Right to Exclude Immigrants?, Polity Press, 2018, chs. 2-3

J. Carens, The Ethics of Immigration, OUP, 2013, chs. 3, 8, 11-13, Appendix

D. Miller, Strangers in Our Midst. The Political Philosophy of Immigration, Harvard University Press, 2016,  introduction, chs. 3-4, 6-7

November 25th, 11.00-14.30: Me the People (Sala Riunioni IV floor – A409)

N. Urbinati, Me the People. How Populism Transforms Democracy, Harvard University Press, 2019


December 2nd, 10.30-14,30: Ph.D. Dissertation Projects (A203 – Aula Toti)

December 3rd, 10.30-14.30: Ph.D. Dissertation Projects (Sala Riunioni IV floor – A409)


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