He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god. —Aristotle
Welcome to Political Theory / Philosophy

The Political Philosophy/Theory Workshop within our department serves as a forum for the presentations of work in progress by advanced graduate students, University of Maryland faculty, and visiting scholars in the field of political philosophy/theory.

Field Description

Political philosophy is the study of the most pressing political questions from a unique interdisciplinary perspective that integrates the best of contemporary humanistic scholarship and social science. Students of political philosophy are trained at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the history of political thought and to deploy methods of logical and psychological analysis, textual interpretation, cultural studies and anthropological description in ways that both extend and challenge insights they acquire from the formal-logical, statistical, and comparative-empirical study of politics. In an era in which the most salient political questions are global in scale, and in which dominant approaches to these questions are numerical and quantitative, political philosophy is the preeminent home for putting these approaches in contexts of cross-cultural literacy.

The University of Maryland is home to a rich tradition in the study of political philosophy. At the undergraduate and graduate levels, Professors Alford, Glass and Ward teach courses spanning the history of political thought and contemporary political theory. Many of our students also take courses with closely allied colleagues in Comparative Politics (Vladimir Tismaneanu), Public Law (Mark Graber), and Philosophy, Politics, and Public Policy (Karol Soltan). Our faculty and graduate students run a number of workshops throughout the academic year; for more information, please consult the "workshops" portion of this website.


In addition to the three survey seminars – 741 (ancient to early modern political theory), 742 (modern political theory), and 743 (contemporary political theory) – offered regularly in alternate semesters, there are graduate seminars based on the research interests of the faculty:

Survey Seminars

  • Fred Alford: 741, 742
  • Charles Butterworth: 741, 742
  • James Glass: 743

Other Seminars

  • Aggression and Masochism: Philosophic and Psychological Themes (James Glass, Spring 2005)
  • Constitutionalism, the French Antecedents: Pascal, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Constant Syllabus
  • On the Philosophy of History and the Origin of Civilization Syllabus
  • Group Psychology, Violence and the Self (James Glass, Fall 2003)
  • Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed Syllabus
  • The Theory and Practice of Freedom (Fred Alford, Fall 2001)
  • The Politics, Philosophy and Psychology of Self-Violence (James Glass, Fall 2000)
  • Rousseau and Freud: The Individual or the Group? (James Glass, Fall 1998)

The following is a list of doctoral dissertations completed in the field of Political Theory since 1988:

"Human Rights or American Privileges: The Supreme Courts Evolving Use of Universal Reasoning Committee," Steve Simon, 2007, Chair: Wayne McIntosh.

"For the End is a Limit: The Question Concerning the Environment," Ozguc Orhan, 2007, Co-Chairs: Charles Butterworth and Ken Conca.

"Monuments and the Nation: Constructing a Liberal National Space," Avital Shein, 2007, Chair: Vladimir Tismaneanu.

“Because We Will It: The Possibilities and Limits of Democratic Theory in Late Modernity,” Lawrence J. Olson, 2006, Chair: Vladimir Tismaneanu.

“Civil Society, Popular Protest, and Democracy in Latin America,” Eduardo Frajman, 2006, Chair: Fred Alford.

“Cervantes’ Don Quixote and the Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry,” Arcelia Rodriguez, 2006, Chair: Charles Butterworth.

"Brushing History against the Grain: What the Experience of East European Dissent Teaches about Democracy," Anthony Kammas, 2005, Chair: Vladimir Tismaneanu.

"Official Secrecy: Self, State and Society," Thomas C. Ellington, 2004, Chair: Benjamin Barber.

“A Peculiar Faith: Navigating Rousseau's Road to Democratic Virtue,” Joshua Karant, 2004, Chair: Benjamin Barber.

“The Role of Religion in Alexis de Tocqueville's 'Democracy in America,'” Primrose P. Tishman, 2004, Chair: Charles Butterworth.

“An Investigation of the Contributions of Plato and Aristotle to the Development of the Concept of Toleration,” Bican Sahin, 2004, Chair: Charles Butterworth.

“Illusions of Freedom,” Lars Jonas Brodin, 2004, Chair: Ronald Terchek.

“Being Human, Being Good: The Source and Summit of Universal Human Rights,” Janet H. Madigan, 2004, Chair: Charles Butterworth.

“Democratic Theory and the Global Political Economy: Developing a Realistic Response,” David K. Moore, 2003, Chair: Ronald Terchek.

“The Present Politics of the Past: Indigenous Legal Activism and Resistance to (Neo)liberal Governmentality,” Sean P. Eudaily, 2002, Chair: Ronald Terchek.

“Deepening Democracy: The Politics of Place in a Globalizing Age,” Alexandra M. Kogl, 2002, Chair: Ronald Terchek.

“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: A Utilitarian Political Theory that Takes Individual Rights Seriously,” Charles S. Hamilton, 2002, Co-Chairs: Charles Butterworth and Ronald Terchek.

“Accessing Power with the Medicalized Body: The Paradox and Implications of Women's Health Demands,” Paulette R. Gerkovich, 2002, Chair: James Glass.


“Eastern European transformations: Culture and the politics of groups” by Styliani Simoneti, 1998, Chair: James Glass.

“The color of freedom: Race and contemporary American liberalism” by David C. Cochran, 1996, Chair: Ronald Terchek.

“Over his dead body: Women, violence and murder” by Vanessa E. Friedman, 1996, Chair: James Glass.

“Bye, bye Miss American Pie: Citizenship and political socialization in the wake of Vietnam” by Mary B. Melchior, 1997, Chair: Fred Alford.

“On 'A Vindication of Natural Society': Edmund Burke's critique of modern political rationalism” by Domokos Hajdo, 1998, Chair: Charles Butterworth.

“Revelation, political philosophy, and the crisis of modernity: A meditation on the theological-political problem in the writings of Leo Strauss” by Clark A. Merrill, 1998, Chair: Charles Butterworth.

“Nature and nationalism: 'Right-wing' ecology and the politics of identity in contemporary Germany” by Jonathan R. Olsen, 1997, Chair: Fred Alford.

“Rousseau's misogyny and the feminists' interpretation: A Freudian perspective” by Galen N. Smith, 1996, Chair: James Glass.

“Christian and Islamic medieval understandings of just war: Grounds for comparison with post-Persian Gulf War criteria” by Ann C. Wyman, 1995, Chair: Charles Butterworth.

“The politics of religious persecution: Can tolerance occur within certain Islamic states for the Ahmadi and Baha'i faiths?” by Meade Goodenow Saeedi, 1993, Chair: Charles Butterworth.

“Feminism and social theory: The problem of the passions” by Cynthia Burack, 1991, Chair: Fred Alford.

“The ego ideal, ideology, and hallucination: A psychoanalytic interpretation of political violence in an Oriental cultural context” by Yong Shin Kim, 1991, Chair: James M. Glass.

“Liberal democratic community and the nurturance of children” by Valerie D. Lehr, 1990, Chair: James Glass


“Language, discourse and the justification of political authority” by Ira J. Love, 1989, Chair: Fred Alford.

“The illusion of independence: Narcissistic aspects of Rousseau's political theory” by Leon M. Waynberg, 1988, Chair: Fred Alford

Name   Primary Subfield
Fred Alford   Political Philosophy
James Glass   Political Philosophy
Ian Ward   Political Philosophy


Graduate Students

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