Social and Political Thought
The Social and Political Thought Program offers a minor for students in Georgetown College and a certificate for students in the School of Foreign Service. It is intended to give students an opportunity to engage in sustained, in-depth exploration of theoretical issues that are today of shared interest to a wide variety of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities.
The Program focuses on the effect which the emergence of modern social science has had on the study of the human experience. Disciplines such as anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology have had an enormous impact on the way informed people now approach the issues of meaning and purpose in human existence. Yet these sciences have also tended to dismiss some questions and concerns in those same areas as misguided or unimportant. The program invites the student to consider the benefits and the hazards of this intellectual development, as well as contemporary and historical alternatives to its vision.
In size and curriculum, the program is designed to enable a small number of students to have an enriched educational experience. It employs educational methods that enable student to refine their ability to read, think, write, and speak effectively. Classes are limited in size, communication and research skill are actively cultivated, and the courses complement one another in a way that encourages the ongoing study of issues that are of particular interest to the student.
The program was begun under a grant to Georgetown College and the graduate school from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
For More Information
Inquiries about the program that are not addressed on this website should be referred to the program director:
Richard Boyd, Ph.D.
Professor, Government Department
ICC Room 674
To complete the minor, students must successfully take the following courses:
- An introductory seminar, Foundations of Social Theory, typically taken in the fall of the junior year or (in exceptional cases) the fall of the senior year
- Four electives, two of which are in fields other than the student’s major
- A senior seminar, Critique of Social Science, taken in the spring semester of the senior year
- A senior essay: Students must also write an acceptable senior essay, a paper of approximately 30 pages. The essay is prepared in the senior seminar, and is normally a revision of a paper already completed for another class in the program. It provides students with an opportunity to learn the skills involved in refining an already formed argument. The paper will also be presented to a group of faculty and students.
Only a relatively small number of students can be admitted to the program. Ordinarily, a GPA of 3.4 or better is required. Application is usually made during the sophomore year, though junior year applications can be considered. Students are notified of admission in time for preregistration for the fall semester of the following year. To apply, a student needs to submit a current transcript (unofficial is acceptable), a brief statement explaining one’s interest in the program, and a relevant writing sample (typically a paper that has been written for a course the student has taken). It is preferable that these materials be submitted electronically, as e-mail attachments, and should be sent to both Professor Lamiell and Professor Mara.
CORE COURSES AND ELECTIVES
A number of courses have been developed by the program specifically to serve its purposes. These core courses are not limited in enrollment to students in the program, but preference is given to them. Only two of these courses are required, but the others are strongly recommended to participating students. They currently include:
- IDST-218 Foundations of Social Theory (required), Professor Douglass or Mara
- IDST-324 Critique of Social Science (required), Professor Mara or Lamiell
- IDST-219 Aristotle’s Social Science, Professor Mara
- JAPN 349 Catholicism in Japanese Culture, Professor Doak
- JAPN 430 Japanese Nationalism, Professor Doak
- PHIL 368: Roles & Morality, Professor Richardson
- THEO-077 Religion & Social Theory, Professor Yeager
- ANTH-301 Interpretations of Culture, Professor Mikell
- GOVT-499 Dept. Seminar: Politics, Markets and Cultures Professor Douglass
- Electives: In addition to the core courses, electives may also be selected from among the normal range of courses offered by relevant departments. Students should discuss appropriate electives with the program’s director.
Richard Boyd is an associate professor of government. His research interests include the intellectual history of liberalism, civil society and pluralism, economic and sociological theory, post-colonialism, and the theory and practice of immigration and citizenship policies. He is author of Uncivil Society: The Perils of Pluralism and the Making of Modern Liberalism (2004), and the editor/ translator of two other books. His articles have appeared or are shortly forthcoming in Review of Politics, Journal of Politics, Political Theory, Political Studies, History of Political Thought, Polity, European Journal of Political Theory, Urban Studies, Social Philosophy & Policy, Social Science Quarterly, Critical Review, and other journals. He is currently completing a book-length manuscript titled Membership and Belonging: On the Boundaries of Liberal Political Theory. Before coming to Georgetown University in 2007, Boyd taught at the University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Deep Springs College.
Kevin M. Doak
Kevin M Doak holds the Nippon Foundation Endowed Chair in Japanese Culture at Georgetown University, where he also chairs the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. He graduated from Quincy College (Illinois) in 1982 with a major in Japanese studies. He then pursued graduate work at the University of Chicago. As a Fulbright dissertation fellow in 1985-87, he studied at Rikkyo University and the University of Tokyo. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1989. Prior to his current position, he has taught at Wake Forest University, the University of Illinois (where he taught the history department’s required graduate seminar in social Theory), and has been affiliated with Tokai University, Konan University and the Humanities Institute of Kyoto University and Leiden University, the Netherlands. He has published four books, most recently A History of Nationalism in Modern Japan (Brill 2007) and over 40 articles in English or Japanese on modern Japanese political and social thought.
R. Bruce Douglass
Bruce Douglass is a political theorist in the Department of Government who specializes in his teaching in 19th- and 20th-century Western social and political thought. He teaches courses on the history of liberalism and socialism as well as contemporary liberal and post-liberal thought. He has written extensively on the role of religion in public life, and his most recent book is a co-edited volume of scholarly essays on that subject by legal and political theorists entitled A Nation under God? (Rowman & Littlefield). He is now at work on a book-length study of the present status of the Protestant ethic in the cultural and political life of the West.
James T. Lamiell
James T. Lamiell is a professor of psychology with teaching and research interests centered in the history and philosophy of psychology. He is author of The Psychology of Personality: An Epistemological Inquiry (Columbia University Press, 1987), and of numerous journal articles and book chapters critically analyzing mainstream research practices in psychology. His most recent book is ’Beyond Individual and Group Differences: Human Individuality, Scientific Psychology, and William Stern’s Critical Personalism (Sage, 2003). He is especially interested in issues arising from the use of statistical techniques as a means of producing knowledge about human behavior. He is a three-time Fulbright scholar to Germany: Heidelberg, (1990), Leipzig, (1998), and Hamburg, (2004). In Hamburg Lamiell was Ernst-Cassirer Guest Professor in the Department of Philosophy. His current research is focused on the works of the German philosopher/psychologist William Stern (1871–1938), and he has also published an English translation of Wilhelm Wiindelbands (1848–1915) Geschichte und Naturwissenschaft (History and Natural Science).
Gerald M. Mara
Gerald M. Mara is the dean Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the associate provost for research, and a professorial lecturer in Department of Government. His research interests are classical political philosophy, historical and contemporary liberalism, and democratic theory. He is the author of The Civic Conversations of Thucydides and Plato: Classical Political Philosophy and the Limits of Democracy (SUNY, forthcoming) and Socrates’ Discursive Democracy (SUNY, 1997), and joint editor of and co-contributor to Liberalism and The Good (Routledge, 1990). He has also published historical essays on Aristotle, Spinoza, Hobbes, Rousseau, Nietzsche, and J.S. Mill and conceptual essays on virtue, pluralism, and autonomy.
Gwendolyn Mikell is a professor of anthropology at Georgetown University. She was president of the African Studies Association, U.S.A. from 1996 to 1997. Since January 2000, she has been adjunct senior fellow in Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her fellowships include the United States Institute of Peace, the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, universities in Ghana and South Africa, as well as the Institute for Developing Economies in Tokyo, Japan. Her teaching and research interests are in the anthropology of political and economic transitions, the politics of peace, and women’s political participation. Most recently, she has been conducting research on African women's organizations and peace building in countries that underwent conflicts in the 1990s, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. She received her bachelors degree from the University of Chicago and her masters and doctoral degrees from Columbia University. Her publications include Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana (Howard University Press, 1992; Paragon Press, 1989); and African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997). In addition, she has authored articles in such journals as the Tulsa Journal of Comparative and International Law (1997), American Journal of International Law (1993), Yale Journal of International Law (1991), Journal of Modern African Studies (1989), Feminist Studies (1995), and Ethnology (1988).
Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran Cruz
Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran Cruz is a scholar in medieval and early modern European history with specialties in British history, intellectual thought and political theory, social history, and the history of education and literacy. She has recently published articles on “Medieval Western Views of Islam,” “Social Mobility in Fifteenth-Century England,” and “Education in England 1200–1500.” In 2003 she published a textbook in medieval history, Medieval Peoples: An Introduction to the Culture and History of Medieval Europe, co-authored with Richard Gerberding (Houghton Mifflin, January 2003). She is also working on an edition of a set of Elizabethan family letters. Ongoing research includes work on the political implications of the Roman de la Rose; homosexuality, law, and the Roman de la Rose; and an article on Dante, Purgatorio Canto 2, and the Jubilee of 1300. She has long-term plans to write a book on Machiavelli in his political context and another on the comparative development of education and literacy throughout medieval Europe, 1300–1550. Other publications include The Growth of English Schooling, 1340–1548, which won the Nicholas Brown book prize from the Medieval Academy in 1989. She has also published an article on E.M. Forster’s Passage to India and an article entitled “Clerical Recruitment in the Diocese of York, 1340–1530,” as well as numerous articles in the area of medieval and Renaissance education and literacy.
Henry S. Richardson
Henry S. Richardson is a professor of philosophy. He works on moral and political philosophy and on the nature of practical reasoning. His last book, Democratic Autonomy: Public Reasoning about the Ends of Policy, was awarded the David Easton Prize in the Foundations of Political Thought and the Herbert A. Simon Best Book Award in Public Administration. He has recently published articles on John Rawls’ theory of justice, Philip Pettit’s neo-republican theory, and the capability approach developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. He is editor at large of the Human Development and Capability Association.
Diane Yeager teaches religious ethics and religion and social theory in the Department of Theology. She served as the general editor of the Journal of Religious Ethics from 1991 to 2001. Her principal research interests concern the relationship of literature to ethics and the place of religious reflection in philosophical ethics. She has a particular interest in studying the value of the work of the philosopher Michael Polyani for ethicists.