ASTK15645U  SEMINAR: Contemporary Political Theory

Volume 2015/2016

Core Course in the specialization "Poitical Theory"


Please note that the course is 15 ECTS



What is a just society? Do contemporary political institutions discipline or emancipate citizens? Do contemporary society privilege some groups at the cost of others? What should a critical social theory focus on in today's world? Which principles or norms, if any, should we employ to evaluate our political institutions? Is democracy possible in the contemporary world?


These are some of the questions that are discussed in contemporary political theory. In this seminar, we will read and closely study some of the most important books published in political theory since the 1970s – books by John Rawls, Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, and feminists such as Iris Marion Young and Judith Butler. We focus on a few works in order to be able to go into depth with some very important, influential, and difficult theories. Everyone working in political theory must know the selected political theorists or philosophers, both because they are widely discussed and because they are great thinkers. By reading their works, the student will attain a solid understanding of some of the most important concepts and issues in contemporary political theory, as well as a deeper understanding of some of the great challenges we face in the contemporary world.


Learning Outcome

The objective of the seminar is to enable the students to:


  • Describe the main approaches in contemporary political theory.
  • Present and analyze the arguments behind each of the approaches studied.
  • Apply the theories to discussions about our political world broadly understood.
  • Combine and synthesize the ways in which each approach envisions the nature of political theory.

The following is a preliminary reading list. Other materials will be added before the beginning of the semester.


Butler, Judith (2006) Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence.

Habermas, Jürgen (1998) Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy.

Foucault, Michel (1977) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.

Rawls, John (1971) A Theory of Justice.

Young, Iris Marion (1990) Justice and the Politics of Difference.

The seminar presupposes a general interest in political theory broadly conceived. The seminar is required for students enrolled in the Specialization in Political Theory. All other students are welcome as well.
This seminar will consist of a combination of short lectures, student presentations and discussions. The course will be co-taught by Christian Rostbøll and Lars Tønder.
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individual written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course’s goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Course Preparation
  • 224
  • Preparation
  • 25
  • Exercises
  • 107
  • Total
  • 412