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Universal Man: Global Politics & Human Nature in Western Political Thought, c. 1750-1850

20 Credits

Universal Man: Global Politics & Human Nature in Western Political Thought, c. 1750-1850 investigates the concept of global citizenship. Most cosmopolitan theorists reject the idea of world government for a variety of intellectual, political, and practical reasons (Parekh 2003; Miller 2010; Tomhave 2013). This raises a series of questions: what, exactly, does it mean to be a global citizen? Is it even meaningful to talk about global politics across disparate polities, geographies, and identities? Or can we account for, and at the same time transcend, such differences?

In a series of six seminars, we will begin to examine these questions historically by tracing their development in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe, a period in which sustained thought was given to ideas of cosmopolitanism and global citizenship. Thinkers whom we will study include Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), Auguste Comte (1798-1857), Henry Buckle (1821-1862), and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). The seminars focus around three themes – citizenship, human nature, and rights – which together help to provide tentative answers to the fundamental questions set out above.

The course draws on a range of primary and secondary texts and asks its participants to think reflectively about the uses of political thought for contemporary theorising, as well as the methodological issues that surround hermeneutic enterprises of this kind. For example, can we achieve universal ideals without a cosmopolitan history of political thought? In this way, the course acts as a valuable supplement to the empirical disciplines of political science and international relations, by which issues of global politics are usually defined.

Universal Man: Global Politics & Human Nature in Western Political Thought, c. 1750-1850 is taught through a series of 12 hours of seminars with fewer than 15 students in the class, and additional subject-specific lectures. To complete the course, students will be expected to undertake 200 hours of structured study as commensurate with the requirements of a 20-credit postgraduate course. The course is assessed by a 5,000-word essay written by the student.

Related Degrees

The following degrees contain this course: