Focusing on the interface of theories of the good society, globalisation, legitimacy and power. Political theory is the soul of political science: it’s not about determining what the facts are but about determining what they mean and what should be done with them. It’s about the genuine and the deceptive arguments used to interfere in other people’s lives and business. We need political theory anywhere where power is used both covertly and openly, where policies are made and where choices are questioned and criticised. As a political theorist, you will ask what would be sensible instead of what people call sensible. Just a handful of questions you will be asking and seeking the answers to: Is there a moral foundation for national sovereignty or self-determination? How far should tolerance go? What can and should be our ambitions for local community building? When does a political theory become a weapon or a form of power? Can authority ever be legitimate? Do we owe anything to future generations, animals, the global poor or minority groups? This Master’s specialisation offers students an unprecedented opportunity to learn to assess political values, aspirations and dreams in terms of their desirability and reasonability. You will also discover how political theoretical work can be introduced fruitfully in other relevant contexts. This will enable you to help civil initiatives and governmental institutions, not to mention the public at large by imagining and designing policies and ambitions that are both viable and defensible.
- Our programme is consistently ranked the best Political Science/PT programme in the Netherlands - The programme has a unique focus on justification and recognition, globalisation and their relationship with power - Teaching takes place in a stimulating, collegial setting with small groups - You are encouraged to critically reflect on the staff’s ongoing research in the Nijmegen Political Philosophical Workshop - We are the conscience of real-world politics and policies and prepare you to interpret and contribute to real-world politics
Graduates of political theory are academics, not politicians. We believe that to be a good policy advisor, manager or administrator, you need to have good research skills. Research is what is going to make your advice be both valid and practical: both sides of the coin of policies are equally important to the political theorists.
Our graduates find employment in a variety of settings, including in consulting, national and international diplomacy and EU institutions. They can work as policy advisors, managers and leaders in local, regional and national government, as well as in business, media, NGOs, think-tanks and civic organisations. Quite a few go on to pursue a PhD degree.
Our approach to this field
Don’t rules, laws, commands and regulations always imply a violation of human autonomy? Are they not insults to humanity? Is there a way to escape from power?
Political theory is the key to good and valid politics. It is practice-oriented and should not be confused with political philosophy. Political theory is more than a reflection on eternal truths and the essence of concepts; it makes the difference between knowing and understanding. Compared to classical political philosophy it is more concrete, more interdisciplinary in nature, and sensitive both to the workings of power and the limits of feasibility.
Political Theory at Radboud University focuses on four aspects: 1. Critical understanding of theories of the good society Of course, just like most Political Theory programmes we take a critical look at the theories of the good society. Who is – but also who should be – included in the theories: families or individuals, distinct people or everyone, animals and environment or humans only, future or only present generations?
2. Globalisation We focus on globalisation in the broadest sense: the globalisation of people, money, technology and values so that we address global, ecological, intergenerational justice, multiculturalism and agonism. We definitely do not limit ourselves to the dominant redistributive justice discourse.
3. Justification and legitimisation We start off by justifying and discrediting particular policies by the standards of theories of the good society. But we go further. What values, rules, tests and mechanisms are there to help design and assess political choices? Which are appropriate and when? Are they biased? We will discuss deliberative democracy, Habermas’s domination-free discourse, Rawls’s reflective equilibrium, the agora of agonists like Mouffe and, of course, foundationalism.
4. Power Power is the mother of all political concepts; it is a concept that is too easily taken for granted or ignored by political scientists, political philosophers and politicians. We recognise that power, ultimately the threat of violence, will always be part of politics and that there will always be a gap between what you think you can justify and what others will embrace. At Radboud University we train students to try and chart where power hides in justification practices, both in political theory and political practise.
The combination of these aspects is what makes the Political Theory Master’s specialisation at Radboud University unique.