About Politics, Law and Social Thought

Why democracy?    What is law?    What is political liberty?    What is political citizenship?    Are states necessary?    Is there a philosophical justification for human rights?    Is political justice possible?    Do we always need to hear the other side?    What is free speech?    What are the sources of inequality?    What is power?    Does international law lead to global justice or to new forms of imperialism?    Is there a right to have rights?

Politics, Law and Social Thought is a joint program of Rice’s School of Humanities and School of Social Sciences that enables Rice students to successfully engage with the “big” political questions relevant to contemporary society in a global setting. Political theory is the backbone of our understanding of modern democracy and law. Political theory shapes the way democracies work—from government to protest, from protest to revolution and back again. Understanding the foundations of politics and law requires understanding their historical and social contexts.

Politics, Law and Social Thought connects the theory and the history of political thought and law in order to study the reasons why polities succeed, or fail. Such a contextual approach to political theory shows how the values and possibilities of the present, and the way in which we think about the latter, are a direct result of political choices made at different times between different possible worlds.

Politics, Law and Social Thought attracts students who wish to engage directly with the big questions at the intersection of politics, law, philosophy, and history. These are the questions that have shaped the emergence of modern democracy. Students are involved in lively debate and research early on and have access to a range of law-oriented internships, including at federal and state courts. Most of our students major in the humanities and social sciences and continue their education at the top law and graduate schools in the U.S. and Europe.

Politics, Law and Social Thought brings together faculty who work at the forefront of political thought, philosophy, law, and history. Our internationally renowned faculty have published on topics from political rhetoric in ancient Greece and princely education in early modern Britain to constitutional theory in Weimar Germany, gender in French law, the politics of media, and citizenship in modern South Africa. They have published standard works on human rights, equality, justice, normativity, constitutional decisions, and perfectionism.

Meet our faculty and staff >