Course Cycle for the Doctoral School in the History of Political Thought
Term 1 – Autumn/Winter term (HT) 2023
Course 1. Introduction to the history of political thought 7.5 ECS
The Introductory course has three components: 1. Current themes in the history of political thought is a reading class during which students read and discuss five topical works in the history of political thought. 2. Historiographical perspectives on political thought is a theoretically oriented seminar in which generations of analysis of political thought within the larger history of ideas are compared and applied to student’s PhD problems. 3. Methods, including conceptual, digital, transnational, archival knowledge, contextualization, and source criticism. The Introductory course starts with a two day meeting in Uppsala at the beginning of term and is then organized with distance reading through the semester and a final workshop.
Term 2 – Spring term (VT) 2024
Course 2. Concepts of environmental crisis 7.5 ECS (Julia Nordblad UU)
This course offers an introduction to the inventive and fast-growing field that historicizes ecological degradation as political problems. Today climate change dominates public environmental debates, but there are competing conceptions of the crisis in the relation between societies and their environments, such as biodiversity, sustainable development, Gaia, and the Anthropocene. These environmental concepts emerged in different historical contexts and draw on different scientific knowledges. They are interrelated with specific economic interests, scientific disciplines, groups of expertise, and social movements, and they offer different diagnoses of environmental problems, such as overpopulation, capitalism, Western culture, economic growth, humanity’s inherent short-sightedness, patriarchy, the private property system, tragedy of the commons, etc. The different environmental concepts further propose different answers to fundamental questions that are central to the historical study of political thought more generally, such as the role of the market in societies, the political relationship between generations, and the nature of progress. This course examines key 20th century environmental concepts as political concepts, and simultaneously introduces the students to new currents in environmental historical scholarship with relevance for the historical study of the political more generally.
Course 3. The market as political category 7.5 ECS (Jenny Andersson UU, Leif Runefelt SH)
The market is arguably one of the, if not the, central political category of the present. Yet it is rarely understood as a political metaphor but merely as organizational form. In the course, students are introduced to the idea of the market as an historically constituted and ideational category from a long term perspective. Markets were once physical meeting spaces and ornate buildings. How did they become metaphors for political organization? The Market in its singular form is both a supreme ideological construct and a meta signifier for capitalist organization. The course provides a baseline for thinking the history of the Market as category and idea, from the classical doctrine of economic ideas and moral political economy, to present day articulations of market society, market ideology, market life. We discuss the 20th century idea of economic expansion, and the development of Market as global metaphor. We discuss the development of the market language, from a problematic concept during the 18th and 19th centuries, with disrupting connotations and criticisms that became more frequent in the 18th century through most of the 20th century, during which the concept was very productive in terms of generating new words and new ways of describing the economic, social and political reality, to the 1970s and onwards when the concept became a dominant element in describing and explaining an ever-growing number of aspects of the political sphere as well as of everyday-life in the large parts of the world. We reconsider the history of market thinking after 1970 in the light of environmental critique and developmentalist ideas.
Term 3 – Autumn/Winter term (HT) 2024
Course 4. The past as political problem. Conflicts over memory and heritage 7.5 ECS (Victoria Fareld, SU)
In recent decades, the past has to an increasing extent become an arena for political claims, confessions and accusations, as well as for legal actions in the present. From the work of truth and reconciliation commissions and discussions of transitional justice to the toppling of statues and the restitution of looted cultural objects, history has increasingly taken the form of a retrospective working-through of a painful past. The haunting memories of victims and their demand for justice has moved to the center of historical debate as a growing site of popular interest and of political struggle, together with a growing sensibility for and interest in the fate of the victim. But memory has also become increasingly instrumentalized for political purposes by state institutions, seen in the growing numbers of “memory laws” and “memory-governance” across the world. Memory politics is thus not only a symptom of a “culturalization of politics”, a shift from socio-economic redistribution to recognition of identities, or of a collapse of utopian imagination, but has also become an effective tool to renew nationalist and populist ideologies. In order to better understand these developments scholars in the Humanities have begun to reconceptualize fundamental temporal categories as the basis of historiography and political theory. The conception of linear and irreversible time is challenged by categories of multilayered or entangled temporalities, informed by an idea of the presence of the past, whether expressed in terms of memory, nostalgia, trauma, spectrality, or retrotopia. The course offers an introduction to the multifaceted phenomenon of memory politics and an orientation in the theoretical work of historical temporalities in order to analytically grasp the increasing importance of the past as a conflictual political realm in the last four decades.
Course 5. Ideologies against democracy. Populism, Neoliberalism, Radicalism 7.5 ECS (Hjalmar Falk GU, Jenny Andersson UU)
The debate regarding the nature of neoliberalism and its various guises has raged ever since it started to accrue influence in the 1970s and 1980s. Its relationship with its illiberal contenders, often described as populisms in various guises (many of them authoritarian), is also deeply contested. It is however clear that liberal democracy today is curtailed by neoliberal technocracy on one side and populist mobilizations on the other. In this course, methods of ideology analysis and the history of political thought is brought to bear on the historical circumstances surrounding the emergence of this democratic dilemma, through a charting of the relationship between fascism and populism in the post-war era the role of fascism in the historical consciousness of ideological debates today, neoliberal thought and its inherent skepticism of democratic politics.
Term 4 – Spring term (VT) 2025
Course 6. Historizing anti-democracy 7.5 ECS (Anders Burman SH, Hjalmar Falk GU)
Historians argue that democracy is an essentially contested concept and the meaning of liberalism is also a terrain of struggle. They therefore reexamine the histories of anti democracy and imminent “ends” or “death” of democracy. This brings out troubling continuities. Already during the ancient Athenian democracy, most philosophers were critical of it. Many people have preferred knowledge-based, stable guardianship over democracy, and distrust of too great a public participation was a strong feature even of Cold War democratic theory. What the philosopher Jacques Rancière calls “the hatred towards democracy” has always been prominent, even within the frame of liberal democratic regimes, and modern political reaction has never given ground without struggle while simultaneously acclimated itself within the framework of democracy. Against that background, this course will address the multifaceted anti- democratic tradition from Plato, via the political crises surrounding the formation of modern democracy in the early to mid-twentieth century, to today’s challengers like Jason Brennan, Alexander Dugin, and Donald Trump, but also chart how democratic thought has handled internal contradictions, between for instance equality, liberty, and authority, or between public participation and legal principles.
Term 5 – Autumn/Winter term (HT) 2025
Term 6 – Spring term (VT) 2026
Term 7 – Autumn/Winter term (HT) 2026
Term 8 – Spring term (VT) 2027
Final symposium / International conference
Note: Doctoral candidates are also expected to take part in a monthly Webinar in the History of Political Thought, co-chaired by faculty and students. Every autumn the school will organize a two-day Science Retreat where all students and faculty meet with doctoral papers and dissertation work in focus. PhD students will organize a problem-solving workshop, online or onsite, every term to discuss common challenges related to their projects.