Approaches to Comparative Political Thought

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

This compulsory core module for the MSc programme on Political Thought focuses on approaches to the study of political theory in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The module is relevant for students in regionally defined MSc programmes in the Politics department, and to those enrolled in area studies degrees based in other departments. It is distinct from other modules in the area studies degrees since our study is not confined to a single geographical region; rather focus is on the study of concepts and political thought.

The module seeks to introduce the main approaches and themes in the emerging sub-field of comparative political theory, and to elaborate conceptual approaches to comparison of political thinking across regions and traditions that the module develops.

Part I on Approaches considers attempts to define the field, concentrating on how ‘comparison’ and ‘thought’ are understood in existing literature and in the proposed approach to comparative political thought.
Part II introduces key themes that arise in discussions of political thinking in Asia, Africa and the Middle East: orientalism, Eurocentrism, modernity, historical contextualization, cultural incommensurability, and translation.
Part III examines discussions of the ‘political’ in a range of traditions and practices in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Here, the questions of method discussed in preceding weeks will be elaborated through substantive comparative readings of notions of the boundaries of the political, of the state and authority, of individual and community.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of the main distinct approaches in comparative political thought, including debates over the nature of ‘comparison and ‘thought’;
  • Understand the key philosophical, historical, political and linguistic issues that arise in the study of non-Western political thought;
  • Appreciate the key concepts of the political, the state, individual and community, from the standpoint of political thinking in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
  • Compare political ideas across cultural and historical lines, and to identify and evaluate similarities and differences.
  • Formulate a research question and write a research paper on a chosen topic.


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with:

  • 2 hour seminar per week

Method of assessment

Assignment 1: 40%
Assignment 2: 60%

Suggested reading

  • Ackerly, Brooke, and Rochana Bajpai, ‘Comparative Political Thought’ in Adrian Blau ed. Methods in Analytical Political Theory, (Cambridge, 2017), 270-96.
  • Dallmayr, Fred 'Introduction' and Roxanne Euben ‘Premodern, Antimodern, or Postmodern? Islamic and Western Critiques of Modernity’, in the Review of Politics 49:3 (1997).
  • Freeden, Michael and Andrew Vincent, eds., Comparative Political Thought: Theorizing Practices (Routledge, 2013)
  • Godrej, Farah, Cosmopolitan Political Thought: Method, Practice, Discipline (New York: Oxford, 2011.
  • Jenco, Leigh K., Murad Idris, and Megan C. Thomas, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory. Oxford University Press, 2019.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules