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Discourses of Order I: An Introduction to Premodern Political Thought
Course Description

Throughout the course of recorded human history, the problem of order has been at the center of political reflection and debate. Premodern discourses typically take a comprehensive and holistic approach to the problem. They discuss order not only in the sense of a societal, legal, and governmental structures, assigning certain positions, duties, responsibilities to certain individuals and groups; they also integrate political order into the larger order of the cosmos. Discourses of order often thematize the legitimacy of authority; however, premodern discourses typically do so by establishing connections and correspondences between the visible spheres of the social and political structures and the invisible spheres of the natural, the spiritual, and the divine. Yet, it is important to consider that discourses of order occur on a variety of levels, for instance: 

·         the self-interpretation of a society, which symbolically articulates fundamental experiences of order and disorder

·         the philosophical and theological discourses of order, which establish higher levels of critical reflection and rational penetration

·         the hegemonic discourses of order which dominating powers try to impose on a society

·         the alternative discourses of order established by dissenting groups within a society

 The course aims to overcome the doxographic and Eurocentric approaches, which are typical for textbooks on political thought. Instead it pursues a topical approach, drawing on significant case studies from East and West. The course is meant as a graduate-level introduction to premodern political thought. It combines the analysis of sources with historical contextualization and continuous reflection on epistemological and hermeneutic questions and challenges. Thus, students will benefit from the acquired interpretive skills beyond the specific contents of the course. The continuation of this course in the winter term will cover the modern period.


Course requirements and grading:

Attendance at all lectures is mandatory. Students taking the class for grade must not miss more than two sessions. Students taking the class for audit must not miss more than three sessions.

The grade is composed of:

1.  a take-home exam in week 6, covering the first half of the course (45%). Format: Students will have to answer 1 out of 2 general questions about the course content. Total length: about 1000 words (min. 800, max. 1200 words). Date: Fri, Oct 26, 1:00 p.m., to Sun, Oct 28, 1:00 p.m. Exam questions will be sent to your CEU email account. Submission via this e-learning page.
2.  a take-home exam in week 12, covering the second half of the course (45%). Format: Students will have to answer 1 out of 2 general questions about the course content. Total length: about 1000 words (min. 800, max. 1200 words). Date: Mon, Dec 10, 1:00 p.m. CET, to Wed, Dec 12, 1:00 p.m. CET. Exam questions will be sent to your CEU email account. Submission via this e-learning page.
3.  class participation (10%)

CEU's Policy on Plagiarism applies.


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