The political theory faculty represent a range of historical and philosophical approaches to studying both the history of political and social thought, and contemporary debates within political theory and social science more generally. Our greatest strengths are in modern and contemporary thought, especially democratic and liberal theory, and continental and critical theory. Ingrid Creppell's research has focused on the origins of liberalism and arguments for toleration and she is currently studying the idea of the enemy. Robert Adcock works on the history, philosophy, and methods of the modern social sciences, and their relation to the evolution of liberalism. Steven Kelts studies questions of economic justice within the historical liberal tradition, and in the modern day, as well as alternative conceptualizations of liberty. William Winstead is currently completing a book on Nietzsche, education, and the aesthetic and cultural dimensions of politics.
A common predisposition, regardless of the specific approach each one of us adopts, is a strong interest in linking the interpretation of texts and conceptual analysis to politically salient issues, past and present. We see political theory as integrally engaged with concrete problems, both in its historical development and its current debates, and we understand our research to have implications for contemporary thinking about questions of justice, freedom, human rights, group identity, education and the role of scholars in addressing these questions.
While the graduate program does not offer political theory as a primary field for the Ph.D., the department is clearly committed to integrating theory with research in other fields. Many graduate students pursue political theory as a secondary field, supplementing the design and pursuance of questions in American Politics, International Relations, and Comparative Politics.