One of the major strengths of the department of Michigan State University is its focus on social and political thought. Faculty are working in an area in which traditional debates over justice, freedom, and equality are increasingly joined in contemporary philosophy by concerns with inequality, power, identity, capitalism, political freedom, democracy, and the rationalization of institutions and practices. In recent years individual faculty have published books and articles on themes in critical theory, Continental philosophy, feminism, African American thought, radical democracy, the politics of knowledge, capitalism, Hegelian political thought, and the critique of liberalism. Many dissertations have been written in these areas, and ongoing discussion groups have formed around themes concerning gender, race, and ecology.

Upper level and graduate courses have in the past few years been given on such topics as “Philosophy and Race,” “French Feminism,” “Categories and Feminist Thought,” “Identity, Recognition and Rights,” “Democracy and Difference,” “New Directions in Legal Theory,” “Marx and Philosophy,” “Discourse Ethics in the Public Sphere,” “Critical Theory”, “Foucault and Marx”, “Classics of Liberal Philosophy,” “Marx’s Capital”, “Race, Racism, and the Social Contract”, “Feminist Theories of Power”, “Contemporary Euorpean Political Philosophy”, and “Intersubjectivity from Hegel to Levinas.” In addition, special seminars have been offered on figures in social and political thought, such as classes on Hannah Arendt and Rosa Luxemburg, Friedrich Nietzsche, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, and Karl Marx.    

Students may make social and political thought their main area of interest or may define a more specific focus within this field, especially in connection with the Frankfurt School tradition in critical theory, post-colonialism, French and German philosophy, and Marxism . Students are encouraged to combine topics from this area with work in other areas of philosophy, such as philosophy and race, philosophy of law, philosophy of technology, and medicine. Interdisciplinary work is also encouraged, particularly at the doctoral level. Students may pursue course work in other units or draw on relations faculty have developed with such units as Women’s Studies, Urban Affairs, Sociology, History, English, German, French, American Studies, James Madison, Political Theory, and Social Work.

Faculty working in this area include:

Fred Gifford: Philosophy of biological science and medicine, history and philosophy of science, ethical issues in health care, life, and environmental sciences, and biotechnology.

Frederick Rauscher: Kant, Early Modern Philosophy, Post-Kantian Idealism, Ethical Theory, Rawls.

Lisa Schwartzman:  Feminist theory, critiques of liberalism, philosophy of law, feminist approaches to autonomy, rights, and equality.

Christian Lotz: Post-Kantian European philosophy, Continental aesthetics, phenomenology, critical theory, Marxism, Contemporary European Political Philosophy, Analysis of Capitalism.

Todd Hedrick: Contemporary social / political philosophy, philosophy of law, Frankfurt School critical theory.

John McClendon: African American philosophers and philosophical traditions, African philosophy, Marxism, philosophy of sports, the African American experience, philosophy of religion and African Americans.

Elena Ruiz: Latin American feminism, indigenous feminism, critical race feminism, postcolonial feminism, feminist social epistemology, Continental feminism.

Tacuma Peters: Eighteenth century anti-imperialism in the Americas and the intersection of social / political philosophy with chattel slavery, European empire, decolonization.

Recent Dissertations:

  • Ezgi Sertler, Politics of Epistemic Dependence:  An Epistemological Approach to Gender-Based Asylum
  • Sophia Pavlos, Erotic Identities and the Politics of Sexualization 
  • Ayanna De’Vante Spencer, Epistemologies of Criminalization: Tracking Epistemic Oppression in the Lives of Black Girl
  • Aidan Sprague-Rice, A critical analysis of Habermas’ qualified defense of strong judicial review.
  • Youjin Kong, Reconceptualizing Woman for Intersectional Feminism. 
  • Andrea Walsh, In Search of Non-Identity: Adorno’s Critique of Heidegger.  
  • Alex Neitzke, Health Care Capital: An Account of Health Care Production as a Critique of Health Care Ethics. 
  • Matthew Johnson, Freedom as Resoluteness. The Political in Heidegger’s Being and Time. From the Early Marcuse to Arendt’s Vita Activa.
  • Dustin Byrd, The Frankfurt School and Religion
  • Mladjo Ivanovic, International Justice and Representation
  • Ali Kashani, Ethics of Generosity
  • Mark Balawender, Ethics, Power and the Possibility of Nonviolence 
  • Shannon Proctor, The Habitual Body and the Possibility of Becoming New: A Phenomenological Approach to Thinking about Feminist Transformation
  • Samuel Williams, From Oppression to Democracy
  • Michael Reno, Adorno and the Possibility of Practical Reason
  • John Ouko, Human Rights as Ideology
  • Alison Reiheld, Rightly or for Ill: The Ethics of Remembering and Forgetting
  • Kwangsu Mok, Development Ethics as Recognition
  • J. Eric Lambert, Mutual Recognition and Social Conflict
  • Jennifer Swindell (Blumenthal-Barby), Respecting Autonomy is Cases of Ambivalence Regarding End of life Decisions
  • Sonya Charles, The Limits of Autonomy for Feminist Theory
  • Jennifer Benson, Towards a New Radical Feminist Vision: Navigating the Passage from Oppression to Freedom
  • Christy Rentmeester, Jaded, Institutional Oppression and Moral Damage in Healthcare
  • Heather Fieldhouse, Reconsidering the Status of Animals in Kant’s Ethics
  • Kenneth Parsons, An Alternative Account of Structural Violence
  • Allison Wolf, Beyond Just Health Care-
  • Steven Wandmacher, The Social Contract Tradition: Patriarchy, Artifice, and Reason
  • Jordy Rocheleau, Universalism and Its Critics: a Defense of Discourse Ethics
  • Amber Katherine, Radical White Western Feminism: Toward a Reconstruction of Mary Daly’s “Gyn/Ecology”
  • Vasile Pirau, Rationality and Cross Cultural Understanding
  • Mohamed Hassabelnabi, Concepts of Freedom in Locke & Marx with Relation to Sudan
  • David Howell, Aristotle’s and Hegel’s Contextual Approaches to Justice and the Distribution of Knowledge
  • C. Michael Liberato, Rethinking the Meaning of Political Stability and Democratic Participation
  • Michael A. Squillace, Taking Free Speech Seriously: Equality, Harm, and the Electronic Media
  • Edwin N. Teall, A Dutiful Reading of Kant’s Political Philosophy
  • Michael W. Jankoviak, Environmental Philosophy: A Pragmatic Reconstruction
  • Bernard J. Mulvey, Sartre and Foucault on Knowledge and Practical Commitment
  • Nancy R. Crocker, Ethical Agency in Modernity Sponsoring Units