Spring 2020

Poststructuralist Thinking on Power, Governance and Subjectivity

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-428


Thomas L. Dumm (Section 01)


Post-structuralism emerged in France in the 1960s as an intellectual movement that critiqued structuralism, especailly its reliance on binary oppositions like male and female, Enlightened and Irrational, and speech and writing. Post-structuralism has had an enormous influence on contemporary political and social theory, including the themes of power, governance, and subjectivity. Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, and George Bataille offered groundbreaking and intriguing interventions in social and political thought, and they will constitute highly interesting reading in light of current and social concerns. We will also examine some of the most important intellectual antecedents to French post-structuralism, including Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Karl Marx, and Ferdinand de Saussurre. The guiding assumption is that understanding the intellectual background of French poststructuralism is essential for students pursuing analysis inspired by poststructuralist ideas. Through close readings of the selected texts, we will discuss how these key thinkers can offer perspectives on fundamental aspects of contemporary life, such as work, health, sexuality, and politics. Hence, the course has the double aim of, first, providing a good grasp of French postructuralist thought, as it evolved in dialogue with major philosophers, social critics, and novelists, and, second, discussing ways to put their thought to work in our own studies of current issues.  

Requisite: At least one POSC course (200 level or above). Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. Karl Loewenstein Fellow Villadsen.

If Overenrolled: Priority first given to fourth-year Political Science majors, then to a balance of sophomores and juniors, randomly determined, followed by 5-college students.


Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020