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Josef Korbel School of International Studies

Political Theory at Korbel

event - september 2019

What is Democracy? Screening & Faculty Panel

Mission Statement

The Political Theory Initiative at the Josef Korbel School seeks to provide a forum for discussion and debate on theoretical questions related to the study of international affairs. This initiative also seeks to co-ordinate and promote the study of political theory at the University of Denver via the teaching of new courses, hosting of speakers and the screening of films.

What is Political Theory?

Political theory begins with the question: what ought to be a person's relationship to society? The subject seeks the application of ethical concepts to the social sphere and thus deals with the variety of forms of government and social existence that people could live in – and in so doing, it also provides a standard by which to analyze and judge existing institutions and relationships.

Although the two are intimately linked by a range of philosophical issues and methods, political theory can be distinguished from political science. Political science predominantly deals with existing states of affairs, and insofar as it is possible to be amoral in its descriptions, it seeks a positive analysis of social affairs – for example, constitutional issues, voting behavior, the balance of power, the effect of judicial review, and so forth. Political theory generates visions of the good social life: of what ought to be the ruling set of values and institutions that combine men and women together.