Program in Politics, Law and Social Thought

Politics, Law and Social Thought (PLST) is a joint program of the School of Humanities and School of Social Sciences that enables Rice students to successfully engage with the big political, legal and social questions relevant to contemporary society in a global setting. We aim to bring students from across the university into conversation about modern democracies and autocracies, their social foundations and their relationship to law.

Our core courses focus on leading works of political, legal and social thought, from the ancients to Machiavelli and Hobbes to Arendt and Dworkin, from Adam Smith to Karl Marx to Franz Fanon, from the defenders of natural law like Wollstonecraft to the advocates of representative democracy like Madison to anarchists like Bakunin.

Our elective courses are spread across the university, making it easier for students to fit a PLST minor into an existing major like English, history, political science or sociology. We also administer a judicial and legal practicum program, which gives students the ability to observe and interact with attorneys and judges at work.

Why democracy? What is law? What is political liberty? What is political citizenship? Are states necessary? Is there a philosophical justification for human rights? Is political justice possible? Do we always need to hear the other side? What is free speech? What are the sources of inequality? What is power? Does international law lead to global justice or to new forms of imperialism? Is there a right to have rights?

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