Centre for Comparative Political Thought
SOAS University of London
The Centre for Comparative Political Thought was established in June 2014 in the Department of Politics and International Studies. The Centre builds on the work of several members of the Department interested in developing this new area of study. The emerging field of comparative political thought has focused on Islamic, Chinese, Indian, African, and, to an extent, Latin American ethical-political thought, and the proposed Centre will develop new approaches to the subject that are distinctive in two respects.
We seek to establish everyday political thinking, forged in the cut and thrust of political engagement, as an important realm of political thought, worthy of scholarly attention, alongside philosophical texts.
We seek to shift the focus away from regions and traditions that have traditionally been favoured as units of comparison (e.g. non-Western, Islamic, Chinese, or Indian thought), towards political concepts (e.g. justice, freedom, democracy), to examine the different ways in which these are framed in texts as well as practices in different regions and eras.
The Centre will thus contribute to a new understanding of political thought that examines normative sources from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as empirical sites for the articulation of political thinking, both hitherto overlooked by political theorists. With respect to area studies, the Centre will highlight the role of ideas, conventionally neglected in the understanding of politics of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as the grassroots production of norms, which have tended to be associated with elites.
The significance of comparative political thought lies not just in extending the boundaries of academic inquiry but also in informing policy-makers and practitioners. In contemporary political theory, the achievement of technical and analytical sophistication has often come at the cost of policy relevance. Where policy is engaged, political theorists have largely been parochial, overwhelmingly preoccupied with debates grounded in and defined by the narratives of Western liberal democracies. Yet increasingly in some of the most important policy areas–pertaining to economic growth, religious radicalism, international conflict, human rights, and climate change, to take a few notable examples– successful national policy-making requires effective engagement with state and civil society actors in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Furthermore, in a period when the distribution of economic power is moving away from the North Atlantic world, and belief in the efficacy of military force has weakened, conventional policy instruments are proving less effective on their own in achieving desired political change.
Charles Tripp, Professor, Chair of the CCPT
Hagar Kotef, Dr
United Kingdom http://www.soas.ac.uk/ccpt/
Fellowships and Potential Scholarly Affiliations
Centre for Comparative Political Thought Fellowships