The Political Theory Institute (PTI) at the AU School of Public Affairs encourages the serious study of the great questions of political theory and brings insights of political theorists to bear on current issues and events. American University has a long tradition of vigorous political debate. Behind every serious political controversy, however, lies a disagreement about political principles, justice, what constitutes “the good life,” or fundamental assumptions about human nature. A thoughtful and morally serious engagement with the controversies of the day, therefore, requires serious reflection on the underlying questions of political theory.
Open to all ideas and perspectives, the Political Theory Institute promotes vigorous and thoughtful discussion and critical engagement by AU faculty, the national and international political theory community, and policy makers with the problems confronting liberal democracies. It supports scholarship that informs and enriches the larger conversation about political ideas. Above all, PTI fosters a spirit of enlightened citizenship—at once thoughtful and engaged—that takes intellectual disagreements seriously without being ideological.
PTI takes a special interest in the world’s most successful experiment in applied theory: the American republic. This interest includes the United States’ founding documents and principles and the political theories underlying them, especially classical liberalism, but also the philosophies of classical antiquity, the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. PTI examines the profound challenges to liberalism posed by past thinkers and critics on the Left and Right alike.