Paris: Classics of Social and Political Thought

Four students standing in front of the Louvre Pyramid
Language Requirement: 
Kylie Poulin
Core Credits: 
Social Sciences Core

Please note: Offered in alternating years. Following the Autumn 2021 program, the next program will be Autumn 2023.

What is justice? What makes a good society? What is the best form of government? What is the relation between a good citizen and a good human being? When are obedience, resistance, or revolt justified? What is the role of religion in politics?

The College’s Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris program explores such fundamental questions through classic writings from Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas and from the works of the great founders and critics of modernity such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. At the core of this program is the three-course “Classics of Social and Political Thought” sequence, compressed into the ten weeks of Autumn quarter. Participants also take a French language course, which runs at a normal pace throughout the quarter and is designed to help students connect with French (and Parisian) culture.

Given the course’s Paris location, much attention later in the term will be devoted to the intellectual antecedents and legacies of the French Revolution; students will read some number of the following authors: Diderot, Condorcet, Mably, Sieyès, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Paine, Maistre, Constant, Tocqueville, J.S. Mill, and Marx. Themes to be examined through the works of these revolutionary and post-revolutionary authors include: the principles and practice of citizenship; the relationship of commerce and empire to civic life; the meaning of liberty and equality; the causes, consequences and legitimacy of revolution; intellectual and political controversies over constitutional government; and the centrality of historical interpretation to modern revolutionary, republican, liberal and reactionary discourse.

In addition to classroom instruction, the program features a number of excursions to locations of significance from French political and intellectual history—especially the Revolution and its aftermath—including, for instance: the Les Invalides, Place de la Concorde, Tuileries Palace, Conciergerie and the National Assembly, the Palace at Versailles, as well as political art featured at the Musée Carnavalet and at the Louvre.

Autumn 2021 Faculty and Courses

  • Nathan Tarcov – SOSC 15110: Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris I
  • Nina Valiquette Moreau – SOSC 15210: Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris II
  • Jennifer Pitts – SOSC 15310: Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris III

Center in Paris

Headquarters for the College’s study abroad programs in Paris is the University of Chicago Center in Paris, the University’s research and teaching arm in Europe. Situated in the thirteenth arrondissement, the Center in Paris is part of an ambitious intellectual project along the river Seine, including the Bibliothèque Nationale and a new home for Université de Paris (formerly Université Denis Diderot - Paris VII). The Center in Paris features classrooms, offices for faculty and graduate students, computer facilities, a small library, and an apartment for the faculty director. For participants in Chicago’s programs, the Center in Paris provides a focus for academic activities, a central meeting place, and a continuing Chicago “presence” within one of the major capitals of Europe.


Students in the Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris program are housed in a residence hall within the Cité Internationale Universitaire (Cité). The Cité, a park-like residential complex in the fourteenth arrondissement, is the international student campus in Paris, though French students also live there. Students reside in single rooms with a private bath and have access to Cité facilities, including a library, theater, laundry, and athletic facilities. Students will have access to common kitchens in the residence halls and can purchase inexpensive meals at the Cité’s restaurant universitaire.

Credits and Registration

Participants in the Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They take and receive credit for four courses: the three courses in the social sciences sequence and the French language class. The social sciences sequence meets the College’s general education requirement in the social sciences. Students who have already met this requirement may use these courses as electives. Their use, partial or total, in a program of study (major) must be approved by the undergraduate chair of the respective department. The language course will normally count as an elective. Course titles, units of credit, and grades are placed on the College transcript.


Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee, and a nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris program during the 2021–2022 year are listed below:

Autumn tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

Study abroad administrative fee: $675

Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris program fee: $4,975

Program fee includes: Out-of-pocket expenses include:
accommodation round-trip airfare to and from the program site
instruction transportation on site
student support meals
program excursions course materials
emergency travel insurance (ISOS) personal entertainment and travel
  communications (including cell phone usage)
  health insurance and upfront payments for care
  other miscellaneous expenses

Previous program participants report spending in the range of $200 to $250 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that the cost of living in Paris is relatively high and that, while it is possible to live frugally, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section.

Eligibility and Application

The Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris program is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

The program is designed for undergraduates in good standing who are beyond their first year in the College. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that they are a serious student who will make the most of this opportunity. Because the social sciences sequence is taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take French on campus before the program begins.

Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record, personal statement, and academic recommendation. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

Further Information

To discuss the Paris: Classics of Social and Political Thought program and the possibility of participating, please contact Kylie Poulin.

Learn more about the
Center in Paris.

What you’ll see: 

Excursion to Château de TocquevilleFour students standing in front of the Louvre PyramidVersailles courtyard, with its black and white tilesThe cathedral at night, as seen from the Seine