The International Conference for the Study of Political Thought is an international, interdisciplinary organization of scholars and informed citizens interested in preserving and encouraging a broad, humanistic style of thinking about politics. Founded in Toronto in 1967 by J.G.A. Pocock, Melvin Richter, and Neal Wood, CSPT is now composed of an extensive network of affiliated groups and scholarly organizations. Regional chapters can be found in cities throughout the world, from Toronto to New York and London to Singapore, and each chapter operates differently, sharing news through a newsletter or, now, through a website.
The organization aims to hold one major conference each year on a topic of broad theoretical and political significance, drawing together scholars from intellectual history, political and social theory, philosophy and related fields. In the early years CSPT conferences included renowned political philosophers such as Isaiah Berlin, John Rawls, Raymond Aron, Claude Lefort, John Pocock, Judith Shklar, Michael Walzer, Bernard Williams, and Sheldon Wolin. The conferences today continue to draw major figures in the field as well as younger scholars from all areas of political thought.
As fits an organization born in the late 1960s, CSPT had a program and platform. The original announcement of its founding emphasized the humanistic style of thinking about political problems, and included these lines: “The members of the Conference hold that this humanist style is an integral part of the disciplines treating politics, that it has more power than any other to engage thinking men in rational dialogue about the ends of politics and the means permissible for their attainment – that those trained without knowledge of this tradition are incomplete as men, citizens, and political analysts; and that the study of politics, if reduced to a science of behavior, leaves to the demagogues and ideologues that all-important area where ethics and politics converge in the discussion of purposes and goals.”
CSPT will continue in this spirit. Mindful of its founding impulse, CSPT aims to give prominence to the study of the history of political thought in the teaching and practice of political theory, but with an emphasis on the diversity of approaches and the interdisciplinary nature of the work of political theory. We also hope to bring discussions of political thought and its history to bear more directly on global issues of pressing concern. With this in mind, in addition to our annual conference, we plan to organize smaller gatherings – workshops, lectures, panels – on contemporary themes from a theoretically and historically sensitive perspective.