Collage of images representing the Contemporary Civilization class experience

Contemporary Civilization

COCI CC1101 and COCI CC1102 — The purpose of Contemporary Civilization, or “CC”, as it is popularly known, is to introduce students to a range of issues concerning the kinds of communities—political, social, moral, and religious—that human beings construct, and the values that inform and define such communities. Founded in 1919 to prepare students to confront "the insistent problems of the present," Contemporary Civilization has evolved continuously while remaining a constant element of the Columbia College curriculum. The course asks students to read texts that offer a wide range of perspectives, to experiment with ideas, follow their own inquiries, and present their own perspectives about the issues that these texts raise. In doing so, students develop their skills as thinkers and communicators.

The aim of Contemporary Civilization is not to endorse or celebrate the often conflicting ideas of the authors studied in class, but rather to engage with them critically. By exploring a range of perspectives, students will gain a better sense of the ideas that have shaped the world they have inherited, develop the power to imagine experiences and understand opinions different from their own, and test their own values in a way that may strengthen them or prompt revision. The ultimate goal of Contemporary Civilization is to foster a community in which students can deepen their understanding of the world and their place within it, recognize the limits of their own perspectives and experiences, and engage respectfully with one another across their differences.

For information about registering for Contemporary Civilization, please refer to the College Bulletin, Engineering Bulletin, or General Studies Bulletin, and consult your advising dean.


Violin Family Professor of Philosophy

711 Philosophy Hall

(212) 854-8618

The Readings

Because Contemporary Civilization is a year-long course, readings are necessarily selective. Every three years, faculty revise the syllabus, and many instructors supplement readings with their own selections. The factors that lead to the adoption of a text include historical influence, the demonstrated ability of a text to provoke productive discussion, and the relevance of a text's ideas to the pressing problems of our world.


Plato, Republic (Hackett, tr. Grube)
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford, tr. Ross)
Aristotle, Politics (Hackett, tr. Reeve)
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha (Oxford, ed. Coogan)
Augustine, City of God (Penguin, tr. Bettenson)
The Qur’an (Oxford, tr. Haleem)
Aquinas, On Law, Morality, and Politics (Hackett, tr. Regan)
Christine de Pizan, The Book of the Body Politic (Cambridge, tr. Langdon Forhan)
Machiavelli, The Prince (Oxford, tr. Bondanella)
Machiavelli, The Discourses (Penguin, tr. Walker)
Descartes, A Discourse on the Method (Oxford, tr. Maclean)
Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (Oxford, tr. Moriarty)
Hobbes, Leviathan (Norton, ed. Johnston)
Locke, Political Writings (Hackett, ed. Wootton)
Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings (Hackett, tr. Cress)
Additional readings in the CC Reader


Smith, The Wealth of Nations (Modern Library, ed. Cannan)
Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge, tr. Gregor and Timmermann)
Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Oxford, ed. Todd)
Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Penguin, tr. Bevan)
Mill, On Liberty, Utilitarianism and Other Essays (Oxford, ed. Philp and Rosen)
The Marx-Engels Reader (Norton, ed. Tucker)
Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo (Vintage, ed. Kaufmann)
Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Oxford, ed. Edwards)
Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste (Verso, ed. Anand)
Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Grove, tr. Philcox)
Arendt, Crises of the Republic (Harvest)
Foucault, Discipline and Punish (Vintage, tr. Sheridan)
Additional readings in the CC Reader

Additional Information

Readings in the CC Reader are available online to faculty and should be shared with students on CourseWorks. All other readings can be purchased through the Columbia University Bookstore. Digital and print copies of most books can be borrowed from Butler Library using CLIO.