POLISCI 31N: Political Freedom

Freedom is one of our core values.  Most people can agree that freedom is a good thing.  Yet there is far less agreement about how to understand the concept itself and what kinds of political arrangements are best suited to protect and enhance freedom.  Is freedom about being left alone?  Undertaking action with others?  Participating in governance?  Does freedom require a limited state?  An active and interventionist government?  A robustly participatory political system?  This undergraduate introductory seminar will consider and evaluate the answers that have been given to these questions by both historical and contemporary political thinkers in the Western tradition.  Thinkers covered include: Sarah Conly, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Philip Pettit, Robert Putnam, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Cass Sunstein, Alexis de Tocqueville, Jeremy Waldron, and Bernard Williams. 


POLISCI 131L: Modern Political Thought

This undergraduate course offers an introduction to the history of Western political thought from the late fifteenth century through the nineteenth century.  We will consider the secularization of politics, the changing relationship between the individual and society, the rise of consent-based forms of political authority, and the development and critiques of liberal conceptions of property.  We will cover the following thinkers: Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx.

Cross-listed as: ETHICSOC 131S.


POLISCI 237M: Politics and Evil

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the political theorist Hannah Arendt wrote that “the problem of evil will be the fundamental question of postwar intellectual life in Europe.”  This question remains fundamental today.  The acts to which the word “evil” might apply—genocide, terrorism, torture, human trafficking, etc.—persist.  The rhetoric of evil also remains central to American political discourse, both as a means of condemning such acts and of justifying preventive and punitive measures intended to combat them.  In this advanced undergraduate seminar, we will examine the intersection of politics and evil by considering works by philosophers, psychologists, and political theorists, with occasional forays into film and media.  The thinkers covered will include: Hannah Arendt, Immanuel Kant, Niccolò Machiavelli, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Michael Walzer.

Cross-listed as: ETHICSOC 237M.


POLISCI 238T: History of International Relations Thought

This is advanced undergraduate seminar is about the intellectual origins of theories and approaches to international politics.  We will examine historical treatments of sovereignty and the state system, international law, democratic peace, and imperialism.  Throughout the course, we will also some of the enduring normative and empirical questions about international politics: (1) What is the basis of political power and authority?  (2) What rights and obligations do individuals have?  (3) What rights and obligations do states have?  (4) What are the causes of conflict?  (5) What are the prospects for enduring peace?  Thinkers covered include: Thucydides, Augustine, Aquinas, Francisco Vitoria, Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, Hugo Grotius, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx.

Cross-listed as: INTNLREL 136.


POLISCI 432R: Selections in Modern Political Thought

This graduate-level seminar explores selections from the canon of Western political thought from the late fifteenth through nineteenth centuries.  Throughout the course, we will engage in close textual readings of individual thinkers and consider some of the larger questions raised by political modernity.  This offering of the course will focus on the three modern social contract thinkers: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  The approach in this course is historical, normative, and conceptual.  We will consider the texts in light of their historical contexts and the aims of their authors.  However, we will also attend closely to the structure of their normative and empirical arguments, and the conceptual contributions of these arguments to contemporary political science.  

Previous versions: 20122013.

Cross-listed as: MTL 334.


POLISCI 435R: Political Realism

This graduate-level seminar will explore various articulations of political realism in their historical contexts.  Realism is generally taken to be a pragmatic approach to a political world marked by the competition for materi l interests and the struggle for power.  Yet beyond a shared critique of idealism and an insistence on the priority and autonomy of the political, realists tend to have very different normative visions and political projects.  We will consider the works of several political realists from the history of political and International Relations thought, namely: Thucydides, Augustine of Hippo, Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, Carl Schmitt, Reinhold Niebuhr, E.H. Carr, Hans Morgenthau, Raymond Geuss, and Bernard Williams.

Cross-listed as: PHIL 372R.