Political Theory

Please visit the Government sakai website for current course syllabi.

206. Introduction to Political Theory.

A study of the answers that philosophers from Plato to Nietzsche have given to the question, “How should political life be organized?” This question leads us to consider the related problems of justice, power, equality, freedom and human nature. The course includes discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of liberal democracy. Also offered as Philosophy 206 and through European Studies and Peace Studies.

281. U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Latin America

NO FIRST YEAR STUDENTS This course tracks the development of U.S. policy toward Latin America and shows how asymmetric power relations have influenced resolution of key problems in the Western Hemisphere. The course will review formative events such as U.S. military occupation of countries in the Caribbean Basin and Cold War covert operations. Students will consider how the United States and Latin America see shared policy problems differently, including the debt crisis, immigration, illicit drug flows, and environmental problems. Fulfills SS Distribution (2013 curriculum).

293. Research Seminar.

Research Seminars cover topics related to American Politics (290), Comparative Politics (291), Political Theory (292), and International Politics (293). The specific topics of these seminars vary depending on the interests of faculty and students. Recent topics have included China’s Rise, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Presidential Elections, Comparative Environmental Politics, and the Politics of Inequality. The seminars are designed to acquaint students with research problems, strategies and techniques relevant to the field. This course is required for all government majors and should be completed in the sophomore or junior year. Students may take only one research seminar. Also offered through Asian Studies.

343. Ecology and Political Thought.

Ecology reminds us that our activities are embedded within natural systems. What is the significance of this fact for politics? This course examines how various actors, such as citizens, consumers, social movements, scientific experts and governmental agencies, conceptualize the relationship between humanity and the natural world. We evaluate the merits and shortcomings of a variety of approaches to environmental politics, including survivalism, sustainable development, deep ecology, ecofeminism and the environmental justice movement. Does not satisfy the department’s major requirement in political theory. Prerequisite: Government 206 or permission of instructor. Also offered as Environmental Studies 343.

347. Marxist and Critical Theory.

A survey of the basic elements of Marxist political theory and of the major streams of contemporary thought that have emerged in response to it. Some of the theorists whose work we might examine include Gramsci, Horkheimer and Adorno, Marcuse, Habermas and Foucault. Feminist, African-American and Caribbean interpreters of Marx may also be studied. Also offered through European Studies.

3XX. Democracy and Its Critics.

Most countries in the world today are democratic, but there is no single model of democracy and no consensus on what the term means. This applied political theory course reviews models of democracy across the centuries, including classical democracy, competitive elitism, participatory democracy and deliberative democracy. The course focuses on the democratic principles behind the models, drawing on the work of major Western thinkers from ancient Greece, the Italian Renaissance city-states, 18th and 19th century France and England, as well as the United States. It centers discussion around themes such as representation, participation, majority rule, and the transformative potential of modern technology for democratic practice.

349. American Political Thought: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.

An examination of the main currents of political thinking from the Colonial period to the end of the 19th century. The course begins with the Puritan Divines and continues through the start of the Progressive era. Thinkers considered might include Paine, the Federalists, Jefferson, Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

350. American Political Thought: Twentieth Century.

An examination of the main currents of political thinking in the United States from the Progressive Era through the end of the 1960s. Thinkers considered include the Social Darwinists, Thorstein Veblen, W.E.B. DuBois, Jane Addams and John Dewey. We also look at both the resurgence of conservative thought in the 1950s and some of the sociological critiques of the post-war era out of which the New Left, civil rights, Black Power, feminist and ecological movements grew.

368. Democracy and Its Critics

NO FIRST YEAR STUDENTS Most countries are now democracies, but what does that mean? This applied political philosophy course will review models of democracy, including classical democracy as practiced in ancient Athens, the Italian Renaissance city-states, competitive elitism, participatory democracy and deliberative democracy. It will focus on the democratic principles behind the models, centering discussion around the work of leading thinkers on representation, participation, and the transformative potential of modern technology for democratic practice and thought. Fulfills SS Distribution (2013 curriculum).