Intro to Political& Social Theory

Political Theory – Course Outline

Unlike other academic fields that study political and social issues, political philosophy primarily pursues normative questions. While fields such as political science and sociology are concerned with describing social and political phenomena using quantitative and qualitative methods, political philosophy is mainly concerned with how political life ought to be. This course will introduce you to a broad survey of fundamental topics in political theory. Some of these topics include to what extent, if at all, can government be justified. If government can be justified, what kind is the best or most just? Most of us today agree that freedom and equality are important political and social values. But how should we understand these values and how much of each should the government secure for its citizens? Throughout the course we will also be looking at some controversial political issues including terrorism, torture, the environment, and drug legalization.

If you are engaged and work hard, by the end of this course you will be able to better understand and pursue the core issues in political theory. You will develop and refine your skills in critical thinking, developing arguments, critiquing arguments, and clearly expressing your own point of view in written and spoken form. Developing these skills will help you better articulate arguments and viewpoints surrounding important political issues that concern us today.

Required Texts

Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction To Political Philosophy Revised Edition (2006)

Other texts will be made available

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: The State of Nature

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau (Wolff: 1-24)

Week 3: Justifying the State

Anarchism, Social-Contract, and Utilitarianism (Wolff: 29-59; Nozick, ASU, 90-95)

Week 4: Who Should Rule?

Plato vs. Democracy, Rousseau’s general will, & Representative democracy (Wolff: 62 – 101)

Week 5: The Place of Liberty

Mill, Marx & Liberty (Wolf: 104-131)

Week 6: Conceptions of Liberty

Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty

Week 7: Distribution of Property

Rawls’s theory of justice (Wolff: 133-176)

Nozick’s critique of Rawls (Nozick, ASU, 153 – 164)

Week 8: Multiculturalism

Charles Taylor, The Politics of Recognition

Week 9: Feminist Perspective

Feminist Critiques of Individualism (Wolf: 177-199)

Week 10: Immigration

Michael Walzer, “The Distribution of Membership” Peter Brown and Henry Shue “Boundaries: National Autonomy and its limits”

Week 11: Gun Control

Todd C Hughes and Lester H. Hunt, “The Liberal Basis of the Right to Bear Arms” Hugh Lafollette, “Gun Control”

Week 12: Torture

Henry Shue, Torture

Daniel Hill, “Ticking Bombs, Torture, and the Analogy with Self-Defense”

Week 13: Government Support for the Arts

Ronald Dworkin, “Can a Liberal State Support Art? Noel Carroll, “Can Government Funding of the Aets be Justified Theoretically?”

Week 14: