POL-405:   Contemporary Political Theory

Picture of precinct caucus training session

    This course surveys the great ideas in Western political philosophy since 1900.  We discuss issues related to legitimacy, equality, democracy, justice and freedom, among others.  We also apply all of these ideas to contemporary controversies, proving that while humans don't live forever, ideas can!

   During the course, students learn to analyze philosophical arguments by identifying the thesis, as well as the premises and evidence used to support it.  These skills are applied in a research paper closely analyzing one philosopher's original work.

    Contemporary Political Theory is offered every two years.  It fulfills the Political Theory requirement for Political Science majors and minors.  It is a Writing Emphasis course.

Political Philosophy Links
    Comprehensive set of links from Peter Suber of Earlham College
    Information, links and commentary from  Garth Kemerling of Newberry College (and an Iowa Ph.D. to boot)
    Journal of the History of Philosophy (available through Stewart Memorial Library subscription to Project Muse--if you're not at Coe this link probably won't work)
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a work in progress, but has entries on Foucault and Maritain among others
    The Constitution Society has a virtual "Liberty Library" with many classics in the public domain
    Home page of Benjamin Barber
    Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (1963)
Martin Luther King Jr Research and Education Institute
    Interview with Tony Judt on NPR's "Fresh Air"

Course Outline (Fall 2010)

The role of the state in capitalism: John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), "The End of Laissez-Faire" (1926)
Opposition to economic planning: Friedrich A. Hayek (1899-1992), The Road to Serfdom (1944), excerpts

Political violence: Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), The Wretched of the Earth (1961), pp. 1-38
Spontaneous uprisings: Fanon, Wretched, ch. 2
Nationalist uprisings: Fanon, Wretched, ch. 3

Patricia Rhone, "Elephant in the Room"

Evolutionary aspects of human ethics: Larry Arnhart (b. 1949), Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature (1998), ch. 1
Biology and politics: Arnhart, Darwinian, ch. 3
Sex roles: Arnhart, Darwinian, ch. 6
Psychopaths: Arnhart, Darwinian, ch. 8

Christianity and political theory: David T. Koyzis (b. 1955), Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies (2003), ch. 1
Christian critique of liberalism: Koyzis, Political Visions, ch. 2
Christian critique of nationalism: Koyzis, Political Visions, ch. 4 (OR... choose another chapter from among chapters 3-6)
Toward a Christian political theory: Koyzis, Political Visions, chs. 8-9

What ails western societies: Tony Judt (1948-2010), Ill Fares the Land (2010), ch. 1
Political emptiness: Judt, Ill, ch. 2
Where political emptiness leads: Judt, Ill, ch. 3
Remedying political emptiness: Judt, Ill, ch. 4

The idea of individual autonomy: Claire E. Rasmussen (b. 1976), The Autonomous Animal: Self-Governance and the Modern Subject (2011), intro and ch. 1
Sexuality and autonomy: Rasmussen, Autonomous, ch. 2
Addiction and autonomy: Rasmussen, Autonomous, ch. 3
Humans, animals and autonomy: Rasmussen, Autonomous, ch. 4 and conclusion (OR... read chapter 5 on physical fitness)

Last course:  American Presidency

Next course:  Ancient and Medieval Political Theory

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Last update: 7/27/12