POL-445:   Modern Political Theory

    This course surveys the great ideas in Western political philosophy from 1500 to the present.  We discuss issues related to ultimate authority, justice, human nature, humans' capacity to reason, and the role of women, among others.  We pay particular attention to the 17th-18th century contract theorists, whose ideas influenced the founding of the United States.  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 works.  

    Modern Political Theory is offered every other spring semester.  It fulfills the Political Theory requirement for Political Science majors and minors.  It also counts towards the "Western Historical Perspectives" category in the general education requirements.  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 Hume, Kant, Mill and Nietzsche among others
    The Constitution Society has a virtual "Liberty Library" with many classics in the public domain
    Brief biography and quotes from Thomas Hobbes
    Lots of links pertaining to Immanuel Kant
    Text of Mary Wollstonecraft's  Vindication of the Rights of Women
    Text of Friedrich Nietzsche's Also Spoke Zarathustra

Course Outline

Required Texts: 
Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776--any edition)
Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899--any edition)
David Wootton (ed), Modern Political Thought (Hackett, 2nd ed, 2008)


Governing and preserving principalities: Niccolò Macchiavelli (1469-1527), The Prince (1513-6), chs. 1-11
Maintaining power: Machiavelli, The Prince, chs. 12-20
Humans in a state of nature:  Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), Leviathan (1651), chs. 11, 13-14
The commonwealth: Hobbes, Leviathan, chs 16-19
Sovereignty: Hobbes, Leviathan, chs 20-22
The state of nature II:  John Locke (1632-1704), Second Treatise of Government, II, chs. 2-5
Civil society: Locke, Second Treatise, II, chs. 8-13
Establishing and dissolving the government: Locke Second Treatise, II, chs 14-15, 19


The state of nature III: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755), Pt I
Society and inequality: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Pt II
Economic activity and self-interest: Adam Smith (1723-1790), The Wealth of Nations (1776), Bk I, chs 2,6,7, and as much of 8 as you can take
Political economy and free trade: Smith, Wealth of Nations, Bk IV, chs 2, 3 pt 1 1st section
The role of the state: Smith, Wealth of Nations, Bk V, ch 1 pt 3, 1st part of 1st article, all of 2nd article
Utilitarianism: Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1780), chs 1, 4, 7, 14
Constitutionalism: Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) and James Madison (1751-1836), The Federalist (1787-8), Nos 9, 10, 14, 48, 51


Science and the battle for justice: Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), The German Ideology (1845), selections
From Capital: Marx, "The Fetishism of Commodities" (1867)
Late Marx: Marx, The Civil War in France (1871), selections
The utility of individual liberty: John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), On Liberty (1569), Pts I-II
Social benefits of individual liberty: Mill, On Liberty, Pts. III-V
Predatory invidiousness: Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929), The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), chs 2-3
Conspicuous consumption: Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class, chs 4-5
Effects on society and the individual: Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class, chs 8-9

Last course:  Ancient and Medieval Political Theory

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Last update: 12/31/13