PLSC 300B: Moral Dilemmas and Political Theory
MWF 12:35pm / LSC
For some theorists, moral dilemmas signal a defect in moral reasoning. If we think longer, harder, and better we can see that apparent conflicts are actually resolvable. For others, dilemmas are the inevitable product of the fundamental plurality of values that structure human life. Moral life is tragic, and sometimes we are forced to make hard choices. Political theorists, however, call attention to the institutional contexts of value conflicts. They think about dilemmas politically, and ask whether dilemmas might be the products of changeable political and social arrangements that distinguish and give hierarchical order to public and private, male and female, the state and the family, and more. In this course, we will assess moral and political theorists' efforts to give us guidance in response to moral conflict, while developing the tools for thinking critically and politically about the value conflicts we often think of as merely personal or moral dilemmas.
PLSC 308: Contemporary Political Thought
TTh 11:30am / LSC
The dawn of the Twentieth Century was marked by an increase in skepticism at the prospect of "modern progress." Modern political institutions, though rational and scientific, were revealed to be places devoid of any lasting human meaning or purpose. Though modern societies could boast an increase in individual freedom as one of their stated objectives, the members themselves started to exhibit traits of universal conformity and a lack of individual volition. This notion of a "mass society" devoid of any individual distinction was seen as an unfulfilling condition. It was also dangerously susceptible to the manipulations of those in positions of authority. What resulted is the rise of the totalitarian state: a new type of regime that rested on the powerful new tools of science, mass communication, and the general apathy inherent in a modern apolitical population. This course is a reexamination of the fundamental assumptions of political theory in light of the horrific failings of political practice in recent history. If it is the case that we live in a perfectly rational political system, then why are human beings so empty of real fulfillment within them? Is a “better way” even possible?
PLSC 313: Resistance & Obligation
MWF 1:40pm / LSC
Is terrorism ever justified? On what grounds may subjects overthrow a government? When is civil disobedience a legitimate tactic of protest? These questions are all concerned with a fundamental issue in political theory: when, and how, we may disobey the commands of government. In this course we assess the legitimacy of violent and nonviolent methods of resistance through an examination of classical and contemporary texts. A range of views will be considered, from advocates of terrorism and assassination at one extreme, to those who insist that subjects must never actively resist at the other.
PLSC 314: Liberalism
T 4:15pm / LSC
Liberals are not anarchists. Although liberals fear governments' threat to liberty, they also recognize that government is necessary to protect liberty. In this course, we explore how different liberal thinkers have drawn the line between the limits and powers of government in different areas of public policy: religion, speech, education, and the economy. We will examine both classical liberal writers (John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill) and contemporary authors (Milton Friedman, Cass Sunstein, John Rawls).