POL S 273 A: The Concept Of Political Power

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 2:20pm - 4:50pm
DEN 113
John-Paul Anderson

Syllabus Description:

Political Science 273 - Concepts of Power

University of Washington

Summer 2017, B Term

Lecture: M-Th 2:20-4:50pm


Instructor: JP Anderson Office: Gowen 28

jpha@uw.edu Office hours: Monday 1pm -2pm and Wednesday 1pm-2pm

Course Website: https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/1025592

Course Description & Objectives

            Power. What is it? Where is it? Who has it? What can be done? These are some of the fundamental questions this class considers through a survey of the foremost thinkers on the topic of political power, such as John Locke, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, and Hannah Arendt

            The way in which we perceive power can impact our every decision, possibly leading us in certain directions while obscuring others. Moreover, those sorts of power that remain the least visible to us may be the most impactful. Hence, conceptions of power are arguably one of the most important things we learn. Yet the topic is highly controversial. For some political thinkers, power is a limiting force in our lives, working to repress, constrain, and punish us. For others, power works to focus our energies and cultivate our talent, thereby forging society. And still for others, power is so all encompassing that it shapes our perception of reality itself. My goal as an instructor is to enhance your intellectual tools so you can make you own determinations. Thus we embark together on the following objectives:

  1. To understand how the concept of power is conceptualized and deployed across the canon of political theory.
  2. To recognize how concepts of power may produce and reproduce ideas of gender, sexuality, nationality, and/or race in American life.
  3. To improve close reading and analytical skills.
  4. To improve skills in analytical, interpretive, and critical writing.
  5. To enhance our political vocabularies so that we may bring these to bear on contemporary political issues and participate thoughtfully in public deliberation.
  6. To gain an appreciation for, and actively practice, political theoretical critique as an enterprise that entails valuing as well as challenging other theorists’ ideas, premises and contributions.



There are no prerequisites.

Requirements & Assessment

Assessment will take the form of class participation and three essays (5-6 double-spaced pages each) that will test reading comprehension, writing, and ability to construct a persuasive argument using the texts we will have read in class. Essay 1 will have a structured prompt; Essays 2 and 3 will have flexible prompts that will cultivate your skills at defining the terms of your own argument. I will circulate prompts with more detailed instructions and guidelines two weeks before the deadline.

The weighting of assignments is as follows:

Participation: 15%

In Class assignment 1: 15%

In Class assignment 2: 15%

Essay 1: 25%

Essay 2:  30%


Thoughtful and sustained class participation is required. Students are expected to complete the assigned readings before lecture, to arrive on time and prepared for lecture and discussion, and to interact respectfully with their fellow students and instructors. Effective participation means not only speaking, but also listening and asking questions. Participation is worth 20% of the final grade. The assessment of your participation will include your performance in lecture and section in the following categories:

(a) demonstration of careful reading

(b) quality of in-class analytical thinking

(c) quality of questions/challenges raised in class discussion

(d) thoughtful and respectful interaction in the classroom

(e) performance on any in-class quizzes, quick writes, or group work

Writing Credit

A writing credit is OPTIONAL for this course. If you choose to receive the W credit, you must write at least 10 pages during the term. You will receive feedback on your first paper that you must subsequently address on your next papers. You must notify me during the first week if you plan on taking a W.




Required Texts

The following texts are available for this course at the UW book store (ISBN’s have been included if you want to try and find them used or from a different provider):

  • Michel Foucault, DISCIPLINE & PUNISH. 978-0679752554, Vintage Books
  • Karl Marx, Marx: Selected Writings. 978-0872202184, Hackett Publishing Company
  • John Locke, Second Treatise of Government. 978-0915144860, Hackett Publishing Company
  • Sun Tzu, The Art of War. 978-1599869773, Filiquarian (Any version of this text will be fine)

Additionally, we will be reading various articles that I will make available through the Canvas page as needed.

Due Dates

All papers must be uploaded to: https://catalyst.uw.edu/collectit/dropbox/jpha/40673

Midterm Paper (5 - 7 pages): Wednesday, August 9th by 5pm. 25% of total grade.

Final Paper (5 - 7 pages): Friday, August 21st by 5pm. 30% of total grade.

*Last day to submit papers is August 21st – no work will be accepted after this date, no exceptions.

**Penalty for late papers: -.4 per day (10%)


Course Schedule

Unit 1: Power as Victory

            “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first            and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu

            “War is politics by other means.” – Carl Von Clausewitz

Thursday 7/20 – class introduction: no assigned readings.

Monday 7/24 – read: Sun Tzu, The Art of War, I – XIII (68 sparse pages)

Tuesday 7/25 – read: Thucydides, Pericles’ Funeral Oration*

Wednesday 7/26 – read: Lebow, The Ancient Greeks and Modern Realism*

Thursday 7/27 – read: http://www.e-ir.info/2013/02/03/what-will-they-do-tomorrow-post-apocalyp...

*download at https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/1147078/files

What is to be gained and lost in war?

Unit 2: Power as Dominance

            “The oppressed are allowed…to decide which particular representatives of the     oppressing class are to represent and repress them.” ― Karl Marx

            “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” – Sun Tzu

Monday 7/31 – read: Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. I – III, VI – VIII, X, XII-XV, XVIII-XIX (57 pages)

Tuesday 8/1 – Read: Marx, Selected Writings pg. 54 – 79 (25pgs)

Wednesday 8/2 – Read: Marx, Selected Writings pg. 1 – 26 (25 pages). In class assignment 1.

Thursday 8/3 – Read: Catharine MacKinnon, “Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State: An

Agenda for Theory” (30 pages)*

*download at https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/1147078/files

Unit 3: Power as Control

            “The soul is the prison of the body” – Michel Foucault

            “If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things” – Sun Tzu

            “Politics is war by other means.” – Michel Foucault

Monday 8/7 – Read: Ture and Hamilton Black Power (30 pages)* and Foucault, Discipline and Punish, “The Body of the Condemned” (3-31)

Tuesday 8/8 – Read: Foucaul, Discipline and Punish “Docile Bodies” (135 - 162)

Wednesday 8/9 – Read: Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, “The Means of Correct Training” (170-184) and “Panopticism” (195 - 230) [Midterm paper Due by 5pm]

Thursday 8/10 – Read: Myth as Critique?: Review of Michel Foucault's "society must be defended"* (20 pages). In-class assignment 2.

*download at https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/1147078/files

Unit 4: Power as Collective Action

            “Where men, either as individuals or in organized groups, wish to be sovereign, they       must abolish freedom.” - Hannah Arendt

            “Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most        dangerous.” – Sun Tzu

Monday 8/14 – Arendt, The Human Condition, Prologue, Ch. 1, “The Human Condition,” Ch. 2, “The Public and Private” (67 pgs)*

Tuesday 8/15 – Arendt, the Human Condition, Ch. 5, “Action” 175-206* (31 pages)

Wednesday 8/16 – Arendt, the Human Condition, Ch. 5, “Action” 207-243* (36 pages)

Thursday 8/17 – Sheldon Wolin, “Fugitive Democracy” and “Norm & Form” (33 pgs)*

*download at https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/1147078/files

[Final paper due Monday 8/21 by 5pm: Upload to collect-it page]

Grading Policies

Paper Assessment Guide:

Written work in the A (3.5-4.0) range is characterized by a strikingly perceptive, persuasive, and creative analytical claim; comprehensive synthesis and analysis of the course material; straightforward yet sophisticated organization of thoughts and error-free prose. Written work in the B (2.5-3.4) range is characterized by sound, original, and reasonably thoughtful argument/thesis statement; competent analysis of various course material, logical organization; and clear and error-free prose. Written work in the C (1.5-2.4) range is characterized by a relatively underdeveloped, simplistic, or derivative argument/thesis statement; partial, inconsistent, or faulty analysis of course material; convoluted organization; and awkward, imprecise, or otherwise distracting prose. Written work in the D (0.7-2.3) range is characterized by incoherent or extremely confusing argument; superficial or fleeting engagement with the course material; chaotic or irrational organization; and error-riddled prose. Written work that lacks any argument or analysis and is sloppy, earns an F (0.6 and below).

Late Policy:

Uncompleted or missing papers will receive a grade of 0.0. Late
assignments will be docked 0.4 per day. That is: 3.5 paper, if turned in past the deadline, will become a 3.1, if turned in one full day late, will receive a 2.7, and so on. Exceptions will be made given prompt and (if necessary) documented consultation with the instructor. For full consideration, make sure to correspond with me via email prior to a late submission rather than afterwards. Exceptions to the late policy include: family emergencies, health and wellness issues, and logistical emergencies.

Grade Complaints:

My goal is to give fair grades that reflect the quality of students’ work. Please take 24 hours to review my comments on any assignment. To appeal, bring a one-page written response to office hours within ten days, responding to my feedback. We will discuss your appeal and I will take up to one week to re-grade your work in either direction. If you remain unsatisfied or feel the grade is discriminatory or unjust, then you may appeal to the Associate Chair of the Political Science Department, Rachel Cichowski, at rchicowski@uw.edu.

Academic Dishonesty:

Cases of suspected cheating and plagiarism will be referred to the Arts and Sciences Committee on Academic Conduct, and may result in a grade of 0.0 for the assignment in question. Note that I am quite adept at detecting dishonest work. University policies and guidelines regarding cheating and plagiarism can be found at https://depts.washington.edu/grading/pdf/AcademicResponsibility.pdf.

Other Policies

Laptops are strongly discouraged:

The purpose of this section is to engage in conversations that help us develop a deeper understanding of the assigned texts. If you choose to use a laptop and I find you using it for anything other than note-taking or accessing the readings, you will no longer be allowed to use it during section.

Texts are required in class every day:

Much of this class is devoted to close reading and analysis of the assigned texts. Therefore, students will be asked to leave if they do not bring a digital or hard copy of the text to class.

Catalog Description: 
How to understand and explain relationships of power. Readings from Marxism, Weberian sociology, anarchism, classical political philosophy, and contemporary political science. May also include works of fiction.
Department Requirements: 
Political Theory Field
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
November 14, 2017 - 9:26pm