POL S 201 A: Introduction to Political Theory

Meeting Time: 
MWF 9:30am - 10:20am
ECE 125
Jamie Mayerfeld

Syllabus Description:

University of Washington, Spring 2019

**Study guide for final exam**
**PDF readings**
**Lecture outlines**
**First essay assignment**
**Second essay assignment**

Instructor: Professor Jamie Mayerfeld                         Lecture:
Office: Gowen 35                                                           ECE 125
Office Hours: Tue. 1:30-3:00, Fri. 10:30-11:30           MWF 9:30-10:20

TAs: Jennifer Driscoll and David Lucas

Overview: In this course we study a selection of classic and contemporary texts in order to grapple with fundamental questions of political life. The overarching theme of the course is justice. What is justice? What makes a government just or unjust? What are the principal sources of injustice? What does it mean to be just towards one another, towards nature, and towards future generations? Are human beings capable of acting in accordance with justice?

We also explore questions relating to freedom, equality, legitimacy, conflict, law, the good life, human nature, democracy, property, citizenship, nature, and the environment.

The thinkers we study share surprisingly little agreement in their answers to the underlying questions. Your objective in the course is to understand and critically evaluate their arguments, and to reach your own reasoned positions on the issues they raise.

Student Requirements: You are required to complete the assigned readings on time and to discuss them in quiz sections. Your understanding of the readings will be tested in two essays, a final exam, and the quality of your participation in section.

Readings will be drawn from six books, on sale at the University Book Store, and a series of articles and excerpts in PDF form. (I have not yet created the PDFs. I may also make these readings available as an optional course packet.)

The six books are:

  • John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract
  •  Marx, Selected Writings (Hackett ed.)
  • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
  • W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
  • Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization

The PDFs contain writings by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Eugene Debs, Karl Marx, Booker T. Washington, John Rawls, Richard Epstein, Aldo Leopold, Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright, Stephen Gardiner, and Mary Mellor.

Evaluation: Your grade for the course will be calculated as follows:

  • 4-5 page essay, due Thursday, April 25 ---- 30%
  • 4-5 page essay, due Thursday, May 23 ---- 30%
  • Final Exam, Wed. June 12, 8:30-10:20 am ---- 25%
  • participation in quiz section ---- 15%

Essays: Essay topics will be distributed approximately two weeks before the due dates. Please submit them both as paper copies and electronically, via Canvas. The University has a license agreement with VeriCite, an educational tool that flags possible plagiarism. I will arrange for your essays to be checked by VeriCite. The VeriCite Report will indicate the amount of original text in your work and whether all material that you quoted, paraphrased, summarized, or used from another source is appropriately referenced.

Maintaining a Respectful Learning Environment: This course will lead us into discussion of controversial social and political topics. It is important for discussion be open to a wide range of perspectives and for everyone to feel comfortable about participating. Learning will be facilitated if all class participants work to engage in class discussions with respect and empathy for one another. Contradictory views are encouraged, and can contribute to learning as long as everyone remains open to new information and willing to learn from people with different perspectives and life experiences. It is essential to avoid inflammatory, derogatory and insulting words and personal attacks. Such conduct inhibits learning and prevents the free exchange of ideas. Students seeking support or information regarding these issues can find resources at https://www.washington.edu/diversity/.

Disability and Learning: Your experience in this class is important, and the instructors are committed to maintaining an inclusive and accessible learning environment. If you experience barriers based on disability, please seek a meeting with Disability Resources for Student (DRS) to discuss and address your concerns. If you have established accommodations with DRS, please communicate your approved accommodation to the relevant instructor(s) at your earliest convenience so we can accommodate your needs. DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. You can contact DRS at uwdrs@uw.edu, 011 Mary Gates Hall, 543-8924 (voice); 543-8925 (TDD). http://depts.washington.edu/uwdrs/.

Academic Integrity: Cheating and plagiarism are offenses against academic integrity and are subject to disciplinary action by the University. Plagiarism is copying someone else’s work and presenting it as your own (by not attributing it to its true source). If you are uncertain what constitutes plagiarism, please ask me.

Please read assigned texts by the dates indicated.
Starred items (*) will be made available as PDFs.
I reserve the right to alter reading assignments during the term.

April 1: Introduction

April 3-11: John Locke

Wed. April 3: Second Treatise of Government (1689), chapters 1-4, 6
Fri. April 5: Second Treatise of Government, chapter 5
Mon. April 8: Second Treatise of Government, chapters 7-12
Wed. April 10: Second Treatise of Government, chapters 15-19

April 12-April 19: Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Fri. April 12: Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755), excerpt*; Social Contract (1762), Books I and II
Mon. April 15: Social Contract, Book III, chapters 1-6, 10-18
Wed. April 17: Social Contract, Book IV chapters 1-2, 8-9
Fri. April 19: Continued discussion of Social Contract

April 22-29: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Eugene Debs, and Socialism

Mon. April 22: Jill Lepore, “Eugene V. Debs and the Endurance of Socialism” (2019) ; Eugene Debs, “Industrial Unionism” (1905)*
Wed. April 24: Karl Marx, “Alienated Labor” (1844) (pages 58-68 in Hackett anthology) and “The Meaning of Human Requirements” (1844)*

*** Thursday, April 25: 1st essay is due today.***

Fri. April 26: Marx, “On the Jewish Question” (1843) (pages 2-21 in Hackett anthology)
Mon. April 29: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848) (pages 157-86 in Hackett anthology)

May 1-9: John Stuart Mill

Wed. May 1: On Liberty (1859), chapter 1
Fri. May 3: On Liberty, chapter 2
Mon. May 6: On Liberty, chapter 3
Wed. May 8: Continued discussion of On Liberty

May 10-17: W. E. B. Du Bois

Fri. May 10: The Souls of Black Folk (1903), chapters 1-2 Mon.
May 13: Booker T. Washington, “Atlanta Exposition Address” (1895)*; Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, chapters 3-4
Wed. May 15: The Souls of Black Folk, chapters 6, 11, 13, 14
Fri. May 17: Continued discussion of The Souls of Black Folk

May 20-24: John Rawls and Richard Epstein on Justice and Property Rights

Mon. May 20: Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971), excerpts*
Wed. May 22: A Theory of Justice, excerpts*

*** Thursday, May 23: 2nd essay is due today.***

Fri. May 24: Richard Epstein, Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain (1985), excerpts*

Monday, May 27: Memorial Day – no class

May 29-June 5: Environmental Political Theory and Climate Change

Wed. May 29: Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic” (1949)*
Fri. May 31: Robert Bullard, “Environmental Justice in the 21st Century: Race Still Matters” (2001)*; Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright, “Environmental Justice for All” (2002)*
Mon. June 3: Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization (2014)
Wed. June 5: Stephen Gardiner, “A Perfect Moral Storm” (2006)*
Fri. June 7: Mary Mellor, “Ecofeminist Political Economy” (2006)*

***Final Exam, Wednesday, June 12, 8:30-10:20, in lecture hall***

Catalog Description: 
Philosophical bases of politics and political activity. Provides an introduction to the study of politics by the reading of books in political philosophy. Organized around several key political concepts, such as liberty, equality, justice, authority, rights, and citizenship. Offered: AWSpS.
Department Requirements: 
Introductory Courses
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:08pm